Last week on one of my many coastal walks I glanced down to see a pair of fulmars perched on an earthy shelf on the headland. Fulmars are one of my favourite seabirds so I was delighted that there was a possible mating pair setting up shop on my daily walking route. They were cackling to each other and looking like adorable mini albatrosses. I got a couple of shots but the light was fading so I decided to return when I had a little more sun.
The next day I wandered back to the spot but they were gone, perhaps on a fishing trip or maybe they’d decided on another nesting spot. Not wanting to waste the trip out, I scanned the water for dolphins and birds. Just at the mouth of the harbour was a group of dots too small for herring gulls. On closer inspection through the binos I discovered they were long tailed ducks – another favourite of mine!
I hurried down from the headland and made a hasty loop around the harbour, peeping over the wall to see where they’d got to. I’d never seen more than a pair together before, and now I was out of the wind I realised they were making an absolute racket! There was a single female among all the males and she was flapping her wings and whipping the males into a frenzy. All the while a constant stream of three-note quack calls overlapped each other as the males jostled and squabbled around this one female.
The long tailed ducks near me are usually shy little cuties, but today there really was something in the water. By the looks of the female’s upturned bill and the twinkle in her eye it seemed as though she was egging the boys on! Well, we all need to let our hair down every now and then, and at least the long tails are allowed to have a party right now…
Elsewhere in the harbour there was more activity. Up until very recently the only redshanks I’d seen were far out and nearly impossible to photograph without the risk of breaking my leg on the slippy rocks – something I actually saw happen last year! I noticed a gathering of both redshanks and turnstones hanging out on top of the sea wall. Knowing they could be skittish, I stayed still and watched.
After a while another redshank popped up from behind the wall, surprising both me and the gang already stood on the edge. There was a great flurry of wings and I had the camera pointed at just the right spot to capture the near collision!
My intention had been to look for fulmars and I’d nearly headed in the other direction to walk further along the coast path, but after such a dramatic (and noisy) display I was relieved I’d stayed where I was! I love those surprises in nature.