Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Petrel pumped

'This looks promising', I heard Bob Flood say, standing just to my left, as we scanned over the Port side of the MV Sapphire just before 1100 on Sunday morning. Then, in a sentence which became increasingly assertive as it was uttered, words to the effect of: 'everybody get on this bird!'. An instruction not to be ignored, and, moments later, the same voice confirmed what no-one on board could have hoped for: 'FEA'S PETREL'. This was followed by about 20 other voices saying in unison what my son would call 'a very bad word', and then a slightly smaller number of motor drives whirring into action, like fishing twine over a reel when a shark takes a bite.

In his write up for RBA Bob describes it as all happening in slow motion from that point on. For me it was the opposite: before I knew it I was stood on a bench in not entirely stable sailing conditions, waving my lens at this globally rare and highly sought after species in any waters, but particularly British ones. Any benefit from Image Stabilisation on my new lens was outdone not by the swell on this occasion, but by the barely controlled shaking in my limbs. An amazing, exhilarating experience, which made me severely question my carefully cultivated self-image as a luckless birder!
Fea's Petrel, 8 miles NE of Scilly, Sunday 16th August
Beautiful plumage detail in the armpit
In front of the Seven Stones lightship
The full glory of the upperwing pattern

...and the underparts
Head on the tubenose can be seen - and a striking Batman mask appears
Note the black 'W' pattern on the upperwing
Very low at the low point of its bounding flight pattern
Just to show size comparison with Herring Gull
On its final pass it flew too close to fit in the frame with a 400mm lens


  1. Fantastic Photos Peter.
    Great to see you again on Monday's Pelagic.
    Not too much of an anti-climax I hope !
    Robin Mawer