Sunday, 10 August 2014

Grrrrrrrreat Shearwaters

Over sleeping wasn't an option for this morning, as I knew there was a chance of a Large Shearwater patch tick.

Impressive numbers of Cory's and Great Shearwaters have been reported from the pelagics off the Scillies for about a week or so, with numbers peaking just a couple of days ago. During the early hours of today the tail end of Hurricane Bertha was forecasted to hit our shores, which had the potential to push some of these birds this way.  Unfortunately it could have been a lot better, the wind turned westerly at about 9am which killed all passage, and more cloud cover was needed as the sun shone from about 08:30 here.  There was plenty of rain though, and the wind up until 9am was perfect for sea watching.

I was up at 05:30, but despite the above paragraph I didn't go sea watching straight away.  It was absolutely lashing down and knew that I probably wouldn't be able to see the sea let alone birds over it - so I went to Black Hole Marsh.  Here were my first two Little Ringed Plovers for almost a month (juvs), along with a Wood Sandpiper, four Ringed Plovers and 18 Dunlin.

Could only see the one today, there have been two for a few days.

Then it was to the sea, and the Beer shelter at 7am.  Here I found Ian M, who had been sat for some time but hadn't seen much due to the heavy rain. Luckily though from when I arrived, the visibility improved for the most.  There were still some showers during the first hour but they all moved through fairly rapidly.

The first half hour was quiet, only a couple of Manxies and the usual Gannets. But when it cleared a little more, an Arctic Skua came through west along with a few more Manx.  Then came a text from Lee "Great Shearwater lingering off Dawlish Warren". This was the best news - at least one big shear was in the bay!  And if one was in the bay, there could be more...

We continued watching, a Balearic (my first of the year) came through with some Manx, 27 Common Scoter flew by (2w, 25e), then another two Balearics passed close west.  But no big shears.

At about 08:30 my phone rang, it was Lee who had kindly phoned to let me know Matt had seen a further two Great Shears past Exmouth, which he had also seen from the Warren.  For some reason though this news didn't excite me further, but totally deflated me. I just knew we had blown it; the sun was beginning to shine and sky turning blue, the wind had started to veer west and as a result sea passage had dried right up.  We were just that little bit too far east. And even if Matt's two Great Shears had come past us, it would probably have been when we were engulfed with heavy rain.  Gutted - absolutely gutted. So near yet so far.

There are still only three species of Shearwater on my patch list. 

Still need to work hard on that "Find the Great Shearwater" command...

Before I sign off for the night, must just mention a few nice highlights from Black Hole Marsh over the past week. The Curlew Sandpiper that was first present on Monday was joined by a cracking summer plumaged Knot the following day (see Tim's excellent pic of it HERE).  Gull passage seems to have eased off a bit lately, with this Med Gull being the only one that I've seen all week...

I have seen it several times though

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