Tuesday, 7 July 2009

A Very Long Day....But Worth It!

After much 'umm'ing and 'ahh'ing ( but absolutely no 'zitt'ing) Bun and I eventually cracked and decided to head over to Guernsey to see the Zitting Cisticolas (Fan-tailed Warblers if you prefer , I do). We set out at 4.00 am in order to catch the 6.00 am high speed ferry from Weymouth, which is surprisingly inexpensive for a day trip. The boat is a massive catamaran which travels at around 40 knots and holds 750 passengers, it completes the 100 miles to Guernsey in around two and a half hours! The weather was a bit worrying with strong winds and a rough sea so I wasn't taking any chances and got myself nice and dosed up with Sturgeron. All seemed suspiciously smooth until the boat passed Portland Bill and hence left the shelter of Weymouth Bay and before you could say 'sick bag' the place was heaving and I don't mean it was crowded! I didn't feel too good but managed to survive the whole journey by spending almost the entire time out on the tiny aft deck area, eyes glued to the horizon so my poor confused brain could cope with the motion. Bun was fine and spent the time looking for interesting Shearwaters (didn't see any, just plenty of Gannets and a couple of Fulmars) and scoffing bacon rolls, still, he had survived the infamous Scilly pelagic of 2008, say no more!

Once on Guernsey we made our way to Port Soif on the north coast of the island where the Zitting Cisticolas had been since March this year. I had been given details of their exact location by the Guernsey bird recorder Mark Lawlor (if you by some chance see this Mark, Thanks :-) ) As soon as we arrived on site we heard the male 'zitting' away, then saw him in his display flight singing and diving down to the vegetation repeatedly. We 'set up camp' on a grassy knoll and watched them for several hours. Small brown jobs maybe but very endearing and entertaining little things non the less. The male had a favourite perch on a spindly bit of dead umbillifer of some sort and we got some superb scope views. (I didn't take my scope because I couldn't face lugging it around for the 14 hours we would be on the island, due to suffering from a case of tennis elbow at the moment) I couldn't get a decent image through Bun's scope (not being used to the eyepiece) so I had to try for a photo with the good old S3. It wasn't easy with the bird swinging in the strong wind on its feeble perch and me not being able to hold the camera still. I managed to get quite close at one stage though and got a couple of okay shots in the end. We really enjoyed watching them and they certainly weren't "just Wrens with big tails that go 'zit, zit,zit'" Steve! We didn't see any other noteworthy birds on the island but the scenery was stunning and could be enjoyed from one of the island's buses which run all the way round the coast road for just 60p! We stopped at Lihou Island to see if we could see the Snowy Owl which has been knocking around there but were still back in St. Peter Port about five hours before our return ferry was due to leave. A nice town but nothing much to do to kill time. After loitering in a few cafes we eventually made our way back to the terminal to find that the ferry was going to be late, and then once on board there was a further delay while divers inspected the hull!! Still I was so tired due to lack of sleep and sea-sickness pills that I was able to sleep the whole way back. We eventually arrived back in Seaton at 2.30 am. Definitely my longest twitch...to date!

Some photos

The Condor Express seen here in St. Peter Port. this was after arriving from Poole (on it's second run of the day) the crossing was so rough that the duty free shop closed because all the goods fell off the shelves and a couple of people needed an ambulance on arrival.

On the aft deck, Bun takes shelter as a heavy squall hits.

Port Soif Bay,with the tide out the bay looks a bit barren like a desert or moonscape.
The beach is in the right distance and in the left distance the sea is just visible through the gap in the rocks. Must look lovely here with the tide in.

Bun goes off to burn up the habbo, while I have forty winks.

Lihou Island, the most westerly point on the Channel Islands. You can get over to it via an ancient causeway but only at very low tides. Bun spent a fair while scoping the island hoping for a glimpse of the Snowy Owl while I erm...er.. had forty winks!

What about the ZITTING CISTICOLA PHOTOS!! That's what your thinking isn't it?
Here they are, thankyou for being patient :-) (or not if you scrolled down through the waffle straight to them)

Distant but shows the nice reddish-brown cap, a feature I wasn't expecting.
I did take a bit of video of it singing but it's almost inaudible due to the wind noise.

So this'll have to do instead...

What a big mouth!

A couple of my better efforts

PS: Before anyone says it ...Yes we know we CAN'T COUNT 'EM!!

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