Tuesday, 9 April 2013

a lesson learned

Having made a big sweeping statement on a recent post as to how the cory's tend to avoid close passes with my vessel, the inevitable happened today with several birds coming in to 50 metres or so- the first of several occasions during the day when mother nature put me firmly back in my place!
arctic skua
I had a great day today and recorded 11 species of seabird- Cory's shearwater, gannet, LBB gull, YL gull, arctic skua, great skua, common tern, sandwich tern, black tern, sabine's gull, kittiwake. There are now thousands of sandwich terns in the survey area and I presume many of these are now resident as opposed to passage birds. They are particularly impressive in the late afternoon when they gather in large flocks to feed on the shoals of sardines. This provides ample ambush opportunities for the growing number of arctic skuas too. The black terns were definitely passage birds and the first I have seen moving north this 'spring'.
Having spent several hours on the seabird melee I was just thinking that I don't see many seabirds in this part of the ocean that really challenge my IDing abilities anymore, unless they are very distant (or juvenile gulls!). I was continuing to self-assess and starting to feel quite good about myself when a small grey-white-black seabird went fast across the bow and sheared hard and fast down wind- mother natures slap back number 2! I could not decide if it was a probable phalarope or maybe a white-faced stormy!
Having consoled myself that not being able to ID one seabird was not too bad, a few minutes later I got my come-uppance again when I noticed a tern that was obviously bigger and heavier than a sandwich flying purposefully north. Having got on it with the trusted opticrons it showed a massive orange-red bill but flying away I couldn't get anything else on it in the late afternoon light so had to leave that one un ID'd too- slap back No. 3! I think I may have missed an opportunity to ID a lifer in the shape of my first ever Royal tern?- or was it a wayward caspian? With the current weather systems I would not like to guesse! Anyway, serves me right for getting cocky and forgetting that after 40 years of birding I still learn something new every time I look at our feathered friends!
common tern

arctic skua
cory's shearwater
sandwich tern

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