It was for me at least, my last one for 2009. After missing out on an adult Sabine's Gull on 5th I was hoping that we would get some quality this week. The boat seemed slightly less full as we steamed out of the Tyne but the morning sunshine was welcome and the swell was negligible. A full eight hours lay ahead.
All three of the previous evening pelagics were characterised by lots of Manx Shearwater but only the odd Sooty Shearwater. Saturday was the flip side of the coin. I only saw a single Manx Shearwater in eight hours, there may have been one or two others seen by other observers but I wasn't aware of any. The one that did appear suddenly took flight from near the boat startled by our appearance.
Sooty Shearwaters are elegant birds in the air, a staple of any regular seawatcher during July-September. Numbers can be very good in the North Sea in peak conditions but some years only a few appear. We were lucky to see 20+ with up to four around the boat at any given time. We also had groups of three and a few occasions with two birds present. On the water they allowed reasonable approach by the boat.
Once on the water they engaged in a number of interesting behaviours including wing-stretching, submerging, preening and stretching. Never a dull moment.
Sooty Shearwater, wing stretching.
Sooty Shearwater, partially submerging (or bathing?)
Every now and again one would sit up and flash that diagnostic silver underwing at us.
Time and again when we were static with birds around and about the boat a Sooty would shear in coming to within 30m then veer off. Some landed others circled once or twice and moved off.
Sooty Shearwater commenting on my camera technique.