Saturday, 8 August 2015

Scilly Pelagics - Day 3 - 8th August 2015

Today saw my first full day time pelagic and we enjoyed wonderful weather and a flat calm sea (leading to a rather rosy complexion!) The rarity highlight for me was Great Shearwater that I (along with a couple of others at the opposite side of the boat) picked up along a trawler's wake behind a pod of dolphins. Sadly it was distant and landed pretty soon after we picked it up and we were strangely unable to refind it despite an almost constant effort hereafter.
In terms of rarity, the Great Shearwater was probably the best, however this was by no means the highlight for most people on the boat (mainly because half the boat didn't get a chance to see it before it was lost to view!). That must go to two birds. One was a fantastic Sooty Shearwater that spent an hour or so flying close to the boat and landing allowing amazing views and superb photographic conditions. The light was extrememly harsh in the baking sun, but Joe Pender did a wonderful job of manoeuvring the boat into good light.

The other highlight for the majority of the boat was, again, a fantastically showy 1st summer Long-tailed Skua that sat close to the boat and when flushed, landed shortly after several times. It's not until I see immature skuas that I realise just how unskilled I am as, aside from the very dainty size, I'd struggle to successfully ID this on my own.
When you see how tiny it was when sat on the water though, it was pretty conclusive.

A nice treat was picking up my own dolphin pod. As we approached a trawler I noticed some dolphins just below the horizon that looked chunkier than the 30+ Common Dolphins that greeted us earlier in the pelagic. I wondered if they may be Bottlenose and this was soon answered with one completely breaching and being all grey. They made their way over to us and did a superb bow ride revealing just how massive they are compared to Common Dolphins and also showing themselves to be the much larger deep sea Bottlenose. These really aren't common off Scilly so it was a real bonus (this is probably actually one reason why the Great Shearwater wasn't picked up sooner as people were busy getting their fill on the rarer dolphins!)

The french trawler made for a really enjoyable pelagic in less than ideal birding conditions
I must have said 'highlight' about ten times already, but one thing I really wanted to see this time was Ocean Sunfish and after dipping one yesterday, I was so pleased to see 3 today and two were showing fantastically as they just loafed on the surface on their side (?) and then swam into deeper water. They are just bizarre and I can't really work out what their role in the ocean is!
A couple of dark morph Arctic Skuas were present occasionally and apparently there was also a Pom seen, but I don't think it was called out (perhaps ID'd retrospectively based on photos?). At least 5 Great Skua were also seen and provided nice photographic opportunities. 

After the pelagic, a small group of us rushed to Trenoweth on the north of the island as a Large Tortoiseshell had been seen on the buddleja there. When we got there the buddleija was in deep shade, but a small area nearby held some butterflies in bright sunlight including Common, Red Admiral and Peacock. We managed to see a brief tortoiseshell sp which was fighting with a comma and was noticeably bigger and seemed to show a this brown trailing edge to the wings and didn't note any 'white' on it. The views were just so brief though and we couldn't rule out Small which is slightly gutting. We were distracted by at least 3 Hummingbird Hawkmoth though which are always fantastic to see.
Tomorrow is Pelagic No4 and is an all morning and early afternoon trip and is set to have moderate south westerlies, so could well hold something juicy! Watch this space!

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