Saturday 3 October 2015

A Seawatch to Remember

I arrived at one of my favourite seawatch locations, Cape St. Francis, this morning shortly after sunrise. Throughout the week I had been anticipating a seabird event in nearby Conception Bay South, but as the weekend approached the wind forecasts became weaker. That in combination with the lack of fog or significant rain made me even less expectant of a seabird event so I was expecting an average seawatch when I woke up this morning with maybe a few shearwaters.

And that's pretty well how it was for the first 45 minutes. I was stationed on the East side of the headland looking towards the East and saw a total of 4 Sooty Shearwaters, and 5 Northern Fulmars - 3 of which were grey morphs. These few shearwaters that I did see were all to the North of the point, and were flying East. So I moved to the West side of the point and faced the mouth of Conception Bay where it was immediately obvious there was quite a bit of seabird action!

Cape St. Francis is at the blue star (see map below). Last nights wind direction is shown by the green arrows. The purple line outlines Conception Bay. The red star is Holyrood, a location where seabirds often get trapped after strong Northerly winds - Conception Bay essentially funnels the seabirds right into Holyrood. The black star is Baccalieu island - the worlds largest Leach's Storm-Petrel colony. Some estimates say that 40% of the entire breeding population breeds on this island. Three million individuals in total!!! What's even more amazing is that such a prolific bird can go more or less unnoticed by us - before today I had seen only one single storm-petrel this year!

The highlight of this mornings seawatch was a skua that I've identified as a probable South Polar Skua. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera out and ready at the time so I don't have any pixels to share - but that might be for the best because it forced me to focus on the bird with my scope giving me my best looks ever at a skua!

The other highlight was the number of jaegers - about 20 in total, many of which flew within 300 metres of the headland! I was surprised to see that they were all adults.

Here's a video of some of the action from this morning. Can you identify everything?
Best way to watch the video is go to the youtube page and change the settings to the highest possible quality. 1080p!!

Sooty Shearwater with its long stiff wings handling the high winds with ease: 

Great Cormorant rounding the cape:

Dark morph adult Pomarine Jaeger:

One of many American Pipits over the last few weeks:

Yesterday I came across the St. John's Bonaparte's Gull - it seems we always get one adult BOGU in the Autumn.

Wigeon are becoming increasingly common - a sure sign that Autumn has come and winter isn't far behind: