Friday 21 July 2017

Great Scott!

I will be heading to the Isles of Scilly in a few weekends time for some pelagic trips to watch and photograph seabirds. Great Shearwater is always a target on these trips - a long distance wanderer which breeds on islands in the South Atlantic, migrates up the eastern side of South and North America and crosses the Atlantic to pass through our waters, typically in August, before heading south again. As such, I didn't expect to be watching one after work this evening in Weymouth Bay.

I had just arrived home when news broke that a Great Shear was lingering in the Bay. A quick change and I was heading west in the foulest weather we have seen in Dorset for a while. An update from Brett Spencer confirmed that the bird was still present, sitting on the sea, and within half an hour I was watching it, visible intermittently as it crested the waves in a churning bay, through which an Arctic Skua also passed.

At one point a gull mobbed the Shearwater, causing it to make a short flight during which a couple of record shots were possible - I would have left my camera in its bag but for a kindly birder who opened up the back of his camper van to give us some shelter from the torrential rain. A great way to start the weekend and a Dorset tick for most of those who made the effort to see it tonight. See here for some better pictures of this remarkable species.
Not a sight you expect to see in Weymouth Bay in July - either the bird or the autumnal waves
The dark capped appearance and white horseshoe at the base of the tail help identify Great Shearwater
A better view of the white collar giving the dark capped appearance
A rear view showing the white patch at the base of the tail

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