Seawatch SW: Survey starts on 15th July 2008


With the autumn sea-watching season already upon us, the SeaWatch SW team are preparing for another mammoth 93-day survey at the Gwennap Head watchpoint. Here is the latest news update, including details of the survey and results of Balearic Shearwater monitoring in June 2008. Further information is available at www.seawatch-sw.org.

Send us your UK Balearic Shearwater sightings now!

One of the main aims of SeaWatch SW is to provide a central point for Balearic Shearwater recording in UK and Irish waters; this will allow us to put project results into a national context. 2007-08 results are already feeding into ongoing conservation efforts led by RSPB and JNCC at both a national and international level. We are grateful to all observers who provided us with 2007 records, and urge anyone who sees a Balearic Shearwater in the UK and Ireland in 2008 to contact us with details of the sighting, and/or submit their record to Birdguides. We have already received over 190 records up to the end of June, compared to 150 records up to this point in 2007.

European Storm-petrel, Berry Head, Devon, 2007. (photo: Mark Darlaston).

NEW: SeaWatch SW survey begins on 15 July!

The SeaWatch SW survey at the Gwennap Head watchpoint (near Land’s End in Cornwall) will be running from 15 July to 15 October, and daily updates will be available on the Results page of the project website. Thanks to a great response from our volunteer observers, we have coverage for almost all of the 93-day survey period by experienced Seabird Observers and supporting Marine Wildlife Observers. However, there are still opportunities for volunteer observers and visitors to get involved, particularly students and conservationists who want to get experience of marine wildlife observation and recording. Detailed directions to the Gwennap Head watchpoint, together with information for potential observers and a provisional observer schedule, can all be found on the project website.

NEW: Marine wildlife sightings off Gwennap Head in June

Observations at Gwennap Head in June by local observers and Cornwall Wildlife Trust volunteers revealed the presence of Minke Whale, Harbour Porpoises, Basking Sharks, Ocean Sunfish and a wide range of migratory seabirds in June 2008. However, as with 2007, the numbers of Basking Sharks seen at the surface off southwest England have been relatively small so far this year, probably as a result of the unsettled, windy weather hindering development of zooplankton aggregations in surface waters.

NEW: Balearic Shearwaters arrive in southwest waters in June

A total of 58 Balearic Shearwater records were received for June 2008, with most coming from southwest England between Cornwall and Dorset. As with June 2007, the peak count came from Portland Bill (Dorset) with 22 seen on 28th. Further details and a distribution map can be found on the project website. Meanwhile, our colleagues at Fundacion Migres are again monitoring the exodus of Balearic Shearwaters out of the Mediterranean. Between 15th May and 10th July they had recorded a staggering 17,500 birds moving west into the Atlantic, again making us reconsider previous estimates of the total population of about 10,000 birds.

NEW: Cory’s Shearwater as a future breeding species?

Last year, SeaWatch SW reported on the discovery of a new breeding colony of Cory’s Shearwaters on the French Biscay coast, and also noted that one was heard calling on Great Skellig, County Kerry, Ireland at night on 26th August 2006. Intriguingly, this record has been repeated this year, with a male bird being trapped and ringed on Great Skellig at night on 5th July. Could Cory’s Shearwaters be following other marine species and expanding their breeding range northwards as sea temperatures rise, or is this just a single returning out-of-range bird?

NEW: Ken Shaw joins up with SeaWatch SW for unique pelagic trip

One of the UK’s top birders, Ken Shaw, will be joining SeaWatch SW co-ordinator, Russell Wynn, on a four-week pelagic trip in the northeast Atlantic this autumn. From 4th August to 3rd September the flagship of the UK research fleet, RRS James Cook, will be working far offshore between the Canary Islands and the north Biscay margin as part of a geological research expedition. Ken, as the marine wildlife observer, will be responsible for recording all seabirds and cetaceans during the trip, and providing daily updates for the SeaWatch SW website. Watch this space to see what we discover!

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