Thursday, 2 October 2008

Leach's Storm-petrels

You might be led to believe that filming birds is a glamorous sort of vocation. Let me remove the scales from your eyes. Tuesday looked terribly promising for Leach's Storm-petrel. So I got up at silly o'clock, packed all of the gear in the car and schlepped 200 miles to a god-forsaken spit of coastline battered by force 8 gales. It was cold, and wet, and uncomfortable and most of all devoid of any petrels. Hours passed, and I battled the 200 miles of horrible sticky traffic back to London, despondent to say the least.

Wednesday dawned rather brightly, but still "blowing a hoolie" (as my mother would say) from the Atlantic. I was rather restless at my desk, fiddling with articles and news when a text arrived - the Irish Sea was allegedly seething with Leach's. Hmmmph. I pondered for about 90 seconds, threw everything back in the car and raced back to the Wirral. I pitched up at Leasowe to find several top bird-photographers already in residence. We waited, and waited in the teeth of the gale. After several hours a distant dark speck meandered past sending us racing from the relative shelter of the sea-wall down to the exposed, spume-blown beach.

After a few more distant specks wandered past we realised that the birds were being blown in a less-than-ideal trajectory, and we were going to have to move. The gun-sight at Wirral Country Park was deemed to be a likely spot, so off we popped in a little convoy. No sooner had we made a move towards the beach than we saw Leach's really close in. The sea-wall at this point is glacially slippery and I made it to the bottom rather more quickly than I had planned (thanks Steve Round for the gentlemanly rescue). The lads all shot off towards the surf with their DSLRs, while I, snail-like, gave chase with huge and heavy camera bag and enormous tripod.

The petrels began to perform however, zig-zagging towards the Irish Sea. We stood out in the surf for a while until we realised birds were beginning to pass on the sand bank behind us, pattering their feet in characteristic fashion as they picked at small invertebrates inches from our legs. Bliss. Cold, windy, exhausted bliss. The camera and tripod were a nightmare, sinking in the muddy sand, being unwieldy and acting like a sail in the gale so the footage is wobbly and salt-spattered, but terribly "authentic".

I rolled in at 9 o'clock last night completely knackered, hungry and scarecrow-like but a very happy bunny. Lovely things Leach's.

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