Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Shear delight

After a few days of fog and light, variable winds, the forecast of a reasonable blow with a significant westerly element raised my pulse rate and guaranteed that I was on watch early the following morning. I was not disappointed, as two great shearwaters flew 100 metres or so off the port bow as I gathered my waterproofs, hat, notebook and binoculars from the bridge! From then on and over the last three days I have enjoyed three figure counts of great shearwaters, intermingled with scores of Cory's! Some birders would say that when you have seen one large shear you have seen them all, but I disagree, find them totally captivating and have no problem watching them shear and glide over the swell and waves for hours on end. Surprisingly, and contrary to the large numbers of sooty shearwaters reported from Irish sea-watching sites, I have only seen one in the last 3 days- maybe they hug the Irish coast more as they drift SE? I also had the bonus of seeing flocks of Sabines' gulls- a group of 3 and a group of five. Unfortunately being on a 92 metre vessel, with a GRT of over 9000 tonnes means that many birds are rather ship-shy, occasionally however, a large shear made a relatively close pass, allowing me to try for a couple of shots. Good numbers of Arctic and 'comic' terns have also been seen flying south and an additional grey phalarope and a turnstone have been the only other obvious passage birds. I suppose we should see some significant skua passage before too long, but with the exception of a solo, spoon-laden pom and a few locally foraging bonxies they have yet to make an appearance. Happy days!

great shearwater- close pass at last!
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Cory's - unusually close in!
brilliant birds!

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