Wednesday 30 December 2015

Leach's Petrel

Leach's Petrel - field sketches.
The day got off to a great start (see 'Cornifrons ulceratalis' post below) but a dawn sea-watch was frustrating, it being so windy that there was very little moving off Maer Rocks. I got a few Kittiwakes, 4 Common Scoter and 1+ Great Northern Diver before the rain started blowing in. I decided to cut my losses and went home for some breakfast.
Lu had woken up with a bad back so I nipped up to Tescos mid-morning for the weekly shop. The rain was by now so torrential that I figured birding would be a wash-out anyway. My in-laws were supposed to come over for lunch but they had some problems with their electrics so I thought I'd nip down to the seafront for a quick look at the sea. I parked beside the little shelter on the Esplanade, near the Grove Pub, and scanned the sea and river-mouth. I got more and more soaked and was about to jack it in when I suddenly thought I'd seen a pair of dark wings in the murk. I scanned the area and was shocked to see a petrel lift off the water and go straight back down again. Before long it was flying towards me and I was able to confirm it as Leach's Petrel - long, broad, angled wings and a clearly forked tail, coupled with its apparent large size left me in no doubt. The conditions were so abysmal that I just couldn't discern any paler areas on the wing coverts but the pale rump patch was visible on occasions. I sent out some texts and was delighted that Lee was able to get it before it disappeared. He had to leave the comfort of the hide and got a soaking for his troubles, but assures me it was worth it! The only other bird off there was a single Great Northern Diver.
Leach's Petrel is a bird I've never seen before in Devon. I guess I've usually been working when conditions were right, or doing other stuff with the family. The last time I saw Leach's Petrel was off St Ives on September 13th 1998!

Shag - Exmouth seafront.

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