The Safari saw that sea was very rough and the visibility poor on the drive in to work. The rising tide always gives hope of something but today it was a false hope. The strong westerly wind hadn’t driven anything inshore at all, our quarter hour watch only producing a single Sandwich Tern over the surf and a very distant white dot that was all too soon lost in the heavy seas; a Gannet?
That was the sum total of our session apart from a pair of Lesser Black Backed Gulls poking about on the beach just below us – useless...we’d have liked a Pomarine Skua or two as they were on the move at other locations up the coast this morning.
At lunchtime the tide was full and with the wind some spray was coming over the wall but our watch-point was dry enough. A couple of Sandwich Terns drifted past and we noted a few Gannets cruising in the distance. Before long a smattering of Manx Shearwaters were found some going north and some south, the same ones doing a circle, as the numbers seemed to tally? But then as we followed some of the northerly moving ones we came to a bit of a feeding aggregation with about 10 cruising round, it was very difficult to count them accurately as the waves were big and some were sitting on the water. As we watched Gannets started to arrive as if from nowhere and more Manx Shearwaters came in from all angles, we do love watching these nautical travelers. These were joined by a couple of Kittiwakes...do these ever eat anything? In all the time we watched them they dipped here and hovered there but never seemed to actually touch the water...a lot of energy for no reward it seemed.
The Gannets were taking no prisoners as soon as they lifted off the water a quick circle or two later they were diving again. Fromm the low height they were diving from, only about 10 – 12 feet above the waves their prey must have been close to the surface perhaps driven their by a marauding school of Bass.
We searched for a skua and only found one distant auk sp before three Razorbills passed by fairly close in. As we followed them southwards a dark bird a little beyond them caught our attention. Concentrating on that and trying to second guess where it would appear between the waves next we eventually had reasonable views of a barrel chested dark morph Pomarine Skua (159, P2 #64) particularly once it had passed us and could seen flying along the troughs. It paid no attention at all to the activity a few hundred yards to its left. Excellent stuff!!!
The bait ball dispersed as quickly as it formed leaving four or five Gannets still mozeying around waiting for the shoal to reappear.
All in all a good twenty minutes out there and worth the several waves in the face!
And it was good skua day all along our coast with all several individuals of all four species being seen in the bay this morning.
Where to next? Not at all sure where we'll be on safari to this weekend.
in the meantime let us know whose holding the spoons in your outback.