Saturday, 7 July 2018

Seabirds after the fog

The very heavy low cloud covered the Marloes peninsular this morning, came in up the Haven,  and did not burn off until well after lunch. This seemed to disorient large numbers of sea birds, and Puffins came in as near as Dale Fort. Close off Wooltack Bay were rafts of Puffins and Guillemots, and large numbers of feeding Gannets and Manx Shearwaters. Several local boatmen commented that they had never seen so many birds inside the Haven.

A quick trip out towards Skomer and Skokholm in early afternoon highlighted one benefit of the current spell of hot weather: it seems to have stimulated the growth of algae and plankton, which in turn is feeding the sandeels and other baitfish. So a lot of auks and Kittiwakes, which even a month ago seemed to be feeding far offshore, are now getting good beakfulls of sandeeels very close to the islands: let’s hope this makes for a successful breeding season.

There were still shearwaters within a couple of miles south of Skokholm at 1500 this afternoon: normally in calm weather like today I would not expect to see them this close until mid/late-evening, coming back from foraging flights around Lundy. Amongst them was a Sooty Shearwater, flying incredibly fast, with wings bowed almost in hoops.

The other beneficiaries of the algal bloom are Basking Sharks: two seen around 2 miles south of Skokholm. The best view was of a young one, “only” around 6 feet long. It had 6-7 lampreys hanging off its underside, mainly clustered under the pectoral fins.