ESRA Mallorca

English-Speaking Residents′ Association - Mallorca

Oct 31, 2020

Bird of the Month - April 2015

Sheer delight, the Shearwaters

There is a particular type of birdwatcher known as a "seawatcher" and they are a very devoted if somewhat eccentric bunch of enthusiasts. They can be seen huddled against bits of rock on the coast around the UK in all weathers, usually on the promontories affectionately known as the "sticky-out-bits" I have done a fair amount of seawatching in my time but it´s a acquired taste as all you can see are distant dots whizzing across the horizon as your teeth chatter in the inevitable cold conditions. "Oh to get a bit closer"I always used to think so imagine my delight when I was offered a trip on one of the first pelagic tours around the Island of Cabrera. 

I jumped at the chance and joined 25 other expectant birders all kitted out with long lenses and full wet weather gear. The boat was a good size and mighty powerful and we left a huge white wake behind us as we sped out of the Colonia Sant Jordi.

The staff began to cut up the rotting fish for throwing over the side. This delightful practice is known as "chumming" and the more rotten the fish the better. The only problem is that if you are prone to sea-sickness then the stench does not really help.

The amazing thing is that there was hardly a bird in sight but withing minutes we had a very large gathering of gulls who had seemingly appeared out of nowhere to devour the tit-bits that we left trailing behind. Then came what we were hoping for, Scopoli´s Shearwaters began to glide gracefully alongside the boat and I was nearly able to touch the end of their long slender wings, what fabulous birds they are. They glide on winds for hours on end and hardly ever flap. There name comes from their wing tips which frequently touch the water, hence "shearing" the surface of the sea.

Then a shout went up as the first Great Skua, or "Bonxie", appeared in the crowd of now well fed gulls. Camera shutters whirred away and many of the group were seeing this monster parasite for the first time.

We cruised around the back of the Island on a perfectly calm sea noting all the outcrops, it´s amazing just how many there are out there.

What a perfect way to end a most enjoyable day out.

Michael Montier
Photos by kind permission of Juanjo Bázan

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