The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Shear Numbers but Fea-less

I've managed to get out for a little more birding recently, though I've yet to tap into the rich vein of Portland birding, as usual.
On the 6th I was able to make a few brief excursions around the island, finding a distant feeding flock of seabirds that included a Balearic Shearwater and an intruding Great Skua off the West cliffs.
Plus, on the 8th I spent an hour or two at Ferrybridge seeing a Greenshank flying over, the long-staying Red-necked Grebe in the harbour, plus juvenile Redshank and Yellow-legged Gull on the mud.
A quick whizz round the middle of the island produced a few warblers as well as a couple of calling Tree Pipit.
But, it was on the 10th when the real birding came. 
I drove three hours down to Cornwall the previous evening, slept in the car, then picked up Samuel Perfect from Falmouth first thing, before making our way over to Pendeen in forecast strong North-westerlies.
The view from the cliffs below the lighthouse is impressive.  The rocks provide useful landmarks for calling out the position of birds.

It wasn't long before we had a large Shearwater in the bag, as a Cory's Shearwater passed distantly.  A few minutes later the first Great Shearwater sweeped into view, but this was quite a dark one without the obvious pale bands at each end.
Soon enough however we got brilliant views of both species, with one or two Sooty Shearwater and Balearic Shearwater amongst the hundreds of Manx Shearwater into the bargain.  Shear heaven!
It wasn't easy for everyone present to find sufficient shelter, particularly as the wind veered round to the north slightly.

This was the sort of typical views of the closer Manxies (plus Gannet), and just the one large Shear, a Great, came this close, but what a belter that was in perfect light!

A few other things were called during the 10 hours we were there, such as all three common Skua, though I only saw the one distant immature Pomarine Skua.  Also a Storm Petrel was a great find pattering around just beyond the rocks.

Talking of rocks, I suspect virtually everyone present totally ignored the fact that the Lichen here were very impressive with 5-6 species on one rock.  This one was rather photogenic.

In the end, I saw about 15 Great, 12 Cory's, 3 Sooty, and 3 Balearic Shearwater.  The only disappointment really was hearing of a Fea's Petrel passing nearby St Agnes Head, and not having it past here!  We were all so hyped to see that!  Nonetheless, a fantastic day, and my first double UK-lifer day for 15 months.

A little look in Chesil Cove this morning produced just a pair of piratical Arctic Skua going after the Terns.  I was half hoping to see a Cory's scything about in there, now I know what to look for!

Things have got to improve on the land shortly hopefully, once this wind dies down.

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