Monday 27 August 2018

Sea-watching and Stormies

With reports of a movement of seabirds from coastal watchpoints, I headed to Druridge for a sea-watch on Saturday afternoon.

I arrived at quarter to five and it was quite quiet a first with a few distant manx shearwaters beyond the pot flags. There were a lot of fulmars and a few roseate terns were flying by and feeding. I had my first of two sooty shearwaters, which was about two-thirds out, at about half five, the second one was later and closer. 

The manx shearwaters kept coming, some very close and a couple of arctic skuas went through together in line with the flags. Just after 6.15 I got onto a pale skua about half-way out - a very pale adult pomarine skua 'with spoons'  - bonus! It was interesting that this bird hadn't been seen at Newbiggin so presumable had been sat on the sea somewhere before flying past Druridge?

Just after the 'Pom' a Fea's petrel was reported past Whitburn. It would take it at least and hour and a half to get to Druridge and the light would be fading but I thought I would hang on. I had lots more manx, another arctic skua but not much else. When the Fea's hadn't been seen at St. Mary's or Newbiggin it was time to head home  - It was a chilly night and I was freezing!

The evening forecast was light winds and no rain so we decided to have a last try for storm petrels. We've never tried to catch any this late in the year before, our previous latest session was 8th August, but worth a try.

When we arrived on the beach and got the nets set up, there was big, bright full moon - it was almost like daylight! Not good for catching birds as they would see the net. The forecast predicted increasing amounts of cloud as the night went on. 

We were joined by Laura Shearer, Paul Stewart, Irene Ajo and the Farooqi's and to our amazement we caught a storm petrel just before half-past ten, the earliest we've caught one by a whole hour - and in what we thought were impossible conditions. We had the nets up until 12.30 and didn't catch anything else so we packed up and went home.

Storm Petrel (Photo: Laura Shearer)
That will be our last session for this year. We've had two sessions this year and caught four storm petrels and one Leach's petrel.

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