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Sunday, 26 July 2009

A red-letter day - BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS glides past Porthgwarra and a FAN-TAILED WARBLER zits along North Kent coastline


Excerpt from Steve Rogers

''As predicted, the seawatch today at Porthgwarra (West Cornwall) was truly superb. A strong south-westerly wind in front of an advancing Atlantic low depression is a locally known signal that some good seawatching could be on the agenda. Perhaps surprisingly then, only 14 birders showed up. Sadly no one had any cameras with them....I'm hopping mad with myself but considering the rain and normal distance of birds at Pg, no one thought a camera would be needed ! Until 8.30 am that is.Fourteen of us saw the first or second year BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS today at 0824 hours. Brian Mellow first found the bird, with myself, Royston Wilkins, Linton Proctor, Mark Warren, Mark Wallace, Daniel Eva, Chris Craig and remaining visitor birders from up the line. Russell Wynn, the Seawatch Southwest co-ordinator, independently saw it from lower down the cliffs and kept it in view from 0831-0834 as it glided slowly west towards the Longship Lighthouse.It appeared from the extreme left of the coastline as it lazily progressed round the coast, hugging the cliffs no more than a couple hundred yards off-shore. The views were exceptional and it even circled a couple times directly in front of us. The complete fly past lasted about three or four minutes. The slow, meandering flight was similar to a Cory's Shearwater and it seemed to be on view for ages.

The bird was aged as immature, first or at most second calendar year. The underwing was generally dark with a narrow pale underwing bar, barely noticeable unless you looked for it. The bill was a horn grey colour with a darker tip. I saw no hint of pink or yellow which would be associated with an older bird. The head was white, contrasting against a grey nape and collar extending down the side of the neck. The upper tail showed a dark lateral band. Undertail white. The upperwing was blackish brown, slightly browner on the mantle and back''.

Previous Cornish records of Black-browed Albatross
There are surprisingly just two accepted records of Black-browed Albatross from mainland Cornwall:

1982: St Ives Island. 5th Oct.
1988: Porthgwarra. 30th Aug.1999:

At sea. Outside of the two mile maritime boundary, 10 miles offshore. This record is not included in the totals as it is outside of the Cornish mainland area two mile limit.

It was another good day for Balearic Shearwaters passing Porthgwarra, with a single GREAT SHEARWATER too. Two Pomarine Skuas also flew west.

At the opposite end of the UK coastline, Andy Malone witnessed a 'zitting' FAN-TAILED WARBLER flying west over West Beach, Whitstable (North Kent) at 1130 - almost in the same location as a briefly-staying bird last year.

In East Norfolk, a moulting adult PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER remains for a fifth day at the east end of Breydon Water, favouring the mud in the NE corner opposite the tern platforms and showing well. This bird was previously misidentified as an American Golden Plover but is NOT the adult AGP recently present at Cley on 16-17 July. It flew off just after 1100 hours but returned this evening at 1920.

A PECTORAL SANDPIPER was briefly at the River Almond mouth, Cramond (Lothian) on the ebbing tide, whilst in the same county, the adult LESSER YELLOWLEGS continues to attract admirers feeding just downstream of the bridge adjacent to the Aberlady Bay car park. The adult LESSER YELLOWLEGS was also seen again at on the penultimate lagoon at Paull Holme Strays (East Yorks) whilst another PECTORAL SANDPIPER was at Saltholme Pools RSPB (Cleveland).

The GREAT WHITE EGRET remains at Island Mere, Minsmere RSPB (Suffolk) with another at Meare Heath (Somerset), with a juvenile CATTLE EGRET near Seaton (South Devon) at Colyford Common LNR.

HONEY BUZZARDS are showing well from the Raptor Viewpoint near Swanton Novers (Norfolk), with four birds in the air today.

A drake FERRUGINOUS DUCK was present at Loch Gelly (Fife) this morning, presumably the same bird seen at Skinflats Lagoon (Forth) yesterday afternoon.

An incredible 647 Whimbrels roosted yesterday over the high tide at Freiston Shore RSPB (Lincs), whilst also impressive, was a gathering of 186 Mediterranean Gulls along Southend-on-Sea seafront (Essex).

In Dorset, one of the Salisbury Plain introduction Great Bustards (wing-tagged 28) was at Chard Junction Gravel Workings, whilst the presumed escape Hooded Merganser remains at Radipole Lake.