Monday, 5 August 2013

Sea watching heaven...

I was up and having breakfast at 2am yesterday. No, it wasn't an attack of the munchies that had me stuffing cornflakes at that time in the morning but part of a carefully laid plan to have myself, Dave Helliar and Andy Grinter at Porthgwarra in Cornwall in time for first light and hopefully a good day's seawatching. We arrived at around 05:45, just as it was getting light and laiden down with bags, bins, scopes and fold-out chairs, we made our way up the coast path from Porthgwarra village to Gwennap Head. We arrived to find Julian Thomas and another birder already in place (always reassuring to see Julian - rarities are guaranteed) - before the morning was out the numbers would swell to around 35 birders and a handful of bemused onlookers. Before very long the rain started lashing down and it was heavy. At this point you're sitting there wondering how bizarre it must look to see in excess of 30 people sitting in chairs in the pissing rain staring out to sea...but it was worth humiliating yourself for. The soakings were interspersed with ideal seawatching conditions and with that came the birds:

The following official tally has been lifted from the Cornwall Birding Association website - many thanks to them:

Porthgwarra – *FEA’S PETREL* flew past Gwennap Head at 0913hrs. Also Great Shearwater (47), Cory’s Shearwater (16), Long-tailed Skua (ad) Storm Petrel (7),Balearic Shearwater (65), Great Skua (10), Arctic Skua (4), Sooty Shearwater (15) Med Gull (2), Puffin (2), Common Scoter (8) and Chough (3) past 

Yep, that's a pretty good day by any standard and nobody was expecting the Fea's (there was a cheer when that went past and a few frantic minutes as we all tried to get on the bird before it disappeared) - with that one putting in a relatively early appearance, it bode well for the rest of the day. It should be noted though that the above figures are the totals and I very much doubt anyone present saw all of them. Seawatching is one of those birding events that calls for a lot of luck in some respects. Some people are good at shouting directions when a bird is found, others are not. "It's to the right of the pinnacle" didn't really cut it on more than one occasion (thank God for the Runnel Stone!). There's an awful lot of sea on view at Porthgwarra.  I for one didn't get the lot by a long way but had amazing views of most and yes, we all managed to get onto the Fea's type petrel. To add to this there were also two basking sharks present for most of the morning...not a day any of us will forget in a hurry.

Although too wet to film any of the good shearwaters (and lets face it, I was too busy finding them in my scope to worry about trying to find them on a camera screen), I did manage a little bit of filming of some of the other stuff in the dry spells. It was a tad breezy though...

And this is what whet our appetite in the first place...the weather forecast for that fateful day...

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