Seawatch Surprise

Top: Manx Shearwater

Bottom: Great Skua’s (with Herring Gull)

Wednesday 2nd September comments: Over the last few weeks we’ve seen the last of our breeding seabirds depart the island. Small number of Shags, Fulmars and Eiders remain but the 2020 seabird breeding season is well and truly over. However we have had some other seabirds visit us, birds which don’t breed here but were recorded during last week’s stormy weather.

Last week brought a series of north-easterly and northerly winds which pushed various seabirds down the north Sea and observers on the Isle of May were lucky to see several different unusual species. As with a lot of islands and headlands down the east coast, various seabird species were recorded during this period and the Isle of May highlights included both Arctic and Great Skuas. Both of these species were seen in reasonable numbers as they moved south for the winter from northern Scottish breeding grounds. The scarce Pomarine Skua from the arctic was noted on three occasions whilst the rarer Long-tailed Skua; a high arctic breeder was seen on three days including an island record count of six (one adult, five juveniles) as birds navigated back north and out of the north Sea.

It wasn’t just the skua’s as the oceanic wanders the Shearwaters were seen daily with peaks of 70 Sooty Shearwaters noted in one day. These large all dark shearwaters penetrate the North Sea at this time of year but only breed as close as southernmost South America and this was the largest number of the species seen off the Isle of May in over a decade. Its small cousin the Manx Shearwater was also recorded daily whilst wildfowl on the move included Brent Geese (heading into the UK for the winter) and various ducks including Velvet Scoter. Add in passage of more common species such as Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills, last week was certainly a time to keep your eyes on the sea.

Below is a list of the peak counts and highlights of the unusual species were recorded;

Wed 26th August: juvenile Long-tailed Skua north, 25 Great Skuas, 12 Arctic Skuas, 31 Sooty Shearwaters, 30 Manx Shearwaters and 5 Brent Geese.

Thurs 27th August: SIX Long-tailed Skua north including one adult, 7 Great Skuas, 7 Arctic Skuas, 4 Sooty Shearwaters and 19 Brent Geese.

Fri 28th August: 1 Pomarine Skua, 3 Great Skuas, 12 Arctic Skuas, 70 Sooty Shearwaters, 29 Manx Shearwaters and 27 Brent Geese.

Sat 29th August: 1 juvenile Long-tailed Skua, 4 Pomarine Skuas, 2 Great Skuas, 9 Arctic Skuas, 29 Sooty Shearwaters and 11 Manx Shearwaters.

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