Wednesday, July 31, 2013

fea's fun

The alarm went off at 6.00 am but a quick check of the wind revealed it was still easterly. Besides it was hosing it down out there! Back to bed so. Unfortunately I crashed out till 9.00 am by which time the wind had gone round to the SW but my possible morning seawatch time had evaporated! It would have to wait till later.

By 13.00, the conditions were looking great - the wind was a good strong south-westerly, but the mist & rain had gone off, leaving a good stretch of viewable sea below the mist-obscured horizon. But I was still stuck in the office! Slowly the clock ticked round until a text came in from Mizen - 1,500 cory's shearwaters this morning! Feck! Amazingly the report I was working on almost finished itself and I was finally off to Galley!

10 minutes later and I was in situ. The mist was really low again, with just a narrow strip of sea visible close-in, while the wind was a healthy south-west force 4-5. Set the scope up and after one manx shearwater, a cory's came through with 3 great shearwaters - all really close! Fantastic! The next half-hour was incredible, with amazing views of cory's and greats coming through really close.

The mist slowly lifted, allowing more sea to be scanned. About 30 minutes into the watch, things suddenly went up a gear, as a fea's-type petrel flew into the scope view! The angle that it came in at meant I didn't really have to think about it, and I only managed one expletive before the adrenalin rush hit - Amayzing! I watched it flap and swoop all the way past, until saying goodbye to it just before it disappeared from view. I did wonder how many years it would be till I'd see another one.

Good birds continued to go by, with big shears every one or two minutes, and occasionally something else.  A distant small skua turned out to be a long-tailed skua, with two pomarine skuas slightly further out.  Only my 2nd long-tail for Galley.  I was delighted!

But then that fea’s thing happened again! Something with black underwings flew into my scope view, and after a couple of seconds revealed itself to be a second fea's! By this time, I’d been joined by CC, and we both enjoyed the views this time, with the bird even landing on the water briefly - slightly more distant than the first bird, but with a pale "collar" round the neck that the first one hadn’t showed – a different bird!  Two fea’s in one day!

As it disappeared we congratulated each other and tried to calm down and concentrate on what else was moving through. Cory's were still going by every few minutes, with a few great shears in amongst them, while another four long-tailed skuas and three more poms were very welcome.  A bonus fly-by turnstone was also crucial from a Golden Mallard perspective!

But then things just got stupid, as 45 minutes later the day’s third fea's appeared in my scope from the east. At about the same range as the first bird, this bird also gave great views as it whizzed its way west. Amazingly, this bird also showed a distinct plumage difference from the other two, as it had extensive white around the face.  Make that three fea’s!

Unsurprisingly the rest of the seawatch was a blur, and activity began to tail off after about 18.30.  However, the final species tallies were pretty spectacular:

Bonxie – 10
Arctic skua – 3
Pomarine skua – 7
Long-tailed skua – 5
Blue Fulmar - 1
Sooty shearwater – 7
Balearic shearwater – 1
Great Shearwater – 53
Cory’s Shearwater – at least 250
and just the three Fea’s-type Petrels! (122)

Wow!