Friday, 12 May 2017

Pom Porn

Where we are here in Seaton, deep in the bowels of a bay, in a bay, in a bay, sea watching spectacles really are few and far between. But today, one of the highlights of my 17ish years birding here occurred...

I was going to go sea watching this morning, and my alarm sounded at 05:30. But a brief look out the window (clear skies and no wind) and the prospect of starting work a few hours later encouraged me to laze in a bed a bit longer... Then my phone started bleeping, it was Gav, and a few texts later he let me know he'd had a skua distantly off Burton Bradstock. With skuas about that's more than enough to get me out of bed (as we know from yesterdays blog, deja vu!).

I was surprised to see a shape already sea watching at the Spot On when I arrived at about 06:20, it was Charmouth birder Richard.  He told me what he'd seen, and finished with "a flock of about nine birds flew in distantly, I thought they were Whimbrel but then they landed on the sea"... 

It took me about two or three minutes to pick up these settled birds among the waves, and when I did was completely gobsmacked to see they were Pom Skuas!  I quickly fired some texts out, but about a minute later the most incredible thing happened. They took off and flew right at us. They kept coming, and coming, and coming... and all of a sudden they were quite literally right above our heads!!!!!  Oh my word. A flock of nine spring Pomarine Skuas (most fully spooned) right there.  This is Seaton not the Outer Hebs - this DOES NOT happen here.  WOOOOOOOOOW!

I thought they were then going to fly inland, but they then turned and quickly flew out south east.  Which meant it was time to alert watchers (including Gav) to the east of us. This sight needed sharing, and share it we did as you will read below. But before that, why not enjoy this little video that I managed to record...




And a few pics...



Within the flock there appeared to be an intermediate phased bird (not completely dark, bur far darker than the other eight), and I reckon seven had full spoons, with two showing only 'stumps'.  And now for the sharing...

I'm so pleased both James Mc at Lyme Regis and Gav at Burton Bradstock saw these birds, then Portland, and then amazingly Hampshire several hours later. I thought I'd quickly throw a map together showing where they were seen and the times they were seen there. The final sighting of the flock (at Hill Head in the Solent) was of eight birds and a single shortly after. The single bird was seen further east but the eight vanished.  For a clearer view of the map click on it to enlarge...



Tracking a flock of birds like this reminds me how incredible bird migration is. I wonder how long before they land on Arctic tundra, and what route they will take north?

It was of course also great to share this with Richard - a lifer for him. And what a way to life tick Pom Skua!! Am so glad he was here as so often I'm sea watching alone at the Spot On. It was a shame that Dan J from Sidmouth missed them (he dropped in here on his way to work) but it was great to finally meet him - a person I've had numerous communications with but never actually bumped into.

So is that enough about Pom Skuas? Well no I don't think so, but I best mention what else I saw during this one hour sea watch; 

11 Common Scoter
1 Manx Shearwater
12 Sanderling (flew east then west along the beach)
1 Med Gull (first-summer)
1 Common Gull

An unusual shot of the Med Gull  - showing a yellow colour-ring too!


I went to work a very happy boy this morning...

9 comments:

  1. Great blog, and how exciting was that!!!! It pays to get up early!

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    1. Hi Steph! It certainly does pay to get up early... it also pays to have mates who know I'd rather be looking at Poms than being asleep :-)

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  2. Brilliant stuff Steve. Had decent views of nine Poms through the day at Dungeness yesterday. I love the team effort that goes on during a seawatch along the entire south coast. Such a buzz!

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    1. Absolutely! What a fascinating episode, and I'm chuffed to have been involved. :)

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    2. With you on that completely. It's great that so many people get fired up by Poms - tho let's be honest, they are top top birds! This whole event was only so special because of how far they were tracked, made it all so much better in my eyes.

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  3. Great photos & video Steve - you can't beat spring Poms!

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    1. Cheers Dave - very kind of you. No, not much competes with spring Poms if you ask me. Hope you are well, and take care mate.

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  4. Those Poms were pure filth. ;-)

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