Today was the elected outing for the annual Birdforum trip on the RSPB's Shearwater & Skua Cruises running out of Bridlington Harbour. The day didn't look very promising with light southerly winds, and heavy drizzle forecast for much of the day. However, all the negative vibes were completely unfounded.
The morning started slowly with mainly common birds such as family parties of Guillemots, Shags and Sandwich Terns near the harbour. However, it wasn't too long before an Arctic Skua was sighted, and following that a Sooty Shearwater. Later another Sooty Shearwater was called, but a professional marine ornithologist on my right was certain it showed characteristics of a Balearic Shearwater. He pointed out it was smaller than the Sooty Shearwater we had just seen, and there was evidence of paler feathers on the breast. Those calling out the bird also corrected their earlier identification, and the bird was confirmed as a Balearic Shearwater.
Not long after this a Sabine's Gull was called, but no direction was forthcoming for some time, so by the time I saw the bird I was unable to discern any difference between it and a juvenile Kittiwake. Other birds seen included an occasional Arctic Tern, a single immature Puffin, more Arctic Skuas, a few Manx Shearwaters, and a small party of juvenile Little Gulls.
On the return journey the weather had changed - the wind had increased, the sun came out, and the millpond conditions had become noticeably choppier. Unfortunately, apart from squadrons of Gannets leaving the cliffs for deeper water, there were fewer birds to see for quite some time. However, things perked up again before the harbour was reached with more sightings of Arctic Skuas, and perhaps as many as 9 Black Terns, and 6 Red-throated Divers.
It was a good day for variety of species seen, but previous visits have usually resulted in a higher concentration of Skuas and Shearwaters. I'm sure future trips this Autumn will provide larger numbers of both of these, and possibly a greater variety of species of these 2 families.
After an exquisite lunch at one of Bridlington's most salubrious establishments we regrouped at North Landing, where a long walk ensured we burnt off our lunchtime calories. In an unprepossessing field of wild flowers gone-to-seed we found several Stonechats, a couple of Whinchats and a single Wheatear. There were also plenty of Linnets and Goldfinches. At our ultimate goal we failed to locate yesterday's Buff-Breasted Sandpiper, and I'm not sure the Little Grebe was an ample compensation! A Kestrel on the way back to the cars lifted the spirits a little before everyone split up & went their separate ways.
The Contentious Balearic Shearwater
Another Arctic Skua
Party of Immature Little Gulls & Terns