Trip reports

Skua and Shearwater Cruises from Bridlington 2007

Pair of kittiwakes on rock

Friday, 7 December 2007

Was this the best season of RSPB Skua and Shearwater Cruises? We did lose two of the later ones to bad weather, but the season started off very well with the first four trips each having up to thirty sooty shearwaters. These long distance migrants, whose nearest breeding grounds are the Tristan Da Cunha group of islands 2900 km south west of the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, gave a fantastic performance, surrounding the MV Yorkshire Belle on occasions and so close too! Accompanying them on these early cruises were Manx shearwaters, Arctic and great skuas along with common terns and little gulls; all seen in good numbers and equally good views.

The second cruise saw our first 'big one' of the season with another South Atlantic migrant, again from the Tristan Da Cunha group: a great shearwater. Our only previous record dates back to 1995. The next cruise was really good. We saw fifteen hundred pink-footed geese, but flying with them was our second 'big one' - a snow goose, which was a first for the Yorkshire Belle. We also had really good views of a juvenile long-tailed skua, sitting on the sea very close to the boat, along with the season's only Balearic shearwater and pomarine skua, but the pale 'blue fulmar' was the first of two sightings this year.

An unprecedented four juvenile Sabine's gulls were seen, with two seen together on one cruise. These were not just long distance brief views of this high Arctic small gull. All four came in to feed on our 'chum', which is a mixture of fish bits kindly donated by Flamborough Fish and thrown over the back of the boat by one lucky volunteer. At least one Sabine's gull stayed for over half an hour giving really stunning close up views. Other highlights in 2007 included osprey, velvet and common scoter, a large flock of approximately three hundred and fifty common terns feeding off South Landing, as well as black and Arctic tern.

On the down side, some regular species were seen in a lot fewer numbers than usual; kittiwakes and fulmars in particular, but also red-throated divers and great crested grebes. We only saw one or two juvenile little gull, and harbour porpoise sightings were not plentiful, but good numbers of gannets, guillemots, razorbills and puffins were seen on every trip.

All these fantastic birds really helped produce a good total for our raffle. A big 'Thank You' goes to our passengers who generously gave £679. Combined with that from the Puffin trips, the season's total was £1,112.28 - one of our best for a long while. It will all be donated to the 'Albatross Appeal'. Also thank you to all our volunteers, without whom these cruises could not operate; Thanks also to the Skipper and crew of the Yorkshire Belle and to Flamborough Fish for the 'chum', now known as Sabine's bait!

So was this the best season? It certainly is one of the very best seasons if not the best, even if we did miss the yellow-nosed albatross, but there's always next year!

Keith Barrow