Champions of the Flyway!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Irish Adventures 2019 - Sunfish, Skuas & Cetaceans

We were blessed with a variety of memorable experiences with a variety of amazing wildlife during our pelagic trips from Cape Clear Island, and it wasn't all about the birds by any means...

One of the stand-out highlights for all of us was the spectacle of Short-beaked Common Dolphins, not just a little curious but positively over-friendly, and not just for a while but on multiple occasions and for extended periods during our trips.

A fantastic bonus was a very close Ocean Sunfish (too close for my lens for much of the time, so I defaulted to just enjoying the experience) which, after we cut the engine, also came up to the boat and checked us out for several minutes - magical! Throw in a few Bonxies (pictured below) and Arctic Skuas, and on top of the seabird action of the previous posts, it's safe to say we made the most of our bespoke access to this idyllic, incredible corner of the world.

Fancy joining us next time? Contact us here if so!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Irish Adventures 2019 - Shearwaters

Above and below - Cory's Shearwaters approaching the boat

With effectively three days based on Cape Clear, we were able to tailor the experience for our group and adapt to the conditions as they developed (especially valuable when factoring in pelagics and the ever-changing weather forecasts). This translated into two boat trips and two land-based seawatches, all of which were blessed with plenty of tubenose action, and shearwaters of course played a starring role.

Over the course of our time on and around the island, we'd fantastic numbers and experiences - tens of thousands of Manx, several Sooty and Balearic, a Great and 80+ Cory's - some of which came close enough to enjoy without even the need for binoculars... magical spectacles with this most charismatic of seabird families.

Manx Shearwaters (above and below) - many thousands, every one a winner

Sooty Shearwater - still perhaps the best of the bunch....

Monday, July 29, 2019

Irish Adventures 2019 - Wilson's & Euro Storm-petrels

I'm just back from co-leading a fantastic five-day Irish adventure for Yorkshire Coast Nature last week, and one of our target (if not the target) species for our pelagics out of Cape Clear Island was Wilson's Storm-petrel. Happily, we were blessed with two on our second trip out into the Atlantic, and as evidenced by the photos below, not at all far from dry land and accommodating enough to enjoy at close range...

We were also blessed with hundreds of much commoner but equally beguiling European Storm-petrels (see lower photos), allowing direct comparison - very different not only in plumage and proportions, but also in flight behaviour and style. I'm not expecting one here on the east coast anytime soon, but if does happen, I'm well prepared.....

Welcome to the self-found list, little 'un!

Monday, July 1, 2019

Stormy Season

It's that time of year again - time to descend onto the Brigg here in Filey just before dusk, in the hope of catching Storm-petrels in the dead of night. It's a uniquely special experience that's hard to describe, but in simplified terms involves putting up two connecting mist nets along a rocky shelf at the foot of the cliffs, blasting out the hypnotic and otherworldy noise of a petrel colony mixtape via bullhorn speakers on their landward side, and waiting for the fluttering apparitions to appear out of the increasingly blurry semi-darkness.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but it's always worth it, and there are always upsides to the sleep deprivation - whether in the form of natural wonders like shooting stars, noctilucent clouds, and stunning sunsets and sunrises, or more earthbound pleasures like Great Crested Newts, Hedgehogs, foxes, bats and moths and nocturnal migrating waders, or just the simple privilege of enjoying the night sky.

Last night (well, tonight - I just got home), our first of the season, was a resounding success - with no fewer than six birds caught, all new (i.e. no controls or retraps), with perhaps another three or four that didn't make it into our sweaty clutches; a really good night by any standards, but especially as it was our brushing-off-the-dust inaugural session of the year. George, Will, Dan and I were very happy campers as we finally headed home (with Common Sandpiper dropping onto the Brigg and Skylarks already singing above us), and here's hoping it'll be another memorable season.