Tuesday 2 September 2014


The weekend before last saw me on the Isles of Scilly for 3 pelagics out of St Mary's on MV Sapphire. Sunday's forecast was for a breezy day and showers, raising high hopes for some eventful seabirding. Quality rather than quantity was the order of the day in the end, with small numbers of good birds appearing at regular intervals to keep us on our toes throughout the six hour trip.

In the hazy, happy memories of some similar trips last summer, I had forgotten just how difficult it is to photograph fast moving seabirds from the deck of a rolling vessel whilst trying to keep down lunch. Throw in poor light and some extra chop and the challenge was magnified. In the circumstances, I came away reasonably content with the following highlights.
This adult Sabine's Gull was probably the bird of the day
It pattered on the surface like a Storm Petrel but turned occasionally for a few close passes
I thought the juvenile of this species I saw at Cogden late last year was pretty special but the experience of seeing this matched it for beauty, if not comfort
Yellow tip to the bill visible even at some distance
And a distinctive upperwing pattern
This 2nd summer Arctic Skua powered alongside the boat
It caught us up with ease
A pale phase Arctic Skua also buzzed us at one point
An elegant and powerful bird
It proceeded to (unsuccessfully) chase a Storm Petrel which was feeding in our chum slick
Dark phase Arctic Skua
A familiar sight over the course of the weekend - European Storm Petrel dancing in the chum slick
This shot shows the characteristic kinked tail and diagnostic pale bar on the underwing
Almost impossible to photograph in the conditions!
But a few shots were just about presentable
This probably my favourite
Sunday's pelagic had some success with Shearwaters following the boat - this one a Manx
Manx Shearwater
And here a Sooty Shearwater
Note the silvery underwing
Sooty Shearwater
Sunday's pelagic allowed for more prolonged views of Great Shearwater compared to Saturday's brief flypast

This bird repeatedly landed behind the boat and followed in the wake
Note the dark belly patch on this individual
Shearing with wingtip on the water
Great Shearwater
Great Shearwater
Great Shearwater
Great Shearwater


  1. Great shots, I was getting worried that the new job was getting in the way of the Blog!