The ribbon of cat’s eyes was beguiling, snaking left and right, rising and falling off to the south west through the night.
So close, yet so far.
The long haul to Cornwall is always a drag, but needs must when the Devil drives and effectively prevents the annual August trip to the Bridges of Ross (howdy to all our Irish friends in the bowl – hope you have a great season in Clare).
With Storm Ellen throwing her weight around from Wednesday last I was lured to Porthgwarra and Pendeen in Cornwall’s wild west in the hope of decent seawatching.
I wasn’t the only one – scattered across the cliffs, Neill Hunt, Tropical Thomason, Niall Keogh, Garry Taylor, Jacob Spinks et al from Spurn, Dan Pointon, Pete Stronach, Martin Elliot and many others took shape as the sun rose over the cliffs above Porthgwarra on Thursday morning and shadowy lumps became seated seawatchers ‘scoping the dawn waves.
Wilder weather would have been better, and although Thursday and Friday had a few good birds, it was quiet given the force six-seven winds from the south and south west.
But the long drive really paid off on Saturday morning when a switch to Pendeen Watch across the toe of Cornwall provided the quality.
Totals are mine only (overall figures of some species, notably Balearics and Storm Petrels, were higher, but I didn’t connect with every bird).
20.8.20, Porthgwarra 0600-1700:
S/SWly f5-6, sunny spells, mist, cloud.
Manx Shearwater 1,200+
Arctic Skua 1
Cory’s Shearwater 6
Balearic Shearwater 6
Sooty Shearwater 2
Shag, Med Gull, Kittiwake, Sunfish…
Great views of lazy Cory’s Shears slipping west out by the Runnel Stone, and pot-bellied Balearics just under us in the stream of Manxies.
21.8.20, Porthgwarra, 0600-1700:
SWly f6-7, mist and squalls, broken cloud, then sunny.
Manx Shearwater 1,700+
Balearic Shearwater 7
Common Scoter 1
Sooty Shearwater 4
Storm Petrel 1
Cory’s Shearwater 2
large shearwater sp 1
Arctic Skua 1
Med Gull, Raven, Chough…
There were long spells when it was strangely quiet given the weather conditions – the birds just weren’t showing up.
Time for a change of tactics and at dawn yesterday the slopes below Pendeen Watch bristled with scattered ‘scopes and the birds were piling through.
So that’s where you’ve all been hiding… perhaps Storm Ellen had pushed everything up into the southern section of the Irish Sea and in the W/Swly and squalls thousands of birds were re-orientating and sweeping by offshore, heading west out into the Atlantic again.
Numbers of Manx Shearwaters were dizzying at times – Jacob Spinks dutifully counted ’em and recorded 1,000 passing every five minutes in a shearing blizzard!
It was marvellous.
22.08.20, Pendeen, 0615-1100:
Strengthening SW/Wly f 6, squalls, sunny periods.
Manx Shearwater approx 9-10,000
Sooty Shearwater 6
Great Shearwater 1
Balearic Shearwater 6
Storm Petrel 50+
Wilson’s Petrel 1
Sabine’s Gull 4
Sandwich Tern 1
Arctic Skua 2
Whimbrel, Raven, Chough, Stonechat, Rock Pipit…
Absolutely brilliant views of the Wilson’s Petrel as it bounced about, gliding, stalling and pattering past at close range, visible for about five minutes – the best audience I’ve had with one from shore.
Pale upperwing panel, broad-based wings, square tailed, bull-necked with a wrap-around white rump and dangly legs – what a bird!
Thanks to Niall Keogh for sending me this video clip of the bird – the poor repro is entirely down to my computer, but at least you can make out the flight action, and hear Niall’s expert analysis of the bird’s behaviour…
Likewise the Great Shearwater that cruised by in fine light, showing off every aspect of its plumage from smudged belly to dark cap, white rump patch and scaly back, superb.
Sadly the Sabs Gulls were a bit distant, as is often the case, but at least one passed by close enough for me to admire it’s classy design.
A great session.