Today saw my annual voyage on the RSPB Bridlington Skua Cruise. I would usually call them Shearwater Cruises, but they were noticeable by their absence today, apart from a very distant view of a dark example, which was called as a Balearic Shearwater.
In the harbour there were some Purple Sandpipers on the wall, with a Turnstone, some Mallard and Herring Gulls nearby. A Wheatear nearly landed on the quay wall, but saw us at the last minute and promptly flew off.
A crab in the harbour
We had only set off when someone spotted a large crab in the harbour. It seemed to be swimming, but that may have been the action of the swell from the boat - it was probably dead in the water. There were a few scattered Auks as we left the harbour with a few Guillemots showing really well.
Graham spotted some Gannets plunge-diving and they continued to plunge for 5 minutes or more until the noise of the boat's engines seemed to frighten them off. unfortunately, we weren't close enough for me to obtain any photographs of them in action.
Not long after this our first Arctic Skua was spotted, but again it was camera shy. Guillemots continued to heavily outnumber Razorbills, while there were no Puffins at all. A few heavily-built Great Skuas or Bonxies were sighted, one of which was an immature bird.
Then there was an unfortunate incident with a possible Black Guillemot. For reasons which remained unclear it was sighted, but the person with the microphone didn't give clear instructions as to its position. In the end very few people were able to observe the bird, and then it dived and was never seen again, even though the boat continued to search for it for a quarter of an hour. We moved towards deeper water beyond the very tip of Flamborough Head, but the birds began to thin out, and there were long stretches when nothing of any interest was seen.
Some birds were seen on the water, so the boat went closer to investigate. A few Terns were seen flying about, and as we got nearer both immature Common and Arctic Terns were discerned. One of them came very close to my side of the boat and I was able to get some decent pictures. I believe these are of an Arctic Tern.
Then the call went out that a light phase Arctic Skua was flying towards us. At least 2 photographers were really pleased to have the chance of photographing a more attractive Arctic Skua then the dark phase we normally encounter, but they were to be rewarded with an even better photographic opportunity. To the utter astonishment of everyone onboard it turned out to be a Pomarine Skua. It may have been expected that it would remain distant with no one getting really close views, but this one exceeded all expectations. It flew along the starboard side, and the port side. It landed at the stern of the boat among the chum, it flew past again & then landed on the sea. When we moved in its direction it promptly flew towards us and gave great views again. Before the Pomarine Skua had been seen the collective spirits of the passengers appeared to be in the doldrums, but I've never seen the 'sick as a parrot' mindset change so swiftly, as by the time if had firmly been identified everyone was 'over the moon'.
Immature Arctic Tern
Immature Arctic Tern
Just a couple of young Puffins were sighted, and neither of these showed particulary well. on the return journey a Shag and an immature gannet were the best sightings. Some Red-throated Divers were sighted whilst one inexperienced birder kept identifying Cormorants as further Divers, but the rest of us weren't taken in.
Record Shot of Immature Puffin
Ancient & Modern -Two Lighthouse TowersAt least one birder went home with 3 lifers and 3 year ticks under his belt, while others had at least one lifer and I'm sure most people went home very well satisfied with their day's birding.