Shearwaters

Set the alarm for 5.30 this morning, and by midday was beginning to rue my early start. I’d forgotten how sapping and depressing seawatching can be. Endless streams of Gannets and Fulmars, occasional Great and Arctic Skuas, a very few Kittiwakes, and odd handfuls of Shag and Black Guillemot.

Wind was blowing south/south-westerly, at about force 8, so not a particularly comfortable environment to be sat watching standard Shetland seabirds in, let alone with some meaningful rain showers thrown in for good measure. JLI’s text about summed it up: “Seawatching? Hard man!”. Just after midday, I finally got my just rewards – out of nowhere, a Sooty Shearwater cutting south in front of the Skerries in bright sunshine. Completely delighted with this, I expected more of the same. And of course, got nothing for 40 minutes, just same old same. Then a large concentration of Gannets massed offshore, diving repeatedly again and again. Estimated at least 50 birds in the flock, which eventually spent some 15 minutes sat on the heaving waves.

Before too long there were Storm Petrels amongst them – impossible to stay on them with the scope, as no sooner had I locked onto one than it would be obscured by the waves, and lost to sight. Hard therefore to gauge numbers, but am guessing it was approaching double figures.

Final icing on the cake came in a frantic (well, by the standards of the proceeding hours) 5 minutes, when first 3 and then a further single Manx Shearwater came past. The 3 went straight south, but the single bird circled the dispersing Gannet flock in a broad arc before going south too.

Gave it another hour, but in the end hunger and the cold drove me home. A good morning’s work, and in the shearwaters I’ve added 2 more species to my patch list. Thought treacherously to myself that I wouldn’t have to hurry to seawatch from here again…

Other interesting stuff today. Fat bastard Rock Doves stealing from unprotected stooks in the fields; and Harbour Porpoises feeding just offshore this evening. You start to take them for granted – look up from washing up in sink, see dorsal fins breaking the surface of the sea outside the kitchen window – “neesiks are back again…”. >yawn< Just another everyday occurence!

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One Response

  1. And I thought Shetland needed NW winds for a seawatch! You inspired me to try today. Only lasted an hour as I hate seawatching (hours of seeing sod all can do that to you!) but still managed to score a single Manx heading into the breeze at midday. Will try tomorrow morning if time permits as still need to see Sooty for my Yell list!

    Cheers for the inspiration to get me off my butt…….

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