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
European Storm-Petrel - 6
Great Skua - 7
- 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|