Monday, 12 March 2012


I had not intended to write anything today, although the morning was spent pleasantly enough counting at least 45 Cory's shearwaters, 5 Med. gulls and 3 yellow-legged gulls. There was also an unidentified passerine that overflew the vessel at great speed in the (still) force 6 nor-westerly. Not sure if it really wanted to go off in a south-easterly direction at this time of year but I suppose you can only battle a head wind for so long when you probably weigh less than 25 grams! It would probably have settled on deck if it had not been so busy with crew using jet-washers to get rid of the last remnants of the sand and dust left all over the ship by the recent blow.

Anyway the afternoon was particularly dull until just after 17:00 local time when a small falcon caught my eye as it approached the ship from the south. I initially thought 'kestrel'. The bird continued approaching, banked in the weakening sun, showing a rusty mantle, black-tipped wings and greyish head so I lowered the camera as I already had reasonable shots of kestrel. The bird disappeared behind the heli-deck, reappeared and perched near the spare paravane on the port side. Getting the bird in my bins showed a uniform pale grey head with plain grey cheek, sparse speckling on the breast and flanks and noticeably long wings- it was a Lesser Kestrel!- and a cracking adult male at that! Being a life tick generated a bit of a rush (casual understatement). Fortunately I don't think anyone saw me as I became a 'transformer' and got myself into an outrageous tangle of arms, head, binocular strap, camera strap and vhf radio as I tried to get the camera operational.  To my complete horror the bird flicked its' wings and tail and looked as if it was about to flit, fortunately it settled again allowing me to take a couple of shots in the less than ideal light. I managed half a dozen shots from 40 metres or so before it flew up, over and around the ship and was lost to view somewhere over the waves. Quite an interesting encounter and all in 4-5 metre swell, 15 degree rolls to port and starboard and under 90 seconds! Phew- I need a lie down! ;)

Lesser kestrel

Lesser kestrel

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