Thursday, 24 November 2011

Bermuda 22 & 23/11/11

by Bob Flood

Three men in a boat - Hadoram Shirihai, Bob Flood and David Wingate

Pelagics out of Bermuda on 22nd and 23rd November were a bit frustrating. On the 22nd we went out 10 miles, much further than trips normally go and so it was experimental, but the results were not great with one or two Bermuda Petrels about 3 pm that gave reasonable views but nothing spectacular. On the 23rd, yesterday, we copied the location and chumming techniques from our most successful trip last week (wind direction identical too), but were unlucky with 3 birds hanging around for about an hour two miles off our drift line. As it became dusky with not enough light for photography, a Bermuda Petrel flew around our boat for several minutes - the views were great, but it was frustrating not to capture some of the event on film. The fact of the matter is that Bermuda Petrel is damned rare and it is very hard to catch up with them, even off the breeding grounds in Bermuda.

I made my final trip to Nonsuch yesterday morning for a last look at the colony and to watch Jeremy check the bands on a few birds as part of his research. A man-eating petrel bit Jeremy on the cheek, causing him much agony and drawing blood, to which I couldn't help laughing out loud - sorry Jeremy. Took more video of the head but it is very difficult because they keep twisting their necks like Wrynecks. Obviously the birds cannot be kept out of the burrows for very long, so I abandoned my effort. I also made a nice video interview with Jeremy and this, with footage of Nonsuch and research at the burrows of the petrels, will be the basis of a mini-documentary on the DVDs in our next guide 'Pterodromas'. David Wingate will recount his involvement in the rediscovery and conservation - the piece will be named 'Saving the Bermuda Petrel'. We hope to do a similar piece with Frank Zino called 'Saving the Zino's Petrel'.

Nonsuch site of colony
Man-eating Cahow under control - check blood on cheek

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Bermuda 21 & 22/11/11

by Bob Flood

Yesterday 21st November David Wingate and I went seawatching at Cooper's Point, where we saw at least three Bermuda Petrels. On the way to the Point David Showed me the rock where he and Robert Cushman Murphy rediscovered the Bermuda Petrel in 1951. At that time it had been considered extinct since the 1600s. We also saw the few other rocks where Bermuda Petrel breeds.

David Wingate and some rocky islets near Castle Harbour

Many rocky islets are highly vulnerable to hurricane damage
This morning David took me to Nonsuch Island. It was virtually a barren rock until David's
brilliant scheme to turn it into a living museum, by planting native trees, shrubs, grasses etc to create a pre-colonial habitat. This project has taken many years. He hand planted nearly every tree and shrub on the island. Nonsuch is the island to which Jeremy Madeiros translocated Bermuda Petrel chicks each year 2004-2008, with over 20 of the 105 translocated chicks returning prior to 2011. A number of these have paired and laid eggs on Nonsuch, with six chicks fledged, the first to fledge on Nonsuch since about 1620. At the moment they use artificial burrows, but the hope is that they will once again breed in native woodland created on Nonsuch.

Nonsuch Island

We also steamed around the mouth of Castle Harbour looking at the very few rocks/islets where Bermuda Petrel bred, until the translocation program. What a tenuous hold this Pterodroma has, still critically endangered and far from safe from extinction.

Rocky islets in Castle Harbour

Rocky islets in Castle Harbour
Hadoram Shirihai and I planned the Bermuda trip over several months and he arrived yesterday. He turned up for today's pelagic trip somewhat jetlagged. The weather was calm, so we steamed further out than usual, then deployed chum. We were pleased with a reasonable view of Bermuda Petrel. The locals, Andrew Dobson and David, were ecstatic with Cory's (borealis) and Great Shearwaters, and went ballistic when a Leach's Storm-petrel spent about 10 minutes showing off around the boat.

Bob Flood, left, with Andrew Dobson centre and Hadoram Shirihai, right

More trips planned this week.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

A Good Day In Scilly...

By Ashley Fisher

The day started off well with a trip around the inter island waters aboard the MV Sapphire. Highlights included three Spoonbills, three first-winter drake Eiders and, remarkably, a group of four Black-necked Grebe.

Photograph by Joe Pender

Later, a walk through Lower Moors yielded Yellow-browed and Dusky Warblers and finally, the Wilson's Snipe - having been reported almost daily, I hadn't seen it for five days. When I entered the ISBG hide, it was feeding at point-blank range (see video below).

From Lower Moors, I decided to cut through the new school and check the Dump Clump. Despite spending about forty minutes intermittently 'pishing and squeaking' I had seen little of note. Just as I was exiting the wood, I heard the distinctive 'tack and rattle' of a Red-breasted Flycatcher - the latest, by one day, for Scilly (presumably the same bird that was seen in the Porth Hellick area on the 18th). I managed to get some 'record' video footage - see below:

Bermuda 19/11/11

by Bob Flood

Spittal Pond Nature Reserve
Wind is dropping but sea state is very rough, so we may not be able to get to sea again until Monday. Went to Spittal Pond Nature Reserve filling in time. Quiet there, with about 10 Pied-billed Grebes, a group of Blue-winged Teal, American Coot, Catbird and White-eyed Vireo, and among other bits and pieces some herons: Great Blue, Little Blue, Green, and Great White.

Looking out to sea from Spittal Pond

Friday, 18 November 2011

Bermuda 17/11/11

by Bob Flood

Stefan (the skipper) and I, with chum and fish oil, departed Grotto Bay jetty at 2 pm. We headed to a location recommended by David Wingate and set a position so that we would drift toward Nonsuch Island as the evening progressed – being nearby at dusk when the Cahows go in to the colonies. The breeze picked up to SSW 18 knots. At 3.30 pm a Cahow flew around the boat for about 45 seconds - lovely. At 4.15 we had a star performance - a Cahow approached from ways downwind, lured in by the chum, and then flew around the boat for at least 2 minutes. About 4.45 pm we had another Cahow around the boat, and a fourth about 10 minutes later. At dusk we headed in at putt-putt speed, and several more Cahows flew near the boat, on their way to the breeding islands. I might post some video of Cahow, if I get some more next week. I want to keep tonight's footage for the Pterodroma Multimedia ID Guide. We also saw Cory's Shearwater tonight, which actually looked good for Scopoli's. Thanks to Triangle Diving and Stefan, recommended by me for pelagic trips out of Bermuda.


Some footage of the first-winter drake off the quay

Thursday, 17 November 2011

September 2011

I came across this superb video on You Tube - Scilly at its best!

Black Redstarts...

by Ashley Fisher

I thought I'd spend the afternoon checking all the beaches in the hope of finding an Eastern Black Redstart. At the Mermaid Car Park, I got waylaid by this stunning adult winter male gibraltariensis.

Here's some footage of the Eastern Black Redstart (Pheonicurus [o] pheonicuriodes) at Margate, Kent, courtesy of 'megabrock161'

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Bermuda 16/11/11

by Bob Flood

Superb day and evening on Nonsuch at the Bermuda Petrel colonies. Jeremy Madeiros, the Conservation Officer, is a really nice bloke and was very helpful. Jeremy masterminded the translocation program to Nonsuch from tiny islands in nearby Castle Harbour, islands that are rapidly being destroyed by hurricanes. This plan probably has saved the species. We spent 4 hours checking out 9 burrows. Birds were in 7 burrows, including pairs in 3 of them. I am sure you will understand how spine-chillingly awesome it was to see, film, and handle this critically endangered Pterodroma. Then we did a night watch, with plenty of light we could see up to 5 at a time flying around us. We were sat near the colony and the birds often flew past at head height calling. Even more mind blowing.

Jack Snipe...

Two of the 3 birds at Lowers Moors today

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


Bermuda 15/11/11

by Bob Flood

We did well today, with one Bermuda Petrel reasonably close at about 4 pm, but the sun was strong and not good for video. We had one bird around the boat at dusk. Otherwise a quite nice mid distance view of two courting birds and quite a few distant views. We
are going out again on Thursday leaving at 2 pm, hoping for even better views at sea. Tomorrow I am promised a trip to Nonsuch Island to observe the conservation work, managed by Jeremy Madeiros, and to video birds in the hand. Is this Nirvana?

Monday, 14 November 2011

Bermuda 13/11/11

by Bob Flood

General birding is pretty good in Bermuda. Haven't ventured far, but highlights so far include: Black and white warbler, Ovenbird, Northern Parula, Northern Waterthrush, White-eyed Vireo, Belted Kingfishes, Eastern Bluebird, Great Kiskadee, Green Heron, Cedar Waxwing etc. Champing at the bit to get out to sea for the Cahow!

With the sea state still not suitable for pelagic trips, on Sunday I went to Cooper's Point with David Wingate, Andrew Dobson et al. David is the saviour of the Cahow,pulling them back from the brink of extinction and dedicating his whole life to their preservation. Andrew is author of A Birdwatcher's Guide to Bermuda (which I have found very useful). We saw 5 Cahows wheeling around in the wind north of Cooper's Point. Today, Monday 14th November, we are all set to go to sea. Fingers and everything else crossed!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Friday, 4 November 2011

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Great Reed Warbler...

Rather surprisingly, Jim Askins and Jaclyn Pearson trapped an adult Great Reed Warbler at the Ringing Station to the rear of Porth Hellick Pool (aged primarily by the heavily worn plumage - see images below).

Yellow-browed Warbler...

Some footage from St Agnes today