Thursday 22 October 2020

Berry Head Seawatch

Tuesday 20th October was the last day of my "not going to France" 6 days off and with strong winds forecasted I decided to head to Berry Head for a seawatch, only the 3rd time I have visited here and the first time with my new telescope.

It was grey and very windy on arrival but with occassional sunny spells and there was no rain for a change. It was also quite sheltered in the quarry so it was quite an enjoyable experience all round.

On arriving down in the quarry there were at least 3 Harbour Porpoise feeding close to the rocks in the calm water in the shelter of the headland, giving their usual brief views at the surface. I had a quick scan offshore with my binoculars and picked up a distant pale phased adult Arctic Skua but by the time I had gotten my telescope set up it was not surprisingly long gone. 

Brixham Trawler off Berry Head

Brixham Trawler off Berry Head

I carried on to the raised area below the coastguard lookout where the seawatchers congregate and there were 3 birders already there, all professional seawatchers with deck chairs, cameras and bigger scopes than mine but helpful and friendly.

On settling myself into position they very helpfully got me onto a Balearic Shearwater and over the course of my watch I managed to see 11 in total. A Manx Shearwater was pointed out too, providing a nice comparison to the Balearics. Even better was a Black Guillemot pointed out to me which flew in and landed on the sea, it took me a while to get onto it but I eventually managed a brief flight view of it before it landed again and immediately dived under the water, never to be seen again.

Gannets, Kittiwakes, a Fulmar, a fully summer plumaged Mediterranean Gull with 2 adult winters and a 2nd winter and Common Gulls were all seen along with a brief and distant view of an adult winter Little Gull through my binoculars which I couldn't relocate through my scope, looking small and very pale in a brief sunny spell. 

Auks were passing by regularly in small groups with birds also settled on the sea, those closer to the shore appeared to be all Guillemots. 

I picked up a juvenile Skua which flew up off the water to chase after a Kittiwake before settling on the water again, unfortunately my inexperience with sea watching failed to get the others onto the bird which I think annoyed them a little. I tried to keep tabs on the bird as it sat on the water, occassionally flying up briefly before resettling, but eventually it was lost from sight. 

I then picked up another (or the same) juvenile Skua flying low over the water towards me, the others got onto it too as it flew in quite close to shore before disappearing around the headland. I thought it looked different to the first bird I saw attacking the Kittiwake and I picked it up some way offshore, further out than the first bird had been settled on the sea but I can't be sure. It caused some debate as to its ID, it appeared to have a pale rump area but was quite small looking and with the experts unsure there was no chance I could ID it as I am very unfamiliar with juvenile Skuas. 

A very interesting sea watch which I very much enjoyed although I still have a lot to learn in terms of calling birds out and ID'ing them but I can't wait to do it again.

And so my local mini birding break ends but what a great time I've had - Lesser Yellowlegs, Ring Ouzel, Firecrest, Black Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher, Swallow, Arctic Skua, Balearic Shearwater and Black Guillemot all within 30 miles of home, not bad at all.

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