Sunday, 30 September 2012

Thanks for waiting

29 September 2012

Dorset birding

The week before I went to Spain a dowitcher was found on the RSPB's Lodmoor reserve near Weymouth in Dorset. A local birder published some distant and heavily cropped images on his blog that led to it being identified as Britain's second ever Short-billed Dowitcher. I was very keen to see it and tried to find a way to get down one evening before we flew, but work was particularly challenging and the bird just not reliable enough to risk it. After a fantastic two weeks in Galicia I arrived at Stansted and checked to see if anything was around - the dowitcher was not only still there but another had been found on the Isles of Scilly! I started to plan to go the next day, a Sunday, but the weather forecast was appalling - strong winds and very heavy rain all day. I was tired after a long day travelling and the thought of a day stood in pouring rain, let alone the three hour drive each way was enough to encourage a lay in. Back at work on Monday and the news of the dowitcher was positive - though not seen on the Wednesday, it was back Thursday and again reported Friday. I could put it off no more and although the NW winds suggested a potentially good day in Kent I decided to go.  Gary was on dad duty and although tempted decided sensibly that six hours of driving was not ideal for two very energetic nine year olds. 

So Saturday morning I woke well ahead of the alarm at 04:30. I decided not to bother trying to sleep and set off for Dorset. Last time I drove down to Portland it took more than three hours - however since then some new roads have been built and I arrived in Weymouth in just over two hours! It was still dark and I was feeling hungry so I went to MacDonalds at Radipole and ate my breakfast overlooking the reedy pools by the visitor centre. Half a dozen Common Snipe were carefully scrutinised, as were the gulls in the pool and car park. A Sedge Warbler fed in the reeds, but otherwise it was surprisingly quiet.

I then drove to Lodmoor parked the car in the beach car park and walked west along the path checking each pool as I didn't know exactly where the bird had been. At the third pool I found two other birders, clearly watching the dowitcher. As I put my tripod down one of them said - 'That's it flying!'. It didn't go far and I figured it would reappear on the small pool in front of us in due course. It had dropped into a pool behind the nearest sedge and with careful positioning could be seen asleep in the grass - not quite the views I had hoped for - but surely it would come back out soon? Over the next three hours 45 minutes it remained asleep just out of view. I occasionally saw its head, or its back, but could not see the whole bird, when it stood up or preened - but largely it just slept.

The best view of the Short-billed Dowitcher for three and three quarter hours! (Lapwing also asleep behind)

In the pool a few Lapwing, Common Snipe, a Black-tailed Godwit and common ducks such as Shoveler and Gadwall kept me amused for the first half hour. Overhead Meadow Pipit, Swallows, a couple of Siskin and a Grey Wagtail. Five Mediterranean Gulls dropped in with the Black headed's, and 2 Sandwich Tern flew around calling loudly. A Chiffchaff and a Garden Warbler were the only interest in the bushes. Time dragged....some of the conversation of other birders kept me mildly amused. The irony of some bemoaning twitching and listing, while talking about birds they had been to see and the fact that the Dowitcher was new caused a wry smile. Scanning the distant hills behind Weymouth two flocks of Jays (12 and 9) flew West and hirundines were gathering in flocks that slowly drifted south overhead. A huge flock of Canada Geese flew in from all directions, but hardly disturbed the Dowitcher from its slumber.

Gadwall really are very smart ducks!
My car park ticket ran for four hours - I had hoped to bird my way right around the reserve. With just fifteen minutes left before I needed to either extend of leave the dowitcher woke up, preened and started to feed around the edge of the pool behind the sedge. From a small vantage point I found a view as it stopped, preened and quickly went back to sleep out of the wind with a Snipe.

The Short-billed Dowitcher showed briefly in the semi-open
And then went back to sleep
At least I could see the whole bird, its very yellow legs and the distinctive 'tiger-striped' tertial pattern. I watched as long as I could then raced back to the car to avoid getting a ticket. Back at the car I decided on a change of scene and drove out to Portland. The traffic was heavy and I eventually got to the Observatory. A quick look in the garden and it was clearly quiet - that Crown Estate field looks fantastic with all the sunflowers and seeds. A quick chat with a fellow birder and I headed back towards Southwell and stumbled into the right road to park. I followed another birder out to the right field and there in the hedge was a smart Red-backed Shrike. It was a very rusty coloured individual and lacked any obvious supercilium showing a wholly rufous upper head and bright rusty tail. It showed well catching insects from various prominent perches - nice bird. As I walked out my phone pinged with a message that the reported Richard's Pipit at Hengistbury was now thought to be a Blyth's. I decided to head back to Lodmoor, to try again for views of the Dowitcher and then to drive to Hengistbury Head on the way home.

Back at Lodmoor and I was quickly informed that the Dowitcher had finally come out of hiding. On the next pool there it was - feeding and showing well. I enjoyed views for the next hour. However some twenty birdwatchers had apparently been happily watching a Black-tailed Godwit through the sedge further down the path believing it to be the dowitcher - oops! It was a very smart bird and to my eye showed a subtly different jizz to Long-billed. It was already moulting its scapulars, but retained all of those wonderful tooth barred tertials. Its belly showed some buff plumage tones that in the sun looked really warm. A right cracker!

The Short-billed Dowitcher finally shows itself

After filling my boots with great looks I walked back to the car and headed off to Hengistbury. When I worked in Bournemouth for several years I used to watch this area quite regularly and it was nice to be back. A local birder kindly pointed me in the right direction and I was soon in 'The Bobolink Field'. Four other birders were surrounding a bush so I walked carefully to one of them. A Wryneck had just been flushed and had landed in the biggest tangle of bushes. No sign but everyone carefully waited. The group of three clearly saw something and we moved round to join them. The Wryneck was sat motionless in the top of the tangle of branches. It eventually hopped out into better view and showed well before flying down into the long grass.

A Wryneck sits hidden in the bush
And then flies out to feed

I stomped through various fields flushing just seven Meadow Pipit but there had been no further sign of the Blyth's/Richard's since lunchtime, so I decided to call it a day and head for home.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Last few days

19 September 2012

Sunrise at Estaca de Bares

We decided to do something different today and drove down to Santiago de Compostella. This has been a major religious destination since the 9th century and the old town and cathedral are a UNESCO World Heritage site. Pilgrims still make the long walk over several weeks from the French Pyrenees to the City. As a result the City has grown up into what I can only describe as a bit of a religious theme park - a kind of Catholic Disneyland where nuns and priests appear in the streets like Mickey and Minnie. The Cathedral itself is an almighty architectural feat, extended and added to over many thousands of years. The alter is a monstrous golden affair, very ostentatious and quite frankly a bit over the top. Anyway the many scallop shell carrying pilgrims seemed excited to be there. The highlight were the Crag Martins flying around the cathedral walls. We enjoyed lunch in one of the cobbled streets then headed north stopping for a few hours in A Coruna, a modern town with a pretty harbour and a great Italian ice cream parlour!

20 September 2012

No seawatch this morning. We had a lie in then did the pretty walk out from Ortigueira to the beach. 4 Whimbrel, 200 Curlew, 20 Oystercatcher, 20 Bar-tailed Godwit, 10 Little Egret, 5 Sandwich Tern, 4 Spotless Starling, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 4 Yellow Wagtail and 2 Wheatear. 

Fan-tailed Warbler


In the early evening a look around the bushes at Estaca de Bares found a good arrival of migrants. A Common Redstart, 4 Black Redstart, 4 Willow Warbler, 5 Wheatear, 1 Wryneck, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Whitethroat plus the usual Common Buzzard, Dartford Warblers, Stonechats, Chough and Peregrine.

Black Redstart

Northern Wheatear

Northern Wheatear

Swallowtail and Clouded Yellow were amoung the butterflies seen and by the pool three Willow Emerald Damselflies, an Emperor and several Scarlet Dragonfly.

Scarlet Dragonfly
Willow Emerald

21 September 2012

A quick stop at Espasante in the morning found a Pied Flycatcher, 2 Willow Warbler, 6 White Wagtail and 3 Firecrest, including a juvenile with a blackish cap. At O Picon we walked along the clifftop path and down onto the secluded beach. We saw 8 Spotless Starling, 4 Wheatear, 10 Stonechat, 15 Linnet, 12 Greenfinch, 2 Fan-tailed Warbler, and 6 Coal Tit. On the beach a small flock of waders comprised 8 Sanderling, 1 Turnstone, 1 Ringed Plover and a juvenile Bar-tailed Godwit.

European Stonechat

At Estaca de Bares the bushes held a Wryneck, 3 Common Redstart, 4 Black Redstart, 15 Stonechat, 3 Wheatear, 6 Blackcap, 3 Whitethroat, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 2 Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Fan-tailed Warbler, 2 Sardinian Warbler, 4 Dartford Warbler and 2 Willow Warbler. Overhead 2 Raven, 2 Chough and 3 Common Buzzard.

A look at the sea from the Observatory revealed:

  • Great Skua - 6
  • Arctic Skua - 4
  • Sandwich Tern - 50
  • Commic Tern - 60
  • Little Tern - 4
  • Gannet - 40
  • Cory's Shearwater - 20
  • Manx Shearwater - 6
  • Balearic Shearwater - 10
  • Sooty Shearwater - 4
  • Common Scoter - 50 (mainly adult males)

22 September 2012

My last day. I had to start at Estaca de Bares for a seawatch whatever the weather. I arrived before dawn and made my way down to the Observatory. Again it was blowing a light easterly. However I was joined after dawn by Antonio Sandoval, one of the locals who spends every weekend here from June through November. Thankfully Antonio spoke wonderful English and over the next couple of hours we had a great chat about seabirds, Estaca and some of the amazing things he's seen through his long hours at Bares over the years (Brown Booby, Red-billed Tropicbird, etc, etc). We talked about some of the best passage days, the best weather, and I learned that many of his rarest sightings came on otherwise quiet days - just like today! Perseverance is the key at this site, and perhaps I should have stuck it out when at first it appeared to be quiet.

  • Great Skua - 7
  • Manx Shearwater - 6
  • Balearic Shearwater - 35
  • Cory's Shearwater - 12
  • Sooty Shearwater - 1
  • Gannet - 181
  • Grey Heron - 1
  • Arctic Skua - 18
  • Mediterranean Gull - 1
  • Sandwich Tern - 25
  • Commic Tern - 4
The Wryneck was still around and just as elusive and 2 Wheatear were still below the Observatory on the rocks. I drove back to our cabin to pack and then we returned to Bares for a walk around the headland. En route a Honey Buzzard drifted over the road.

Honey Buzzard
Our walk took us up and over the headland through the Eucalyptus forest and down to the Porto for lunch. The usual Black Redstart and Stonechat, Blackcaps, a Sardinian Warbler and a Willow Warbler were seen. At the Porto 35 Gannet cruised into and out of the bay some passing right over our table and the second Grey Heron of the day flew west.

This small snake was seen on the road

The view from the Semaphore

After lunch I just had to return to the Observatory for one last look. There was nothing moving but a huge gathering of feeding seabirds just offshore ensured my last watch was interesting. 

  • Cory's Shearwater - 6
  • Sooty Shearwater - 5
  • Balearic Shearwater - 110
  • Manx Shearwater - 5
  • Scopoli's Shearwater - 1
  • Sandwich Tern - 25
  • Commic Tern - 30
  • Arctic Tern - 1
  • Gannet - 80
We packed up and sadly headed off to the airport. 

So overall I loved the place. It seems to be the only seawatching site I know where movement continues, starts and stops throughout the day. Even in the wrong weather there were plenty of birds and almost continual passage. Every watch produced something interesting or new. I can only wonder at just how good the place can be on the right winds. One thing is for sure - I'll be back next year!

The Ornithological Observatory at Estaca de Bares

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

My new favourite place

10 - 22 September 2012

Estaca de Bares

Estaca de Bares peninsula, Galicia

Several years ago I was looking at a map of Europe and pondering where might be a good autumn seawatching point (well better than Dungeness or Reculver). Logically the NW corner of the Spanish mainland has a significant north facing leading line, the Bay of Biscay above (which I was aware held good numbers of cetaceans and seabirds) and the Atlantic Ocean immediately to the west (north and south). Looking more closely I found a headland called Estaca de Bares which pushed out into the ocean and which surely, on the right winds, would pick up lots of migrating seabirds. I pondered a September visit, but work commitments and other priorities got in the way. Later that year I heard of a massive passage of Long-tailed Skuas off NW Spain, the biggest ever recorded, seen by some pioneering young Spanish birders (as I now know the headland has been watched on and off since the 1950's) and ever since they have been recording increasing records of rare seabirds. I had met one of them, Dani (Daniel Lopez Velasco), last year in Madeira and again when he invited me to Lanzarote this year to join one of his pelagic trips. We discussed Estaca de Bares  and I decided this year to pay a visit. Mandy was coming too and it would be our main holiday so I would have to manage my seawatching exploits, but it would provide a relaxing break and an opportunity to explore this area of Spain, and assess the potential for the future.

I had hoped to contact Dani before flying over, but work pressure left me expecting to surprise him. This would also mean I'd have to do some exploration and work out the best places and best winds - but thats part of the fun for me. So on 10th September we headed out to have a look around and to check out the area ahead of my first planned seawatch early the next morning. Arriving at Bares is like most great birding sites - the windlashed landscape, the low vegetation, the sea around the headland and a lighthouse all combine to get the adrenaline going. We parked in the obvious car park and walked up past the imposing lighthouse building toward the point itself. Mandy didn't fancy the increasingly narrow path to the tip of the point so we settled down on a large rock. There was hardly any breeze, it was sunny and clear - not typical seawatching weather and it was 11:00 so I wasn't expecting much, but at least I could get my eye in for tomorrow. My first scan found four species of Shearwater (in Kent that's more than a good Autumn!) and it wasn't even windy. I watched for two hours and notched up an impressive list of species:

  • Cory's Shearwater - 150
  • Sooty Shearwater - 12
  • Manx Shearwater - 100
  • Balearic Shearwater - 5
  • Gannet - 16
  • Sandwich Tern - 6
  • Commic Tern - 5
  • Great Skua - 6
  • Arctic Skua - 5

Around the point were Stonechats, Dartford Warblers and 2 Chough, and 3 Yellow Wagtail flew in off the sea. Not bad for a quick recce...

We drove down to Porto Bares (1 Wheatear and 3 Willow Warbler) and found a nice little cafe for lunch and spent a few hours relaxing on the very nice beach before I could resist no more and returned to the point for a couple more hours, while Mandy read her book. From the same position I recorded:

  • Wilson's Storm petrel - 1
  • Balearic Shearwater - 46
  • Cory's Shearwater - 150
  • Scopoli's Shearwater - 1
  • Manx Shearwater - 110
  • Sooty Shearwater - 34
  • Yelkouan Shearwater - 1
  • Sandwich Tern - 65
  • Common Tern - 117
  • Gannet - 101

Our position was fairly high (compared to Dungeness beach anything over 1m above sea level is high) and birds were moving on several fronts, so I concentrated on some of the closer birds choosing to really scrutinise the smaller shearwaters. The variety of Balearic Shearwater plumage kept me entertained and comparing them directly with Manx very useful. One flock that had both species also included at least one Yelkouan Shearwater that subtly stood out from the crowd (very long bodied, accentuated by its feet extending well beyond the tail, clear cut brown from white on the head/neck, slight white notch behind the wing less distinct than Manx, and  clear cut dark undertail (not extensive like the Balearics), dark cross bar on the underwing coverts and even obliging with constant head lifting as it flew by). It was also by studying another Balearic Shearwater that I came across a Wilson's Storm Petrel feeding offshore, getting a good view of its typical flight style and feeding action, dark underwings and bright white rump. A single Scopoli's Shearwater came close enough to see its extended white underwings, though I suspect others passed among the many Cory's. By 18:30 the rock was becoming uncomfortable and we headed back to our accommodation (I just discovered that five minutes later a pterodroma petrel flew by).

11 September 2012
I woke early and drove in the dark back to Estaca de Bares. I parked in the car park at 07:45 and walked carefully right to the end of the peninsula in the half light. It was slightly lower and I found a nice comfortable spot in the rocks. Seawatching began as the light improved and a nice tally of birds passed by over the next two hours.

Estaca de Bares from below the foghorn
  • Cory's Shearwater - 100
  • Sooty Shearwater - 78
  • Balearic Shearwater - 52
  • Manx Shearwater - 46
  • Barolo's Shearwater - 2
  • Gannet - 81
  • Sandwich Tern - 56
  • Common Tern 8
  • Great Skua 2
  • Pomarine Skua - 1 fully spooned adult
  • Arctic Skua - 3

The clear highlight were the Barolo's Shearwaters. I have encountered several of these diminutive and endangered shearwaters from ferries in the Bay of Biscay previously but never seen them from land before. I was again studying Balearic and Manx Shearwaters in the varying light conditions, watching a small group as they passed the point and caught the early morning light. Just as I was about to move my scope to start a new scan I caught sight of something small fluttering slightly further out. Catching black and white I initially thought it was a petrel, but it turned to reveal a startling (persil) white underbody. Now there are petrels with white bellies, but really that was VERY unlikely. My mind raced as the bird fluttered its way over the water surface. Then I caught the white face and the narrowly black framed white underwings - it all clicked into place. A Barolo's Shearwater! I zoomed the magnification up and enjoyed good looks at this special bird as it moved very slowly west at distance. A second bird then appeared alongside. Thinking this was a good opportunity to study the Barolo's alongside a Manx I was more than a little surprised to see it flying in the same manner - another Barolo's! The downcurved rounded wings and Common Sandpiper like fluttering and flickering flight were most distinctive (Manx's were seen to do something similar at times but never with the same nervous flicking). I watched them until lost to view.

As I walked back to the car I found a few Willow Warblers in some scrub and on investigation flushed a Wryneck that gave good but brief views in the gorse. Ten Swallow flew west, a couple of Raven 'cronked' overhead and a single Common Buzzard hovered over the road.

Dartford Warblers are common in the coastal gorse

I returned to our cabin for breakfast then went exploring with Mandy. We found a small village called O Picon and a nice coastal path for a walk to a very secluded beach. Along the way I saw a White Wagtail, 3 Cirl Bunting, 2 Serin, 4 Black Redstart, 6 Dartford Warbler, 2 Whitethroat, 10 Fan-tailed Warbler, 3 Swallow, 1 Whinchat and 4 Wheatear. From the beach a stunning Goshawk circled overhead and a juvenile Mediterranean Gull flew past. 

Returning to the car I found a very showy Wryneck sitting motionless in the gorse - only problem I'd not taken the 400mm lens!

Taken with a 75mm lens - this would have been stunning with the big zoom!

I returned to Estaca de Bares between 18:30 and 19:30. The wind had gone slightly NE but was still light, but seemed to produce a heavier movement. 

  • Gannet - 190
  • Sooty Shearwater - 28
  • Balearic Shearwater - 9
  • Manx Shearwater - 1,000
  • Cory's Shearwater - 70
  • Pomarine Skua - 5 (all fully-spooned adults)
  • Arctic Skua - 7
  • Great Skua - 6
  • Sandwich Tern - 33
  • Whimbrel - 1

12 September 2012

Back at dawn for another two hours in a light NE breeze and cloudy conditions. Most of the birds moved between 08:00 and 09:00 when the wind dropped. Birds were moving on a broad front with some Gannets along the cliffs and some shearwater very distant.
  • Gannet - 250
  • Sooty Shearwater - 75
  • Balearic Shearwater - 50
  • Manx Shearwater - 3,500
  • Cory's Shearwater - 75
  • Pomarine Skua - 5
  • Arctic Skua - 13
  • Great Skua - 3
  • Common Scoter - 42
  • Sandwich Tern - 10
  • Common Tern - 1
  • Arctic Tern - 2 juv
  • Black Tern - 1
  • Peregrine - 1
  • Whimbrel - 1
  • Common Porpoise - 10

After breakfast we walked from Carino to Cabo Oretgal. Two Crested Tit were the highlight in the extensive Eucalyptus forests (something that covers the whole area), feeding in more native undergrowth. A Spotted Flycatcher and 2 Bullfinch were also seen. From the Cabo we saw about 150 Manx Shearwater, 10 Cory's Shearwater and 40 Gannet, but all very distant.

Back at Bares between 17:30 and 18:30 it was now sunny and bright with a light and variable breeze. There was little passage but still good numbers of Manx, Balearic, Sooty and Cory's Shearwater feeding with Gannets and terns offshore.

  • Shag - 1
  • Common Scoter - 5
  • Great Skua - 3
  • Arctic Tern - 2
  • Commic Tern - 12
  • Sandwich Tern - 35
  • Gannet - 100
  • Cory's Shearwater - 50
  • Manx Shearwater - 500
  • Sooty Shearwater - 50
  • Balearic Shearwater - 50

13 September 2012

The two hour dawn seawatch in cloudy conditions with a brief NE breeze produced:
  • Cormorant - 2
  • Turnstone - 6
  • Dunlin - 30
  • Great Skua - 11
  • Arctic Skua - 12
  • Pomarine Skua - 1
  • Commic Tern - 1
  • Sandwich Tern - 11
  • Gannet - 150
  • Cory's Shearwater - 100
  • Manx Shearwater - 1,000
  • Sooty Shearwater - 261
  • Balearic Shearwater - 36


A visit to O Picon produced 5 Common Buzzard, 1 Peregrine, 2 Chough, 2 Dartford Warbler, 5 Stonechat, 4 Black Redstart, 2 Serin, 30 Linnet, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 3 Cirl Bunting and the Wryneck still present but not at all approachable.

The Wryneck did not want to put on a repeat performance

Between 19:00 and 20:15 at Bares in an E3 and clear bright conditions:

  • Great Skua - 3
  • Arctic Skua - 18
  • Pomarine Skua - 1
  • Arctic Tern - 18
  • Common Tern - 3
  • Commic Tern - 266
  • Black Tern - 5
  • Sandwich Tern - 75
  • Gannet - 300
  • Cory's Shearwater - 100
  • Manx Shearwater - 600
  • Sooty Shearwater - 100
  • Balearic Shearwater - 10

The Skuas were moving at height with the tail wind and I am sure I missed a few before I noticed. They were flying in often small flocks. The flock of 18 Arctic and 5 Black Tern also appeared at height giving good views as they drifted overhead.

14 September 2012

Back to Bares for dawn but the wind was ESE 4 briefly E 4 - not ideal and the rewards were slim. Just 2 Great Skua, 10 Cory's Shearwater, 60 Sooty Shearwater, 30 Manx Shearwater and 25 Gannet. A Wheatear, 5 Stonechat and 3 Dartford Warbler were all the headland had to offer. In the calm conditions 3 pods of Long-finned Pilot Whales were seen and provided distraction from the slow seabird movement.

We spent the day walking from Ortigueira to the beautiful beach. The tide was coming in and large numbers of waders were gathering on the increasingly small islands. 10 Whimbrel, 200 Curlew, 5 Greenshank, 15 Bar-tailed Godwit, 10 Dunlin, 8 Ringed Plover, 3 Sanderling and a Common Sandpiper were seen during the day. A single Mediterranean Gull and 4 Sandwich Tern were also feeding on the incoming tide.

A quick look of Bares in the evening found even fewer birds: 30 Gannet, 35 Manx Shearwater, 20 Balearic Shearwater, 5 Cory's Shearwater and 2 Sandwich Tern and all very distant.

15 September 2012

Despite the low numbers I decided to return to Bares this morning. There were a few birds on the move in the E % wind and sunny conditions:

Great Skua - 8
Cory's Shearwater - 20
Scopoli's Shearwater - 1
Balearic Shearwater - 2
Manx Shearwater - 150
Sooty Shearwater - 13
Sandwich Tern - 81
Commic Tern - 8
Common Scoter - 1
Gannet - 100

A very dark, almost black Common Buzzard flew over the point and was later seen on the roof of an outbuilding.

Common Buzzard

16 September 2012

I didn't try a seawatch the next morning having a lay in for a change. We went canoeing up the river from O Barqueira Porto seeing 2 Whimbrel, 20 COmmon Sandpiper, 3 Oystercatcher, 2 Kingfisher, a Little Egret and a Raven.

After a late lunch we returned to Bares for an hour from 18:00:

  • Cory's Shearwater - 35
  • Sandwich Tern - 44
  • Sabine's Gull - 22 (all adult)
  • Gannet - 45
  • Sooty Shearwater - 1
  • Balearic Shearwater - 2
  • Great Skua - 9
  • Arctic Skua - 1
  • Chough - 1
  • Bottle-nosed Dolphin - 3
The undoubted highlight was the small passage of adult Sabine's Gulls all in summer plumage. They moved in small groups or mixed in with Sandwich Tern on a consistent line, none really close but all obvious in the perfect evening light.

17 September 2012

Looking towards Cabo Ortegral

Following the exciting Sabine's movement last night I was up early and back at Bares for two hours from 08:00. The wind was still in the east but very light, the sea calm and light a little hazy. 
  • Cory's Shearwater - 50
  • Manx Shearwater - 24
  • Sooty Shearwater - 58
  • Balearic Shearwater - 19
  • Gannet
  • Sandwich Tern - 81
  • Commic Tern - 7
  • Arctic Tern - 5
  • Arctic Skua - 19
  • Great Skua - 11
  • Pomarine Skua - 1
On the headland 6 Whitethroat had arrived, but little else. After breakfast we did the walk again from Ortigueira to the beach and back. The highlight came on the return when a female Nightjar flushed from beside the path landing briefly on the hand rail beside the path - again no camera, but it flew off before I lifted my bins so no damage done.

Returning to Bares from 17:15 to 19:15 produced a small movement in a light ENE breeze and overcast conditions. The light became increasingly hazy and difficult as the mist rolled in. A flock of 2 Sooties and 12 Balearics came in from the north and headed south east, but surprisingly not a single Sabine's Gull was seen on either watch.

  • Cory's Shearwater - 35
  • Manx Shearwater - 20
  • Sooty Shearwater - 30
  • Balearic Shearwater - 39
  • Gannet - 120
  • Sandwich Tern - 10
  • Black Tern - 2 
  • Arctic Skua - 10
  • Great Skua - 25
  • Pomarine Skua - 1 
  • Peregrine - 1 

18 September 2012

Started at the point at 08:00, staying only until 08:45 as there was almost nothing moving (3 Gannet and a Sooty Shearwater). I decided to check some bushes I had seen just to the east of the point and found a Whitethroat, 1 Reed Warbler, 1 Willow Warbler, 3 Bullfinch, 2 Common Buzzard and 2 Chough. As I was about to leave I scanned the sea as I had wondered whether the cliffs slightly east of the headland might present a better view of the seabirds. Noticing three species of shearwater offshore I grabbed the scope and raced down the path to the cliffs. In front of me was a small stone building and as I approached I discovered why I hadn't met any locals all week - it was the official Ornithological Observatory! Scanning offshore found 15 Cory's, 5 Manx, 5 Sooty, 10 Balearic, 25 Gannet, 2 Great Skua and 8 Sandwich Tern. Most notably however they were all much closer and the lower angle meant better views for longer than at the point! 

After breakfast we went for a walk along the river near Manon. Some lovely native habitat made a change from the Eucalyptus forests. Small flocks of tits were encountered along the river.

Back at Bares in the afternoon I went straight to the observatory. The wind had gone NE and strengthened to a reasonable force 4. Birds were moving in much increased numbers and over the next five hours I enjoyed some good seawatching:
  • Cory's Shearwater - 650 
  • Manx Shearwater - 350
  • Sooty Shearwater - 250
  • Balearic Shearwater - 100
  • Gannet - 350
  • Sandwich Tern - 76
  • Commic Tern - 58 
  • Arctic Skua - 12
  • Great Skua - 30
  • Pomarine Skua - 3
  • Long-tailed Skua - 1
  • Sabine's Gull - 2
  • Common Scoter - 3
  • Whimbrel - 1