Lesser Florican - August 2023

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Sunday 23 August 2020

Seawatching off Cornwall 22-23 Aug 2020

Since early last week, I had been eyeing up this weekend as a potentially decent weekend to be on a clifftop in West Cornwall. Thursday and Friday were looking the most productive , however, it was Wednesday that turned out to be a good day. With a distinct lack of seabirds on the Friday, I somehow plucked up the courage and drove down after work and arrived at Porthgwarra car park just before it got dark, not feeling optimistic one bit.

After a good nights sleep in the car, I positioned myself on Gwennep Head (meeting Steve & John), but after an hour, I had only seen a Great Shearwater, a Cory's Shearwater and four Sooty Shearwaters. News of a Wilson's Storm-Petrel and other good seabirds from Pendeen meant I swiftly left my position and dashed north. I spent most of the day here and enjoyed a good range of seabirds and a minimum of 15 Ocean Sunfish! An estimated, but calculated, total of 40,000 Manx Shearwaters passing was also somewhat noteworthy. Probably my favourite sighting were four superb adult Sabine's Gulls. I left at 6pm as the passage and light had worsened, but maybe I should've stayed as a Band-rumped Petrel (aka Madeiran Storm-Petrel) flew through later on... ah well, another spectacular fail for the day. I did though see the adult Spotted Sandpiper at Drift Reservoir, this being my first UK spotty Spotted Sand!

I opted to stay down in Cornwall and entailed another sleep in the car, this time near to Pendeen. Although the wind had abated from yesterday, eventually a good range of seabirds were found. The passage was steady with several Storm-Petrels passing relatively close and another wonderful adult Sabine's Gull, but it was at 11.13 when Justin Carr picked out a Wilson's Storm-Petrel. I was out of position, but somehow I managed to get straight onto the bird (this being despite my struggle over the weekend to pick out many close Stormies... I tend to look further out) where it showed off its pale carpel area and all dark underwing, as well as its prolonged gliding-like flight. This sighting certainly made my weekend, and well done to Justin who had been closely examining the petrels all weekend. 

A short while later, Justin picked out another Wilson's, this time slightly further out, but alongside two European Storm-Petrels; again, I managed to get onto it quickly and even witnessed it bouncing off the water and gliding to its next bounce. I couldn't make out the underwing on this bird, although the pale carpel area was just about visible! A Blue-finned Tuna also breached a couple of times, which was another excellent sighting. With my ambitions full-filled, I left Pendeen and drove straight home.

Highlights for the weekend are as follows:

Cory's Shearwater - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 17
Great Shearwater
European Storm-Petrel - ca. 75
Balearic Shearwater - 8
Sabine's Gull - 7 (all adults)
Great Skua  - 15
Pomarine Skua - 1
Arctic Skua - 8
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 2

Spotted Sandpiper - 1 adult at Drift Reservoir
Ocean Sunfish - 16
Harbour Porpoise - 1
Blue-finned Tuna - 1

Looking up to Pendeen Lighthouse

Balearic & Manx Shearwaters

Sooty Shearwater

juv. Gannet

Manx Shearwaters

adult Spotted Sandpiper at Drift Res.

The three rocks off Pendeen