Sunday, 30 June 2013

Pelagic visitors

Not much happening on the seabird front- the usual smattering of Cory's shearwaters, two great shearwaters in 2 days and a probable Royal tern did a fairly distant fly past. We have had a couple of rays (probably mantas) and a turtle swim past as well, so at least I have had a few photo. opportunities. Three days to go then I am heading back to the NW highlands of Scotland to get up to speed with some terrestrial birding.

Friday, 21 June 2013


We had a flock of 9 cattle egrets (I think) over the sea- 8 kept going (west!) but one peeled off, headed for the ship and then decided to take a rest on the radar mast. I prefer to see terrestrial bird species just keep going, as the longer they stay onboard the more weight they lose and the more dehydrated they become. Inevitably many die or  leave the ship looking much weaker than when they arrived-contrary to my frequent efforts to tempt many birds with fresh water. Anyway, one of the ships' officers (Gemma) decided that as this individual stayed over night 'he' should be named and so he was called 'Fred'! Who am I to argue....anyway, the following morning after a couple of false attempts 'Fred' finally decided to leave his roost and headed off over the sea- I suppose he just liked travelling solo!



Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Surf's up!

Quite a nice encounter with a pod of pilot whales recently. These benign whales often appear inquisitive and readily approach vessels, especially when they hear noise generated by winches and survey gear! At times they can be a bit of a menace as they do sometimes get in the way of survey work. Fortunately this encounter occurred during a near- four hour line turn so there was no conflict of interest and they were free to enjoy their surf time without any concerns! It was also good to get a relatively close pass from another Wilson's storm-petrel and also good to see a Cory's shearwater living up to its' name and shearing through the water with its' wingtip!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Brilliant Bulwer's!

Some avian encounters are typified by beautiful plumage or melodious song, but others- particularly concerning seabirds- are often imprinted in my brain by the sheer exuberence of their flight action as they move over the restless ocean. I was enjoying watching the Cory's and Wilson's a couple of days ago when a dark, long-winged, long-tailed petrel passed over the swell into my line of sight. It was a brief image- just a flashing blade really- a dark, dashing petrel scything it's way over the ocean, occasionally stalling and picking at the surface and once I saw it briefly (and distantly) sat on the ocean- I knew it was something special and after a slightly closer view I realised that I was onto a Bulwer's petrel! Again, my distant photographs are not prize winners but it was a fantastic encounter non the less.
I'm really pleased with my copy of the 'multimedia identification guide to North Atlantic seabirds- Storm-petrels & Bulwer's Petrel by Bob Flood & Ashley Fisher- this has really helped me in identifying some tricky species over the last year and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in seabirds. (I have already pre-ordered the next volume concerning pterodromas- can't wait!)


Wednesday, 12 June 2013

wonderful Wilson's

Had a fairly uneventful passage down from Las Palmas, with very few birds seen- just a handful of distant Cory's, a single tern sp. and what looked like a very distant immature gannet. Had a couple of Wilson's storm- petrels following the ship this afternoon though, which really brightened my mood. They hung around and put on a show for about 5 minutes before drifting off over the waves and out of view. I rattled off a few record shots before realising that I had completely forgotten how difficult it is to get shots of storm petrels with their unpredictable dancing flight- quickly changing angles and depth of field- no matter really as it is just great to see these lovely birds.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Birdtrack ramble

Spring came and went, the migrants were thin on the ground and I found nothing in the NW to quicken the pulse, with 'local' star attractions limited to wood warbler, ring ouzel and osprey. Now tis 'summer', birds are becoming less vocal and are busy nesting or raising their broods. With a near 300 mile drive to twitch a blue-winged teal the only sort of twitch temptation, I decided to spend some time on a local patch and submit another bird track list. Highlights- well none really unless you count a greenshank, 2 twite and a couple of singing sedge warblers but I had four hours along the coast to the north of Ullapool and managed to record 37 species. I also got a few snaps and enjoyed some lovely scenery and dry, cool weather. All good stuff but worryingly I have yet to record a whitethroat NW of Inverness!

Ardmair bay from the NNE
rock pipit
mallard & ducklings