Monday, September 2, 2013

Little shearwater

I was supposed to be out on a pelagic off Loop head on saturday morning but due to rough weather it was cancelled. The weather didn't look too promising for a sea watch but good enough to give it a try. It started well with leach's petrel and a few skuas, sooty shears, a blue fulmar and balearic shear. After the morning fry and some wader hunting on nearby beaches we moved to the Fodry to try our luck again. The seawatching spot here was fantastic, a little higher than the bridges but a much wider area of sea infront and a lot more protection from the wind. We were barely there 30 mins when the little shear was picked up coming towards us. It was so far to our right that there was no panic and both of us were able to get onto it very quickly with the directions from the finder. The bird was immediately obvious, flight, size, colour, just everything was different. The angle of the body was slightly angled up, wings arched slightly and shallow wingbeats below the horizontal. When flying away from us it was very common sandpiper like! It never banked high, never near the vertical reached by manxies rolling out of the troughs. Flying low over the water, it disappeared into troughs regularly but our elevated height allowed us to get better views than would have been possible at the bridges. Every time it re-emerged from the trough it was instantly obvious, it was never lost or confused with the manx which were streaming past. Its hard to know but it was probably on view for 3 mins or so, plenty of time to take it all in, certainly a lot longer than we would have had if we picked it up from the bridges.
 It was also great that it was just 3 of us there, the directions were clear and straight forward,- the memory of the panic when a fea's went past the bridges  a few years back will always stay with me. Awful directions, several seconds from the initial muffled call until any directions came out and then the panic of a mass of bodies diving across infront to view it from on top of the hollow.I don't think I will be going back to the regular spot again!

Hard to convey just how obvious the bird was, it was very difficult to make out the eye due to a combination of the evening light and distance. I had a zoom eye piece, and after finding it at 20x I zoomed into 60 which was too much. I could find the bird easily but the shake was just too much to really enjoy it. Zooming out a little to around 50x was perfect. I couldn't make out any secondary bars but a sooty shearwater like pale panel on the far secondaries was always clear.
The following day was another good one, a few leaches, sooties, balearics, a black tern (which I couldn't get onto) juv little gull and a great selection of skuas. The views of the skuas were great, they were usually picked up coming towards us from quite a distance, their flight style and shape could be watched and compared. Have a few pages of sketches Im hoping to work up this week. Will be interesting to see how they compare with skua watching when the wind is a lot stronger and juvs are the common plumage in the coming weeks.

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