Monthly Bird Review – August Seawatch Special

An exceptional seawatching season even by West Cornwall standards started on the 1st August with five Wilson’s Petrels seen from a shark fishing boat 20 miles NNW of Padstow. Two further Wilson’s were seen from the Cornwall Birding Pelagic 7 miles NW of St Ives and two others were seen of Porthgwarra (PG). The latter site also saw a possible Yelkouan Shearwater fly past. The Black-browed Albatross was reported again off Gwennap Head on the 2nd and another possible Yelkouan flew past there on the 3rd. A Cory’s Shearwater was sat on the sea off Lizard Point and one flew past PG the following day. Six Cory’s flew past Clodgy Point, St Ives on the 6th along with both Long-tailed and Pom Skuas. Further Cory’s were off Pendeen (3) and PG (2) on the 5th and a Great Shearwater flew north past Cape Cornwall. Things went a bit quiet for the next six days until another Cory’s was off PG on the 12th.

The 15th saw another Cornwall Birding Pelagic off St Ives connect again with two Wilson’s Petrels. The first was again about 7 miles NW of St Ives and the 2nd a bit closer at 3 miles offshore. Elsewhere, a Great Shearwater flew past PG. The following day two Great and three Cory’s Shearwaters were off Pendeen and a Great Shear’ flew north past Cape Cornwall. Two further Cory’s were seen from PG. An adult Sabine’s Gull was also seen from Pendeen. Strong westerlies on the 20th produced a possible Madeiran storm petrel past Pendeen and also a Wilson’s Petrel. Six Cory’s and four Great Shearwaters were seen from Cornish headlands during the day. Two more Wilson’s Petrels were reported from Pendeen on the 21st along with five Great Shears’, two Pom Skuas and six Med Gulls. The 23rd saw three Great Shears’ past PG.

The 28th proved to be by far the best seawatching day of the month with westerly winds after prolonged South-westerlies providing ‘classic’ conditions at Pendeen. Highlights of the day included a Little Shearwater, which eluded all but three of the thirty or more birders gathered at the watch, two Wilson’s Petrels, a possible Yelkouan Shearwater, seven Great Shears’, two Cory’s, six Sabine’s Gulls, a Red-necked Phalarope and over four-hundred Sooty Shearwaters. A Little Shearwater was also reported, albeit distantly, from Sennen Cove at 0840hrs. A probable Long-tailed Skua flew at distance past St Ives Island on the 29th and a Fea’s Petrel flew past PG on a relatively quiet 30th. What may have been the same bird flew past PG the following afternoon.

The supporting cast of August’s seawatches included European Storm Petrels, who’s numbers fluctuated depending on the wind direction and observer reports. The maximum day count for that species was four hundred and forty-one off headlands on 20th. Skua numbers remained consistently low until the 28th when more than twenty-five Bonxies and over thirty-five Arctic Skuas were recorded. Only eight Pom Skuas were seen all month. Manx Shearwater numbers gradually increased throughout the month but were probably under-recorded as they tend to be the ‘bread and butter’ birds of Cornish Seawatches. Balearic Shearwater numbers remained constant with between two and thirty birds seen on most days. The exception to this was again on the 28th when over Fifty were noted. Sooty Shearwaters stayed in single figures until the 16th when eleven were recorded. Over twenty were seen on the 20th and 21st, then back to single figures until the large counts from St Ives and Pendeen on the 28th.
Other species recorded this August during seawatches included Grey Phalarope (5), Puffin (40+), Med Gull (9+), Arctic, Common, Little, Black and Sandwich tern, Black throated Diver, Whimbrel (150+), Redshank, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Gannet, Shag, Cormorant, Razorbill, Guillemot and Common Scoter.

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