Tuesday 6 September 2011

Great Day at Porthgwarra

On Saturday evening a 'few' Great Shearwaters were reported from Porthgwarra. Never having seen one of these awesome birds I was as mildly gripped as I usually am. Who am I kidding? I was extremely gripped because the 'few' were no less than 2003!! This was it, this was my chance! If that many were in the area on Saturday evening then there must be at least one left by the morning, surely there must? I was even confident enough to delay leaving Seaton until 6.00am, not wanting to get over-tired like I did on a trip to Pendeen Watch back in July. (Oh, I didn't tell you about that did I? I saw my first ever Cory's Shearwater, but got wet, cold and extremely tired, broke my daughter's umbrella (resulting in a good telling off when I got home) went to 'visit the bushes' at the most inopportune moment and thus missed the closest Cory's that passed and was so tired on the drive back I bumped up a high kerb and wrecked my car's wheel. I didn't feel like talking about at the time. Still I saw Cory's Shearwater, so mustn't grumble! ;-) ) (See a photo of Bun and me enjoying the delightful conditions HERE on Jonathan Lethbridge's superb blog, Wanstead Birder) So once Bun eventually replied to my text message, a six o'clock start it was. We arrived at Porthgwarra at 8.45 and could see a small group seawatching just by the entrance to the car park. When we were close enough to hear them we could tell they were seeing Great Shearwaters, in some numbers too. We set up our scopes behind them, I pulled off the lens cover, put my eye to the eyepiece, focused in on the water and there right in centre of my field of view was a Great Shearwater, how easy was that! Then another and another, one was really close, close enough to see all the features clearly. Apparently I embarrassed myself as usual by making an excited shriek and various exclamations of joy and wonderment. We decided to walk up to the main seawatching area on the cliff tops where there is a greater field of view and also the Runnel Stone marker buoy, which is a great help for getting each other onto passing birds. In the next hour and a half we saw at least 49 Great Shearwaters, eight Sooty Shearwaters and a single Great Skua. After this the weather closed in, and as showers gave way to persistent rain, the passage of Shearwaters stopped.  We left at 2.15 and were back in Seaton for 5.00 after an incident free journey this time. Quite a good day then!

There weren't that many folk there considering. Several of these had been here the previous day and had come back for more. It's nice to see a good mix of sexes and ages for a change.
Note the glorious weather too....it didn't last.

A few hours later the weather's very different and only three remain. Can't see them? Well this is another occasion where my super-zoom 'comes into its own'

Taken from the same spot, here's one of them and my empty chair. I'd wandered off to try and get a photo of the Gannets which were passing close below but that's where my super-zoom lets itself down, they were just too quick for it to focus on. Still here's one of my better efforts.

 After the initial couple of hours of good seawatching we spent most of our time like this..

 ... this..

...and even this.
The group of women walking by in the background were laughing at Bun's lack of British character in hiding from a spot of rain. What else could it have been?

There are two Great Shearwaters in this view, honestly!

 Great Shearwater passing some distance behind the Runnel Stone.

This is the closest one that I managed to 'photograph'. Shockingly bad but if you look closely you can actually see the white collar and tail patch.

A crop of the previous photo.
The views were a gazillion times better than these lame images would have you believe. Still, I'd love to see one from a boat someday.

Finally, recycling at its best! How ingenious. Great use for an old welly.


Alan Pavey said...

What a great day indeed!! it would be nice to see just one here in Kent :-)

Stewart said...

Hi Karen, I have only seen one Great Shearwater in UK water. We were sea watching at Newbiggin Northumberland and I decided to check very close in to see if I could pick up a Stormie. A Great Shear lumbered out of the breakers only yards from the rock edges. I had to tell other birders to abandon their scopes and stand up and look with the naked eye, it was so close! Superb.

Karen Woolley said...

Alan, we are indeed fortunate in the South West. Still it's a three hour drive to the best seawatching... but (nearly) always worth it. ;-)

Stewart, I'd go for quality rather than quantity any time. Lucky you! :-)

Stuart Price said...

Wow, seawatching..............haven't done that for a long long time.

Seems like you had a great time though!