Sunday, 15 April 2012

Battling bee-eater

Pretty grim conditions yesterday (14/04) with gale force 8/9 (40 knot) winds coming out of the west and rough seas, light intermittent rain and the occasional flash of forked lightning. Not the best conditions for a migratory sea crossing! Whilst on watch I noticed the shape of an interesting looking bird making sweeping turns across the wind and waves and realised that a bee-eater was struggling towards the ship. It was flying strongly, but erratically, as it approached the ship and looked very small and insignificant against the backdrop of the rough seas and 3 metre waves. I could barely hold and focus my camera in the buffeting wind but did get a few 'record' shots.......

bee-eater struggling over the waves in a force 8/9 blow!
The bird flew over the heli-deck and made a couple of high speed circuits of the vessel, trying to find a suitable place to settle but was blown back out over the sea on each attempt.

checking out our satellite dish...
The bird dropped out of sight in the lee of the vessel but despite my attempts to relocate it on the lower decks, it was not seen again. A real treat to see this bird, although rather too briefly and in less than ideal conditions, but a great way to bring up the forty species mark for the voyage!
and dropping over the side......

A few hours later and the wind had dropped to a force 4. More birds were seen heading around and onto the ship including a turtle dove, 2 swallows and an orphean warbler. This bird looked very tired and bedraggled and almost presented itself in the open- but not quite! I was still delighted to finally get a half decent photograph of this handsome warbler.

western orphean warbler with severe wear of the tail feathers

The rest of the day turned up another single turtle dove, and interestingly a mixed flock of 5 house martins and 3 swifts - the first sighting of this species during this voyage. Unfortunately the swifts and house martins were all flying down-wind and heading due east! Sea watching produced 5 cory's shearwaters and a small shearwater sp. (probably balearic). 

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