20 September 2013
Estaca de Bares
The usual pair of Tawny Owl hooted and tweeted from the roof of the Hotel overnight. Another 08:15 start on a flat calm day. Passage was relatively light this morning but this allowed more time to really soak in each bird as it passed. We still managed all four Skuas - 5 Great, 6 Arctic, 3 Pomarine and a single Long-tailed. In addition 2 Common Scoter, 100 Gannet, 250 Manx Shearwater, 50 Sooty Shearwater, 10 Cory's Shearwater, 39 Sandwich Tern, 5 Commic Tern, and the first Kittiwake of the season, a juvenile. We spent a little time checking the bushes around the headland finding 3 Black Redstart, 5 Dartford Warbler, 10 Stonechat and much to Mark's delight 2 Chough.
|A pair of Chough give good views|
A large flock of finches in a field was mainly Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet and Chaffinch, but three Serin were also present. A couple of Spotless Starling were sitting on the wires along the road and in stopping to view these I found a Pied Flycatcher and 3 Whinchat. While checking another area for Crested Tit, which was proving hard to get, I found 4 more Pied Flycatcher and a Red Squirrel.
We ended the day where it started with a three hour seawatch from 16:30. Terns were moving in good numbers with 231 Sandwich, 239 Commic, 2 Black, 1 Little and 3 Arctic. Skuas were also on the move again with 32 Great, 31 Arctic, 3 Pomarine and 2 juvenile Long-tailed. Shearwaters were in smaller numbers but still Sooty and Manx were a constant sight with a single flock of 40 Sooties recorded, 7 Cory's Shearwater and 1 Balearic Shearwater. A distant flock of 32 Cormorant and 30 Common Scoter also flew by.
However the evening, and for me the week, was made memorable for two events. At about 18:30 as I was scanning, I picked up a distinctive shape dancing over the calm waves about mid distance. The gently bowed wings, grey upperparts and dark underwings gave it away. I have long dreamed of this moment. Having quickly alerted Mark I was able to realise a long-held ambition when I shouted at the top of my voice 'Pterodroma!'. My Spanish friends all turned in unison to see me pointing in the general direction of the sighting. We were all very quickly on the bird, which due to the calm conditions took nearly ten minutes to make its way past the point. It danced and glided, twisted and turned, barely flapping despite the lack of wind - sheer poetry in flight. At one point a passing Arctic Skua thought it would give chase, only to be made a complete fool of when the Petrel slipped its attack in a stunning turn leaving the skua comedically looking and flying the wrong way. These gadfly petrels are really quite sublime. I've seen Zino's from a boat off Madeira (with some of the Spanish birders present this evening), finally saw my first Fea's from a boat off Cape Hatteras in July, my first land-based Fea's a few days earlier and now found my own.
It was hard to be certain due to the very different viewing conditions compared to Monday when it was windier, but the bird looked so slight, so dainty, so slim - like the difference in jizz between an Arctic and a Long-tailed Skua - it looked more Zino's than Fea's, but who knows for sure, these are a difficult pair if not seen very well. Either way it was a fantastic moment that I will long remember. It was made all the sweeter after it had rounded the point and I looked up to see Antonio Martinez-Pernas hat in hand, beaming smile mid bow - nice to return his favour from Monday. Very, very special as any seawatcher will understand.
The next event came when I picked up a Peregrine flying in off the sea. The local pair has taken to hunting out over the Ocean often picking off unsuspecting terns or passing waders. However just behind it, on its tail was an Arctic Skua, chasing it back to the cliffs. The skua stayed on it, pressing home its challenge until the Peregrine flew over the clifftop - not often you see a Peregrine got the better of. The evening meal down in Porto Bares was most enjoyable and a large glass of wine to celebrate was definitely in order.