Category Archives: 04) Seabirds

Seawatching Joys

Flamborough in mid-July

It’s just a personal thing. I have very much been enjoying some recent mornings sitting and watching the passing seabirds off Flamborough. No big rarities, nor great spectacles. Just the joy of sitting (able to sit much longer as my health improves), often with my friend Brett Richards and watching. I enjoy the close and the far away. All kinds of learning and testing opportunities, and the beauty of staring out at wild seas and a big wide open space.

Outer head with east end of Flamborough head to the left end of the picture. Thanks for photo to Mick Sherwin

Outer head with east end of Flamborough head to the left end of the picture. Thanks for photo to Mick Sherwin

Here some shots of birds all taken from the seawatch spot over a couple of days. We did see a Pomarine Skua and some beautiful Arctic Terns, unfortunately a little too far to get a worthwhile photo. This is just the autumn warm-up act.

The Seawatch Spot:

Here's where we sit- the little arc below the front end of the Fog Station- part way down the cliff- can you see it? Hopefully some joy-filled moments yet to be had here in the coming days. Photo: Mick Sherwin

Here’s where we sit- the little arc below the front end of the Fog Station- part way down the cliff- can you see it? Hopefully some joy-filled moments yet to be had here in the coming days. Photo: Mick Sherwin

The captions explain a little more:

Inspired on the first seawatch of last week when this ad male Velvet Scoter landed in front of us. Photo by Brett Richards

Inspired on the first seawatch of last week when this ad male Velvet Scoter landed in front of us. Photo by Brett Richards

 

a  mix of seabirds to test skills

a mix of seabirds to test skills

Manx Shearwaters - sometimes up to several hundred can pass in a morning

Manx Shearwaters – sometimes up to several hundred can pass in a morning

 

good chance to improve skills on Guillemot and Razorbill flight ID. Can you ID the 3 on the right?

good chance to improve skills on Guillemot and Razorbill flight ID. Can you ID the 3 on the right?

some come nice and close

some come nice and close

and Puffins breed on the cliffs below

and Puffins breed on the cliffs below

Fulmars pass close with 2 Blue Fulmar in the last week

Fulmars pass close with 2 Blue Fulmar in the last week

Scoters are the commonest wildfowl right now, with occasional Eider like these 3 drakes

Scoters are the commonest wildfowl right now, with occasional Eider like these 3 drakes

gull variety can be excellent- 2nd summer?? Common Gull

gull variety can be excellent- 2nd summer?? Common Gull

and practice on in flight Cormorant ID. This one's a carbo- Atlantic Cormorant

and practice on in flight Cormorant ID. This one’s a carbo- Atlantic Cormorant

These are sinensis- Continental Cormorants- much championed locally by Brett R.

These are sinensis- Continental Cormorants- much championed locally by Brett R.

Plus the passing Shags

Plus the passing Shags

Skuas are just starting to appear- we had a fine 3cy Pomarine Skua. I think this plain winged Bonxie (Great Skua) might be a 1cy (first summer)

Skuas are just starting to appear- we had a fine 3cy Pomarine Skua. I think this plain winged Bonxie (Great Skua) might be a 1cy (first summer)

Waders are also increasingly present and passing like these Oystercatcher

Waders are also increasingly present and passing like these Oystercatcher

 

so a gull to end- what age and species is this one? :)

so a gull to end- what age and species is this one? :)

 

Puzzling Seabird Photos @#?!

August 9th 2013

Rich Baines was searching for images of seabirds and was checking through photos taken last August. I was on the boat with him, and we had superb views of this juvenile Yellow-legged Gull.

He came across these previously unnoticed blurry photos which are understandably disconcerting. There were several Manx Shearwaters in the area. It has been suggested this might be a pterodroma. I am not sure, I understand that line of thought but I see some features that raise questions.

Rich thought readers of BF would like to comment. ID suggestions very welcome.

_V8H9643 _V8H9644 _V8H9641 _V8H9642

Should be some more ‘context’ photos to follow.

 

Some Manx from the same day:

manx

Black-browed Albatross on Helgoland

Helgoland is experiencing a fantastic spring the last 3 weeks. The most recent addition to the Helgoland list is a Black-browed Albatros, giving spectacular views from a few meters distance.
  

Jochen D.

The run of rarities started on May 15th with a Western Subalpine Warbler (usually we get eastern subspecies here). On 20.5. Trumpeter Finch was added to the Helgoland list. Since there have been 4 Blyth’s Reed Warblers, several Greenish Warblers, a River Warbler, Lesser Grey Shrike, Booted Warbler and 2 more Subalpine Warblers (1 albistriata and a probable subalpina).

albatros_6770c

On May 28th a Black-browed Albatros was discovered by local birder Gotthard Krug flying close to the island. After several hours of searching it was refound and was seen close to the bird cliff. The rest of the day and also next day it was giving spectacular views flying close over the heads of the observers. In the evening of 29th the wind dropped and the albatros disappeared to the disappointment of many birders arriving next day.

albatros6704c

Yesterday the bird suddenly appeared again flying low over the village but was seen only once afterwards. Today it appeared around noon putting on an unforgettable show, flying with stretched feet low over the heads again – it seemed that not only the birders but also the albatros had a lot of fun!

And I even got it on my garden list yesterday (and so it today flying overhead again) …

albatros_6548c

Blue Fulmar Pelagic – April birding in Varanger

By Tormod Amundsen

Fulmar Blue type dark side view flight Vardø April 2014 crop sign Amundsen Biotope

At the Biotope office we have just bought a small boat, and yesterday was the first chance to take it to sea. A 13 foot boat is admittedly not a boat you would take out for a pelagic in the icy Barents Sea. The idea is to rebuild the boat into a floating photo hide. We have some very cool opportunities we would like to explore. However, yesterday we could see loads of Fulmars circling fishing vessels quite close to land just south of Vardø island. Of course I could not let this opportunity pass: I packed my camera gear and bins, put on layers and layers of clothes and headed out in the snowy and windy Barents Sea. Already less then 2 kilometers from land the curious Fulmars started circling my boat. In April in Varanger most Fulmars are of the arctic dark blueish type. Truly stunning birds!

Getting the photos was however not so easy. The smallish but still choppy waves made it difficult to photograph. A couple of hours of standing up in the boat, photographing while trying to keep my balance proved to be a major work out. But persistence pays off. The below photos show some of these beautiful Fulmars. It was also great to see the plumage variety. The darkest type birds are just amazing. While the paler birds with their stylish uniform plumage should perhaps be named Silver Fulmars?! Another great birding experience only minutes from the office. I figured these images is worth sharing here on Birding Frontiers. Yesterdays little pelagic reminded me of one of the first trips I led in Varanger, and it is where I first met Martin too. Check out Martins Blue Fulmar Pelagic story from the May 2011 Varanger trip, or read the full trip report which was the first post on the Biotope site.

Blue Fulmar pelagic in 13ft boat, south of Vardø island

Blue Fulmar pelagic in 13ft boat, south of Vardø island

´Blue Fulmar´ in snow

´Blue Fulmar´ in snow

Semi dark type Fulmar

Semi dark type Fulmar

Pale type Fulmar

Pale type Fulmar

Semi dark type Fulmar

Silver Fulmar!

semi dark Fulmar

Semi dark Fulmar

Darkest type Fulmar

Darkest type Fulmar

Fulmar in Norwegian is called ´havhest´, litterally meaning ´sea horse´. This is the dark horse.

Fulmar in Norwegian is called ´havhest´, literally meaning ´sea horse´. This is the dark horse. Stunning birds!

Best wishes from Arctic Norway

Tormod Amundsen / www.biotope.no

 

Barolo Shearwater

Magical Moments 2013 #12

Barolos_Shearwater-0443

What: Barolo (Little) Shearwater Puffinus baroli

Who: Marc Hughes, Rob Sandham, Dani López-Velasco, Juan Sagardia, Porti Porti, Dave Gosney, Pierre-André Crochet, Eric Didner, Johannes Dag Mayer and all thee other guys on the 48 hour pelagic…

Where: 50 miles north of Lanzarote and all water in-between

When: late August 2013

Why: get on….this…. small shearwater, is what he said. He never said “Is this a Manx”, ” Look at this funny Manx”- etc. etc. Marc Hughes that is. On clocking the bird- Manx Shearwater never even entered the thought process. Once again sharp-eyed Dani called it large: BAROLO! Unfamiliar blunt whirring wings/ rapidly flapping (much more so than Manx), whole different jizz, and then as it turned that open ‘white face’. Amazingly Johannes got some photos of the bird as we sped along and the bird twisted and turned. Very cool. The first Barolo Shearwater on the Lanzarote Pelagics- a species in serious decline with Canaries population on verge of extinction.

Marc Hughes sat next to me on our wee yacht, knifing through blue sub-tropical seas, shares the moment (sorry ’bout the wind noise):

Barolos_Shearwater-0444Barolo Shearwater- all photos by Johannes Dag Mayer (with thanks). The photo directly above nicely shows 2 rows of white-tipped coverts ( greater and median) a key feature if you get to see or photograph them.

See more on Johannes photos on his Flickr stream >>>HERE<<<

gang on lanza

Huge thanks again to  Juan and Dani who set the whole thing up, here with my travelling companions from North Wales, Rob Sandham and Marc Hughes.

crew

Another great wee adventure on the Lanzarote Pelagics…

White-faced Storm Petrel: Juvenile plumage

Rarely photographed

by Martin G.

One of the less headline making observations on our Lazararote pelagic in August was of the first apparent JUVENILE White-face Storm Petrel seen on these trips. Do you remember when they were called the mythical sounding ‘Frigate Petrel’? It was alongside a worn adult type and both fed in-between our 2 boats.

Below –  photo showing the 2 the apparently different ages classes together. First time captured on camera?

ad and juv White faced petrel aug 13 2

apparent worn adult (left) and juvenile (right) ‘Frigate Petrels’, off Lanzarote, August 2013. Martin Garner

Which taxa?

There are 2  forms described for the North Atlantic, though it’s debated whether they are valid or not. I found the literature a little conflicting in describing differences. I also couldn’t resolve in my mind which population a fresh juvenile in August would have come from. Suggestions welcome.

I checked with other’s on our boat and Johannes Dag Mayer and Florien Straub (thanks guys!) both got shots of what seems to be the same juvenile:

White-faced-9735

White-faced Storm Petrel DJ 3 (1 von 1)

White-faced Storm Petrel DJ 5 (1 von 1)

White-faced-9747Above apparent juvenile White-faced Storm-petrel off Lanzarote, August 2013 by Johannes Dag Mayer and Florian Straub.

To finish off some beautiful photos of a White-faced Storm Petrel showing typical wacky feeding mode from the same trip and captured by Johannes. See more of Johannes photos on his Flickr stream >>>HERE<<< (worth clicking on photos below to see larger sizes :)

White-faced-9914 JDM

White-faced-9900

White-faced-9927 JDM.

 

Barolo Shearwater

“get on… this… small shearwater!”

the other boat

The other boat- do you know  the geezer with the wacky hat, perched next to mast and looking through bins? This was his best ever pelagic: “Never seen anything good on a pelagic” said he as we set sail.

We thought it was over all over. Late afternoon and we were only couple hours off docking back in La Graciosa. Nevertheless the sight of an ‘at sea’ Eleonora’s Falcon chasing a small bird- probably a Grey Phalarope was till startling enough. Until one Marc Hughes sat next to me released a nervous stream of words: “get on….this…. small shearwater”.

He never said “Is this a Manx”, ” Look at this funny Manx”- etc. etc. On clocking the bird- Manx Shearwater never even entered the thought process. Once again sharp-eyed Dani called it large: BAROLO! Unfamiliar blunt whirring wings/ rapidly flapping (much more so than Manx), whole different jizz, and then as it turned that open ‘white face’. Amazingly Johannes got some photos of the bird as we sped along and the bird twisted and turned. Very cool. The first Barolo Shearwater on the Lanzarote Pelagics- a species in series decline with Canaries population on verge of extinction.

Marc Hughes sat next to me on our wee yacht, knifing through blue sub-tropical seas, shares the moment (sorry ’bout the wind noise):

Barolos_Shearwater-0442

Barolos_Shearwater-0443

Barolos_Shearwater-0444Barolo Shearwater- all photos by Johannes Dag Mayer (with thanks). The photo directly above nicely shows 2 rows of white-tipped coverts ( greater and median) a key feature if you get to see or photograph them.

See more on Johannes photos on his Flickr stream >>>HERE<<<

gang on lanza

Huge thanks again to  Juan and Dani who set the whole thing up, here with my travelling companions from North Wales, Rob Sandham and Marc Hughes.

crew

Another great wee adventure on the Lanzarote Pelagics…