Zino's Petrel off Madeira - June 2018

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Saturday, 11 August 2018

Porthgwarra, Cornwall 11/8/18

All during the week I had been eyeing up Saturday as a potential day to head down to the headlands of Cornwall for some seawatching as a large low pressure system was set to hit during the day. However, as the week went on the low was dissipating and the wind becoming less, although enough for me to still be interested. On Friday I was all set to go but by the evening I couldn't really be bothered having gone through a series of weather charts and starting to lose interest and talking myself out of it. In fact, I was getting ready for bed when Paula basically kicked me out of the flat as she knew I'd be grumpy if I didn't go. This was the kick up the backside I needed, and at 23.05 I left home, bound for Porthgwarra.

The journey was a good one with a couple of shooting stars knocking about, and a couple of Badgers showed very well as I made my way down the narrow lanes to the car park at Porthgwarra. I arrived at 04.10 and had a kip until it was just becoming light.

What I really wanted from today was a decent passage of large Shearwaters, but within the first couple of hours it was apparent this wasn't going to happen, although there is always the hope that the grim conditions that swept over the headland would produce a passage of something when conditions improved. By late morning the weather had cleared and now there were ca. 25 observers occupying the clifftop, including Garry Taylor, Michael McKee, Mathew Meehan, Cliff Smith & Alan Lewis.

The sea had become quiet with just a good number of Balearics and a close Great Shearwater drifting past, when at roughly 11.46, Alan Lewis picked up a Pterodroma. Turning round to judge where he was looking gave me some hope as it was a long way around to the left. All morning I had been slow on picking up even the large Shearwaters (tiredness and dodgy scope being my excuses), and to say I was tense was an understatement. One by one others observers exclaimed they had it and accurate and calm directions were being shouted out. My heart was thumping so much I could barely concentrate and the reality of setting eyes on this much wanted seabird was fading ever so slightly. The helpful indication of flying alongside a Manx was shouted, and from this I thankfully picked up the Pterodroma (which was quickly identified as a Fea's-type Petrel by Alan) just left of 12 o'clock and I could breath a sigh of relief and watch this very rare Petrel do its stuff. The superb black underwing contrasting with the very white underparts and the ashy grey upperparts meant this could only be a Fea's-type Petrel. The flight was a classic Pterodroma flight watched for maybe one minute. At 11.50 it passed the Runnel Stone where a number of us fired off a series of shots with poor results shown below.

Afterwards scenes of jubilation dominated the headland and it took roughly half an hour for the adrenaline to get back to normal levels as everyone was wondering around showing off their videos and pictures and describing the events that had unbelievably just happened.

The only downer from the event is not being able to tick this sought-after seabird. The Fea's complex has been split into Fea's Petrel (breeding around Cape Verdes) and Desertas Petrel (breeding on Desertas, Madeira) and identifying them even from the hand is extremely difficult, and therefore from a boat or a headland, its impossible to determine which it is, so therefore for now it goes down as a Fea's-type Petrel. But still, its not all about the tick!

The rest of the seawatch was relatively slow and underwhelming and with work the next morning I was keen to make tracks early, and therefore left the headland at 16.45. The journey back was again good with fewer caravans then I expected, and I arrived home at 22.30.

A brilliant seawatch and some reward after the many visits to Cornwall either hoping for a Pterodroma or a big Shearwater day. The latter I'm still waiting for.......

Totals between 05.45-16.45 Wind SSW swinging WSW:

Balearic Shearwater - 53
Cory's Shearwater - 6
Sooty Shearwater - 8
Great Shearwater - 5
European Storm-Petrel - 6
Great Skua - 7
FEA'S-TYPE PETREL - 1 at 11.50
Arctic Skua - 1

Fea's-type Petrel passing Runnel Stone
Fea's-type Petrel at centre shot with a Manx down to the left
Garry Taylor's freeze-framed shots
from his video
Balearic Shearwater past Porthgwarra
our viewpoint

Friday, 10 August 2018

Cuckmere Haven 7th-9th Aug

Three visits this week have produced very little in the way of migrant Waders and anything alike. Nothing on the 7th Aug but the 8th Aug produced the following:

Black-tailed Godwit - 1
Mediterranean Gull - 1 juv
Dunlin - 34
Common Sandpiper - 2

and the 9th Aug produced the following:

Black-tailed Godwit - 1
Dunlin - 20
Wheatear - 6
Kestrel - 5 hunting together over one field

On the 9th Aug a 21 mile run up the Ouse Valley and elsewhere produced a Whimbrel and five Common Sandpipers along the river.

Below are photos of some juv. Yellow-legged Gulls from Newhaven Harbour taken last month.

Black-tailed Godwit on the scrape
Yellow-legged Gulls from
Newhaven Harbour last month

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Seaford Head (Evening) 4/8/18

I was keen to get in with some of the Pied Flycatcher action with having to work this morning and hearing about numerous sightings on the patch and further afield. I headed straight for Harry's Bush and two were found on the SW corner that was sunlit and sheltered. Ten minutes later along the belt of Sycamores and Elders were a group of four that all too soon spread out in different directions. I suspected there may have been five in the group but I couldn't be sure so I stuck with a safe total of six Pied Flycatchers. I checked Florence House area but no more were seen. Just wish I'd had the day to do a thorough check of the area.

Pied Flycatcher - 6
Willow Warbler - 20

Pied Flycatcher at Harry's Bush

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Seaford Head 2/8/18

A clear out pretty much from yesterday, although surprisingly the Pied Flycatcher had remained overnight. What were new in were three very vocal Nightingales, but 'best' was saved until last as a juv/fem Marsh Harrier flew in from the north, circled to a good height and then headed back west. This probably being my earliest sighting in the autumn.

Totals are:

Willow Warbler - 8
Whitethroat - 13
Lesser Whitethroat - 4
Nightingale - 3
Sedge Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 1
Reed Warbler - 3
Pied Flycatcher - 1 still at Harry's Bush
Marsh Harrier - 1 juv/fem

Marsh Harrier over Seaford Head

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Seaford Head 1/8/18

Certainly quality over quantity this morning. The standard route was fairly quiet although there were good numbers of Acros dotted around, and the first Wheatear of the autumn was also a nice addition to the mornings species tally. Despite very few Phylloscs about today, it was a nice surprise to find a superb Wood Warbler in Harry's Bush, which was then soon joined by a Pied Flycatcher, an event that I can only remember happening from Dinas RSPB in the Brecon Beacons many years ago. I should've joined Jamie Wilkinson down Hope Gap afterwards as he saw a Grasshopper Warbler there, which would've put me on a ten Warbler day.

Totals are:
Sedge Warbler - 7
Whitethroat - 14
Reed Warbler - 13
Willow Warbler - 18
Blackcap - 3
Lesser Whitethroat - 6
Garden Warbler - 2
Chiffchaff - 1
Wheatear - 1
Wood Warbler - 1
Pied Flycatcher - 1
Yellow Wagtail - 2

Willow Warbler at Hope Bottom
Sedge Warbler at Hope Bottom
Wheatear at Hope Bottom
Wood Warbler at Harry's Bush
Pied Flycatcher at Harry's Bush

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Seaford Head 24/7/18

A delayed start to the autumn campaign this year, but still it was good to get back to the usual circuit on Seaford Head, and surprisingly there were a few migrants about, the most notable species being Reed Warbler with a double-figured count today. An early Garden Warbler and two flyover Yellow Wagtails were also noteworthy.

In the Cuckmere after, a good count of 32 Little Egrets, whilst only singles of Whimbrel and Common Sandpiper were noted. Late last week an adult Common Gull and a juv Mediterranean Gull were on the scrape alongside many Black-headed Gulls.

Totals for Seaford Head:

Reed Warbler - 11
Whitethroat - 20
Grasshopper Warbler - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 6
Chiffchaff - 3
Willow Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 3
Garden Warbler - 1
Sedge Warbler - 1
Nightingale - 1
Yellow Wagtail - 2

Grasshopper Warbler in Hope Bottom
Reed Warblers on Seaford Head
Hope Bottom looking good this autumn

Monday, 23 July 2018

Aeshna affinis in Sussex 23/7/18

Simon Linington kindly phoned me yesterday as he had found a male Southern Migrant Hawker on Rodmell Brooks. Despite having seen plenty last year in Essex, I made no hesitation in quickly fixing my back tyre and cycling down there. Unfortunately in the strong wind I only had a brief flight view. 
This morning I went back to the site (this time driving) after an early 15-mile run, and in calmer conditions I had lovely views of this rare Dragonfly, that currently is part of a national influx. A stunning Aeshna.

I'm unsure of the current record status of this species in Sussex. I personally know of three previous records (Piddinghoe, Pagham & West Rise Marsh), though no doubt there's the odd one elsewhere.

male Southern Migrant Hawker
at Rodmell