Monday 20 April 2015

The mountains and the sea; a postscript

I woke in the harbour at 4:20 and made my way directly to the nearest convenience store for morning coffee, the first of many, then to the beach to see where and how many gulls there might be. But first, to follow up on the post in the even earlier hours of the morning. When I finally got home and checked The Wild Mammals of Japan (S.D. Ohdachi et al 2009) I found the mole was Japanese western mole Mogera wogura. A mammal tick, excellent.

Sunrise, when it came, did nothing to lighten a silver-grey sea. It seemed more lit from within, and as flat and featureless as the sky above. Perfect conditions to see anything moving on the water. Flocks of Greater Scaup were dotted here and there, birds in the closest seemed unnaturally distinct and the more distant flocks were clear to the naked eye. Each like an oval black stain on grey cloth. Not a single bird could go unnoticed.

But it was the Finless Porpoises that really caught the eye - there were so many. They're fairly small, roll low in the water and are finless, of course. In other words hard to see unless conditions are just so. And this morning they were indeed just so; animals were heading north and heading south, some were fairly close in others almost into the far-off mist that hid the horizon. None were possible to see well but it was good to know they were out there in good numbers.

The same couldn't be said for the gulls, though that can't really come as a surprise. By April 19 it's a wonder there were still so many around. There were two groups of gulls on the beach, one in each direction naturally. I chose the one with a couple of first winters in the mix and made my way down there. There were about 60 gulls in the flock, roughly 45 Vega and about 14 Taimyr.

Half a dozen Taimyr with a single Vega. 

As I was edging closer and almost ready to sit on the sand I noticed a walker coming along the tideline and sure enough he just kept on coming straight through the flock flushing them. Some re-settled not far up the beach and I repeated the edging closer process but before I was close enough to consider sitting the walker reached his exercise limit. A couple of quick stretches and he was coming back and as if on invisible elastic, straight through the flock again.

I grabbed a few shots fairly randomly before the gulls inevitably flew again. This time a few settled on the sea but most left. Soon it began raining so I went for more coffee but when I returned there wasn't a gull to be seen on the beach.

The last lingering birds drifting away. Perhaps the last lingering gulls of the season.

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