My decent(ish) finds in Feb 2012: 1 Yellow-browed Warbler Carnon Downs 04/02, 1 Water Pipit Carnon Downs 04/02, 1 Smew Loe Pool 01/02

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Tuesday, 10 August 2010

SeaWatch SSW

I’ve often wondered whether the Lizard competes with Porthgwarra on a seawatch. I've tried to test the theory a few times, albeit never for much longer than a couple of hours. The few times I’ve tried it, I’ve generally found that, although counts are similar, Porthgwarra fairs slightly better. I think observer coverage may play a part though. After trial and error, consensus seems to be that the best place to seawatch from is sitting just below the coastwatch station at Bass Point. Most seabirds seem take a flight path across the bay from Black Head, passing really close-in at Bass Point, but then continuing in the same direction and thus passing further out when flying past the most southerly point. Oddly, the best viewing is thus looking north across the bay and on the whole, I think birds pass closer than they do at Porthgwarra. This poses a bit of a problem if you’re on your own. You can look out with a scope to catch the more distant stuff, but as the viewpoint is quite high up, a fair amount flies under your field of view.  However, in really poor visibility this can be an advantage as you can just use bins and still see most stuff.

I wonder whether this is why I faired rather better than Porthgwarra this afternoon?  Visibility was dire, at least for the first couple of hours. Their haul for the day (0600 to 1200 and 1400 to 1930) was 22 Balearics, 3 Sooty Shearwaters and 4 Bonxies.  My score in roughly half that time (13:00-19:00) was 16 Balearics, 7 Sooties, 2 Bonxies, 2 Puffins, 5 Stormies and a Cory’s. OK the Cory’s might well have past them while they were on lunch break and the stormies were feeding offshore around a pod of Dolphins and I may have double counted, but on balance, it suggest that the Lizard can outscore West Penwith in the right conditions. Maybe the fact that stuff passes closer is advantageous? Certainly, the guys down there are a lot sharper than me, so if observer skill has anything to do with it, they win hands down.

Anyway ,the real purpose of this post is really just to convince myself that the mythical beast, the Fea’s Petrel is possible off the Lizard and I should put in more effort rather than sacking it off after a couple of hours.


  1. Hi Ilya - interesting post - I'd have to say that, based on my experience of seawatching over here (almost all of my seawatching has been at Galley Head), you've got every bit as much chance of a fea's off the Lizard - its just a question of getting lucky! While some fea's over here are seen in classic seawatch conditions e.g. SW & rain conditions, but there's been several seen when its been totally flat calm, so its really just a question of putting in plenty effort and hopefully you'll get the results!!

  2. Hi Col. How's things?Had much on the patch lately? I seem to recall you've had a couple of Fea's at Galley. Need to get myself over to Cork sometime...Oddly the only Fea's so far in Cornwall this year was in fairly clear conditions with a light NW, although admittedly after a bit of a blow. Sometimes suffer a bit maintaining the enthusiasm for lengthy seawatches unless there's a bit of stuff to keep you interested, but will endeavour to put a few more hours in...

  3. Hi Ilya - its been pretty quiet on the patch of late, indeed the worst seawatching season I've experienced over here. This was more than slightly offset by great views of 3 wilson's petrels the other week, without having to leave the limited comfort of the seawatching seat! I struggle with seawatching when its quiet too,and on current showing, this might not be the year to put in lots of effort for fea's - there seems to be very few big shears around either off SW England or over here, although still plenty time if we get a couple of big south-westerlies! time will tell! Sure, call in for a nice cup of tea next time your passing!


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