Friday, December 12, 2008

A bit of Nook(ie)

I've written before about Donna Nook. It's one of the few sites that Kay will come with me to watch wildlife when I have the camera! (Apparently it's boring waiting for too long to get the right shot. And I'm sure it is.) However the grey seals at Donna Nook are sufficiently interesting in their own right that I can snap away to my hearts content, and even with shingles she decided to come along and share the sheer pleasure of watching this amazing spectacle.
This, the 3rd day of the trip Up North was to aim for one other target, plus a 'hope' and a 'long-shot' - if we had time and the light held out.
It's nearly two hours from Rotherham, so by the time we arrived at a field in the middle of nowhere some satisfied punters were already leaving, but confirmed that target species 3 of the trip was still 'showing well'. And it was. A steppe grey shrike. Perched in a few hawthorn bushes in an expanse of featureless fields. God knows how anyone found it! What were they doing there!
A lovely little bird, and very obliging. We were amongst the last to see it - the next day it was gone. The farmer found some feathers and there were fears of predation, but the BTO confirmed they were not SGS, so we can all believe it got fed up with the weather and the photographers and moved on.
Next on to join the crowds at Donna Nook. Although you can sometimes go onto the sandbanks and photograph the seals at eye level against the sea (see Graham Catley's shots HERE - check the blog, there are more, and they are good) even on the days the beach is closed you can still get pretty good views from behind the fences, and despite the numbers of visitors. When we were there the RAF were using the beach for a bit of practice, but the seals were oblivious.
Females relaxing, and occasionally grumping at each other.
Pups everywhere in various shades - some newly born and small, others a little older and already footballs. Bonding could be felt, let alone seen.
Every so often a female would tenderly scratch the pup, an apparent invitation/instruction to have a feed. Once fastened on you don't really see any sign of the pup feeding, but they obviously do! Unlike human babes these have dentition - imagine the nip if this guy got excited! Eye watering.
A few bulls were hanging around.
Newly delivered females wanted nothing to do with them and made this clear.
For the females preparing to head back to sea the advances of the males could appear quite tender, but the reality was that the bull would be gripping the female firmly by the neck. If you look at the business end of the 'embrace' in this first photo on the web album you might see some redness going on indicating that this was indeed a pair inflagrante delicto. Probably not sufficiently clear on the blog.
Here and there a placenta was lying around, and along with the occasional sadly lost pup the magpies and gulls made the most of the recycling opportunity. Including the 'hoped for' target, the robust glaucous gull in the third shot.
Unfortunately from the point we arrived at Donna Nook the light had closed down due to cloud cover, and by 3 p.m. we were on our way home, but not before we saw a zig-zag, duck and dive fly past of 3 birds. Something small and brown pursued relentlessly by a female merlin and a somewhat less agile crow in pursuit of the first 2. My first merlin sighting - too quick, too dull for a picture, but a great way to round off the day.
I didn't bother with the long shot (grey phalarope at Covenham Reservoir), but I was happy after a third good day.

As always better quality versions of the pictures on the web albums HERE,
or you can see a video from some years ago HERE.
But better still, if you can go. It is worth it, even if the beach access is closed. I gather that when it is open there are loads of photographers out there now and wonder how long before they start to restrict it, given the increasing reports of idiots with no fieldcraft disturbing the seals.

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