15 November 2015

The perfect wave of improbability

Remember me, Captain?

There are many obstacles placed before the frustrated seabirders of Gwent, dubious geographical location (does that count as sea?), distance to the deepwater channel, a limited choice in observation points, etc.  However, it is the evil conjoined twins of disbelief and self-doubt that are the most impassable impediments.  Anything half-decent flying up or down-channel is instantly trailed by a dense fret of vacillation.  But add the slightest imperfection of viewing conditions, or brevity of sighting, and the water at the foot of the sea wall broils and froths, spray fills the air and a nigh impregnable wall of watery irresolution rushes skywards.  And there you are, at the foot of an impossibly vertical torrent of unlikelihood, clinging to your possible penguin or probable petrel.  Momentarily a troubled, colourless face peers back then,… the wave breaks and crashes down, crushing down, pummelling the olive clad body without and the ornithological spirit within.  The under-current swirls around once planted, sliding, slipping, flailing feet.  Swept out into the sea of not-quite-knowing, gasping, thrashing, turning to see,… to see nothing but unbearable wave after wave of incredulity, bearing down, barrelling down.  Submerged, wide-eyed, white-eyed, silent screams; brine-filled convulsions, lungs burst and from your grasp slips the prize find; down, down into the weedy, eely-mouthed darkness to a silty-soft, cold as death, hagfish-filled (thats-what-you-get-for-birding-on-the-)bed.

How’s it above?

And so it was.  An auk, arse-on, going away, Avonmouth-bound at a rate of (no [knots], only Barwit of note on the wader front).  White below, black tail, white rump, WHITE RUMP!  Get on this!  There's white on the upperparts, THERE IS WHITE ON THE UPPERWING!  GET ON THIS!  It ploughs on towards blighty.  GET ON THIS!  Directly away, following an upriver furrow, lost amongst the frothing white horses.  PANIC!  A squall murks the background, landmarks blur, ill-formed directions are ineffectually blurted.  The arse is lost in the distant foam and all that remains is an alcidic etching on the retina.  A resignation settles on the flock, a helplessness learnt of innumerable unidentified feathery specks.  The one has all but got away. 

Tiddlers in a jamjar?

But it couldn’t be anything else.  There is nothing else it could be.  Solace?!  Who will give me solace?  The good book is sought, offered and, once found (in a glove-compartment beneath the sticky tin of sugar dusty sweets), consulted.  And from the bible-black-backed tome comes forth the flickering light of faith.  No, really, there is nothing else it could have been.  A phone call to Severnside and tweet to the ether (carefully caveated with ‘possibles’, ‘maybes’, ‘keep your eyes open fors’ and ‘he’s not 100% buts’) and,… and that’s all that can be done.  Not that that knowledge halts the wind-whipped waves of despair and self-loathing.  AAARGH! Didn’t nail it.  F***CK!  A county first.  Definitely didn’t get enough to get it accepted.  Jeeebus!  Single observer.  No photo.  Didn’t happen.  Sob.  

When she smiles, is there dimples?


“Thanks… Just had close views of Black Guillemot off Severn Beach”

Oh, Twitter how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.  Get in!  I’m bloody having it!  Will it come back down?  Keep flipping looking. 

Rock-a-bye baby?



“Black Guillemot showing well Blackrock… on the rocks.”

Slamming of car doors, revving of engines, screeching of brakes and passengers, then brakes again,… Blackrock.  It was here three minutes ago,… it’s here now!  Lappage, photographage, rejoicage, oh-bugger-it-just-flew-offage,… more birding, then home. 

Oh, my dead dears!

First-winter Black Guillemot, Blackrock, Gwent.  If it had flown by Goldcliff Point in this fashion much less anguish would have ensued.  Photo by Tom Chinnick. 

First-winter Black Guillemot, Blackrock, Gwent.  It climbed out of the water on several occasions, maybe not 100% healthy.  Again, photo by Tom Chinnick.


Unknown said...

Brilliant find - congratulations!

Unknown said...

Such erudition. And I feel your pain. Always. Nothing like seawatching to bring out our masochistic tendencies. Remember those distant terns, mid-channel, mid-May, about 8 or 9 years ago (the day you screwed your girlfriend's gearbox, so to speak). I am sure they must've been Arctics. We should've just all agreed that they were, and called the score 120, rather than the untidy 119.

Darryl said...

The gear box was fine and I’m pretty sure clutches are supposed to smell like that every now and then. I seem to remember those terns were: a. little more than white specks; and b. in England. By the way, I counted ‘Commic Tern’ and called it 120.

For those wondering "What the bejaysus are they on about?", Julian is referring to the Gwent Birdrace 2008 as described at http://www.gwentbirding.blogspot.co.uk/2008/05/final-score.html

Chris Jones said...

It was worth the wait. The drama and tension of the morning.

By the way, it's Black Rock, not Blackrock, which is in the North of the County. Different sites.

Darryl said...

Thank god we went to the right black rock. Could have ended up looking for a guillemot in a quarry near Brynmawr.

Factor said...

Wonderful report - one if the best, if not the best post I've read all year