Seawatch SW: Spring 2007 Update


Gwennap Head (Photo: Russell B Wynn).

The SeaWatch SW project website has recently been updated with the following news items:

Get involved in SeaWatch SW

We now have core seabird observers covering the project watchpoint at Gwennap Head, Porthgwarra, for the whole three-month survey period from July 15th to Oct 15th. However, there are still opportunities for anyone to get involved and help out during the survey, either as a core shark observer or as a support observer.

Send us your UK Balearic Shearwater sightings now

A primary aim of the project is to document all UK records of this critically endangered species, to assist with conservation planning and ongoing studies of impacts of environmental change on seabirds. So if you see (or have seen) a Balearic Shearwater this year, please send the record to the project co-ordinator or to BirdGuides as soon as possible.

NEW Fin Whales and rare birds seen from SeaWatch SW watchpoint

On January 20th and 21st 2007 local observers were lucky enough to sea three Fin Whales feeding below hundreds of seabirds offshore of the project watchpoint at Gwennap Head, Porthgwarra. Fin Whales are the second-largest animals on Earth, and at least one came as close as 250 m to the shore.

NEW Balearic Shearwaters return to breeding grounds

After a flurry of reports of lingering birds around the SW coast in January and February, Balearic Shearwaters soon dispersed back south to their breeding grounds on the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Consequently, only a couple of reports were received during March and April, both from the project watchpoint at Gwennap Head in early March.

NEW First Basking Sharks return to SW waters

A number of Basking Sharks have already been reported from the SW coast this spring, with the first appearing off Cornwall in early April. If you see a Basking Shark this year, please submit your sighting to the MCS Basking Shark Watch project at: www.mcsuk.org/marineworld/baskingsharks.

NEW Leucistic Balearic Shearwater seen off French coast

A leucistic (whitish) Balearic Shearwater was photographed last year off northern Brittany by Paul de Saint-Maur. This is the third record of a leucistic Balearic Shearwater for France; all birds having been in fresh juvenile plumage in late August or early September.

NEW Photo identification of Basking Sharks

During the SeaWatch SW survey, we will be trying to photograph all sharks seen from the project watchpoint at Gwennap Head. This will help us identify individual animals, and how faithful they are to that particular area. All of our images will also be supplied to the European Basking Shark Photo ID Project (EBSPIP). If you also manage to get a good photo of a Basking Shark this year, then you can submit images via their project website at: www.baskingsharks.org.

The SeaWatch SW website has further details on the above news items, together with information on project aims and background, a summary of UK sightings of Balearic Shearwaters in 2007, and an identification guide to the species. The web address is www.seawatch-sw.org.

Written by: Dr Russell B Wynn, SeaWatch SW co-ordinator