Monday, 16 September 2013

Sooty Shearwaters

Last Tuesday there was a brisk wind from the north. We had had a little rain too. The swell buoy was measuring in at 4.5 metres. No boat was coming that day.

After pottering around the island in the morning I decided to go for a walk to see what birds I could spot.

I took out the telescope and headed north.  

I got out to the north horn and was scanning the sea. I was delighted to spot a pair of Brent Geese. A fine bird. Only a few days earlier they had been in Arctic Canada and had flown past Iceland and had made in to their European wintering grounds.

While looking over to the north I spotted a feeding frenzy. This is where birds find a good shoal of fish and dive in. It was mainly Kittiwakes but Gannets were also diving. I also noticed dark coloured birds flying around. As I scanned the water I could see there were more and more. 

They were Sooty Shearwaters with the odd Manx Shearwater. I set about trying to count them. Some were on the water and others were lifting. Many sat with their wings held up. I could count at least 160 in the flock.

Sooty Shearwaters differ from Manx by being slightly larger with dark bellies and a pale underwing. Their flight is more jerky and distinct. These birds winter in the northern hemisphere and breed on the islands in the South Atlantic. 

A flock of 160 is small compared to the flocks of many thousands I've seen in the Pacific but it is a large flock for the North Sea. I counted another one of these bumper flocks in 2011.

Later on I saw another flock of 40 and with other birds I logged a total of 276! If I'd done an intensive watch I would have no doubt counted more! 

Sooty Shearwater - an ocean traveller

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