Sunday, 13 September 2009

Bridlington Shearwater Cruises

Manx Shearwater - the best image & memory of Saturday's cruise
(c) 2009 Marcus Conway
Gannet - an obligatory species for the cruise (c) 2009 Marcus Conway
Gannet (c) 2009 Marcus Conway
Cormorant & Flatfish (c) 2009 Pat Crofton
Barred Warbler found on the headland early in the morning by Marcus Conway
(c) 2009
A migrating Osprey photographed earlier in the year in Yorkshire
For the next few weekends the RSPB are running a seres of Shearwater & Skua Cruises out of Bridlington Harbour. I've indicated the span of dates on the calendar for those of you sensible enough to equip yourselves with a copy, but more precise information is included at the end of this post. I think there's a saying that you should try & experience everything once apart from Morris dancing, and these cruises definitely are worth trying out if you've never experienced it before. I thought it was "deadly calm" yesterday, although there was a small swell at times, but we bumped into an old bloke later who confessed he'd felt ill during the whole voyage. All I can say is don't go if you suffer from travel sickness, or if you've got a hangover, or take preventative medication if you think you're likely to require it.

Yesterday's cruise was the 2nd one I'd been on & it clearly illustrates the luck of the draw. The quality of the species seen can depend a lot on the weather. If we'd endured storm force winds earlier in the week then we could have seen many unusual birds trying to re-orientate themselves after the adverse winds. Whilst the 1st trip about 4 years ago was dripping with both Manx & Sooty Shearwaters, and was replete with Great Crested Grebes, Red-throated Divers, Arctic & Great Skuas (aka Bonxies) and plenty of terns and most local Auk species, yesterday's tally was much smaller on both quality and quantity. However, we were treated to a close fly-past Manx Shearwater, which gave much closer views than any of that species seen on the earlier voyage (see Marcus's pic above). Those on the port side (I think) did have an early close view of a young forlorn Puffin, as well as later views of both Razorbills and Guillemots. Arctic Skuas were sighted by some on the boat, but weren't shouted in time for everyone to catch a glimpse of them. There was one or two Great Skuas sighted, but although these were called in good time, I was unable to see the white crescent shapes on the wings to personally clinch identification. There were plenty of Gannets (again see Marcus's pics above), assorted gulls and a few Fulmar, but no birds which couldn't have been predicted. We sighted several inquisitive Grey Seals, but 2 Porpoise towards the end of the trip were the clearest mammals sighted from the boat. Another late highlight for me was the Cormorant trying to swallow a flatfish several times until the proximity of the boat ensured it abandoned its catch to the ever-present voracious gulls.
In the afternoon the highlight was a very showy Barred Warbler (usually labelled as elusive, or skulking, by the text books) flanked by both Whinchats and a Stonechat. Finally, Marcus Conway spotted an Osprey which he phoned through to the rest of the group, so they were able to enjoy watching it striking out south across Bridlington Bay before it hesitated, circled & seemed to lose height before we lost sight of it. The bushes and trees on the headland were virtually silent, apart from Robins and Wrens, but the distinctive, if very high-pitched, call of a Treecreeper, ensured some of the group were able to catch sight of an extra bird.
The remaining boat trips are:
Saturday 19th September at 16:00 hours, Sunday 20th September at 16:00 hours, Saturday 26th September 09:00 hours Sunday 27th September at 09:00 hours. Most movement on the sea is more likely in a morning, so if you do want to go that's probably the best bet. To book a place contact the phoneline at RSPB Bempton.


East Ayton Birding said...

Is a bit hit and miss for the cruises Michael - I've done a few which were really poor, on others highlights have included prolonged views of fin whale, a fly past cory's, crippling views of sooty, a pair of a grey phalarope sat on the water, plus all four skuas.

Michael Flowers said...

I was also hampered by us being packed into the boat like sardines - there was much more room on the other trip. Going out I had to straddle the bench & was only able to use one hand to hold the bins - not the perfect situation!