Sunday, 5 January 2014

Divers in Brixham Harbour.

With only a short window of time, I took the opportunity to do some birding around Brixham harbour today.

A white-billed diver has been present in the harbour and the general Torbay area since Christmas.

Although there were a few sightings of the bird in the early morning, it must have moved further offshore later on as I never found it.

There was however an impressive array of other species in the area. Of particular interest was at least 10 great northern divers spread around the coast and a few were feeding in the harbour. Being mainly arctic breeders the main chance to see them in Britain is during the winter where they are most abundant in the northern isles of Scotland and the west coast of Ireland. There is an increasing number wintering in the Torbay area and they regularly overwinter in the harbour due to easy fishing.

(Great northern divers)

On average there has been a 39% increase in wintering numbers of great northern divers in the UK since the 1981-1984 BTO bird atlas.

I also noted at least 4 black-throated divers close inshore and one bird in the harbour itself.

(Black-throated diver)

There was several common guillemots feeding in the area including this individual in almost full summer plumage, which is a very unusual phenomena.

(Common guillemot)

Another rare sighting was that of a black guillemot (in full winter plumage) that was  feeding in the harbour.

(Black guillemot)

I took a walk along the breakwater were there was plenty of turnstones feeding along the shoreline and even at pedestrians feet where there was scraps of fisherman's bait leftover. Rock pipits, gannets and the usual gulls were also present. A little further on and I noticed a pale gull amongst the herring gulls soaring in the harbour. Sure enough this was the 1st winter Iceland gull that has been in the area and it even showed off by flying right overhead beautifully demonstrating its all "white wing tips"

(Iceland Gull)

Confusingly Iceland gulls do not actually breed in Iceland, although they do overwinter there, they actually nest in Northern Canada and Greenland and are only rare vagrants to North West Europe in the winter.

After some searching I also found the red-necked grebe that has been seen on and off in the area. By this point the rain had become very persistent so I decided to head home.

(Red-necked grebe)