Monday, 13 September 2010

Portimão pelagic

September is probably the best month for pelagic trips off the Portuguese coast and yesterday a group of ten of us enjoyed an excellent 7-hour 'voyage' from Portimão aboard the catamaran Ecoceanus. The sea was calm and the sky almost cloudless - it was a day when any concerns about seasickness could be cast aside!

This was a longer trip than those we have done in previous years from Sagres. The plan was to go out to the edge of the continental shelf where the depth of water increases to something like 300 metres with the expectation that we would find more birds there. This proved to be successful to the extent that we found many more storm-petrels than previously but the numbers of shearwaters and skuas seen was a bit disappointing. However, there were no complaints - who would complain after seeing countless European and 50 or more Wilson's Storm-petrels? And then there was the Minke Whale, a brief but really close look as it broke the surface less than 50 metres from the boat.

The day's bird list included Cory's, Balearic and Sooty Shearwaters, Northern Gannets, of course, Great Skuas, Sandwich, Black and Common Terns. Perhaps the most surprising species was Northern Wheatear, an individual that landed on the boat for just a few seconds, presumably heading for North Africa.

For most of us the Wilson's Storm-petrels were the highlight of the day; we were able to watch a flock of them feeding and although we couldn't hear them, with the aid of a parabolic reflector and headphones, Magnus Robb actually made some sound recordings. He described their calls as being like those of small waders - Little Stints or Sanderlings.

All in all, an excellent day!

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