After a week away in the Balearic Islands I returned to Devon just in time to join the weekly boat trip in to Lyme Bay out of Brixham, coincidentally to photograph Balearic Shearwater. This species is critically endangered due to a large decline in population. It is hard to assess the numbers but it is thought that if the decline continues at the rate it is, they will become extinct. within 20 years or so. The weather was much rougher than it had been on previous trips and at first it looked as though we were just going to enjoy the bumpy trip with only a few sightings of Shearwaters, mostly Manx and they were quite distant. Other passengers saw and even managed a photo of a Sooty Shearwater and then later on in the trip fortunately so did I but it was a distant shot that just conformed the sighting, my first for Devon. The boat was heaving about and there was also a heavy spray, it wasn't looking too good to be honest but there is always anticipation. Conditions did ease though and by the end it was much calmer. Nigel Smallbones who is the organiser - and hats off to him by the way - started to throw the contents of a large bucket overboard. This smelly concoction included fish heads, innards and the remains of a good days fishing. A few gulls had the freebies to themselves at first but then others joined us, and the two were suddenly 30ish as well as a few Gannets a Fulmar and immature and adult Kittiwake.
Kittiwake, surely the UK's prettiest gull.
Quite suddenly a Balearic Shearwater flew in from a distance following the chum line it was flying swiftly and low over the water and approached our stern in a really spectacular way. I was thrilled to watch it approach and called out to everyone else that it was on the way. There was much excitement from everybody. When this had happened on a previous trip I hadn't been too pleased with my pictures so I was determined to get it right this time. It came in, grabbed some food and we left it behind but three times it came back in to us. I have to confess that I really enjoyed the experience of being so close to such a rare and unusual bird.
A Balearic Shearwater flies in to the stern of the boat.
In the sea grabbing bits of fish.
The swell at times almost swamped the bird. Here below, it paddles on the surface.
... and then grabs prey under the water.