Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Strong west and southwesterly winds have made for exciting, but occasionally frustrating, birding in the last few days. The wind battered bushes are clearly holding migrants, but seeing them is far from easy. A Melodious Warbler today showed for one lucky observer and a probable Barred Warbler yesterday gave everyone the slip. Of course attention has focused mainly on sea passage which has been fantastic. Over 100 Sooty Shearwaters have passed by today along with a Great Shearwater (which we somehow dipped), a Sabine's Gull, 15 Balearic Shearwaters, 26 Bonxies, 18 Arctic Skuas, 2 Long-tailed Skuas, a Pom, a couple of Black Terns and Little Gulls and three figure counts of Fulmar, Gannet and Manx Shearwater.

Photographing the Sooties seemed a little ambitious but a few have passed close enough to the hide. Sooty Shearwaters are truly amazing birds which complete a life-cycle not dissimilar to a reverse Manxie. They depart their breeding grounds in the Falkland Islands from March to May and head north up the Americas to reach the Sub-Arctic for June and July. They cross from West to East and return down the Eastern Atlantic to reach their breeding grounds in November. This in itself is over 9000 miles but tracking experiments with the New Zealand population have shown that birds may actually travel up to 74,000km a year, averaging more than 500km a day! (c) Richard Brown

Surprisingly few Manxies are being attracted to the lighthouse at the moment. Those that have are predominantly fledgling juveniles. Many still show remnants of the down which has kept them warm when below ground, although this is more obvious on some than others. Young Manx Shearwaters have the potential to reach South America in just a couple of weeks and moribund birds there have sometimes still shown patches of down. (c) Richard Brown

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