Tuesday 25 May 2010

Pterodroma Heaven!

Monday 24th May
Pelagic 1
Now back on terra firma and soon to go out on our second pelagic, but thought I should write some notes on yesterday. I have been on a fair few pelagics over the years using boats of various shapes and sizes in Biscay, California, Namibia, South Africa, Ireland etc. but I have to say, I don't think I have had such an exhilarating trip before! This pelagic is definitely not for the faint hearted. There is no time to even think about being sick, as you are running on sheer adrenalin all the way!

The boat is a RIB and you really do feel very very small as we headed out into 2-3 metres of swell! It was like a bucking bronco at times with sea salt stinging my eyes. Every now and again we would crash down into a trough with a huge bang and at times I wondered if I really do have a screw loose as me and the Mrs heaed into the unknown with 5 other insane birders!

However, it is amazing how a few birds up close and in your face can calm the nerves! Within 45 minutes, we were amongst a large raft of Cory's Shearwaters that you could almost touch as a pod of Bottle-Nose Dolphins joined us and our first Pterodroma flew very close overhead! It seemed bull-necked and large billed and assumed to be a
Fea's Petrel. And so, the theme continued as 2hrs later we reached "the spot", dropped the first frozen chum block and waited. We had numerous encounters with Fea's/Zino's type petrels, one individual even staying in the slick for a good 20+ minutes and feeding over the top of it close to the boat. The birds were totally unphased by our presence and the manoeverability of the RIB was fantastic. I so wish I had a better camera!! A number of birds, whilst feeding with Bulwer's Petrels did seem small-billed with a slimmer, cuter appearance than our very first bird, that seemed a real bruiser in comparison. Unfortunately no-one managed a photo of that bird which would have been great to make direct comparison's with. So, by the end of the trip, my head hurt with bill sizes, but I grabbed as many shots as possible and you can see for yourself. Best to click on image (Note some photos refer to same bird) Birds 2-3 look interesting in particular for pro Zino's. I look forward to studying these great birds more this afternoon and hope to get some photos of a "classic" Fea's to compare with some of the possible Zino's of yesterday.
Birds seen in 3 hours of chumming and numbers are very conservative as difficult to be sure of exact numbers:
Fea's Petrel - 1
Zino's Petrel ? - 2
Zino's/Fea's Petrel - 6+minimum
Cory's Shearwater - 60+
Bulwer's Petrel - 20+
Wilson's Petrel - 1

Manx Shearwater - 10+
Bottle-Nose Dolphin - 6+

The boat - Oceanodroma

The Chum

Bird 1

Bird 2

Bird 3

Bird 4

Bird 5

Bird 6

Bulwer's Petrel

Manx Shearwater


Wilson's Petrel

Terra firma!


  1. Wot... no white faced stormie ? I'd ask for my money back mate !

  2. Jaffa,
    I need to speak to you rather urgently. I am looking for gadflys this weekend in Azores on haven't got a clue where to look yet. Also what the bleeding hell is in that chum!!!
    Also what is the water depths, underlying topography and distance from shore that you are finding these birds. What is 'special' about the marine area which is concentrating these birds?
    Speak soon batty boy

  3. Nice shots Jaffa, but isn't it about time you bought yourself a mans camera?

  4. Hi:
    Liked the shots and phtos 2 and 3 and another are certainly Zino's in my book,look at the amount of white in the underwing. Didn't see any that white on the first 3 day expedition. As I put in my blog, this must be the best expedition in the eastern N Atlantic. Agree with the previous comment about Whte-faced Stormies - didn't you see any? We had plenty.
    Andy Paterson