With the passage of the "Ellen" depression, there was an increase of seabird movements in Peniche. The storm hit the bay of Biscay, Ireland, and the British islands on the morning of 20th of August. During that day, in Peniche, the wind was weak from the SW, with long periods of light rain.
On the day before (morning of 19th) I went to Peniche and did count from 06:30h to 09:30h, and logged a good number of terns moving south, mainly Arctic and Common terns, trying to escape the approaching bad weather.
I returned to the counting on the 21st at daybreak, the wind was weak from the West and light fog was emerging from the tail of the front that had moved inland the night before.
As soon as I put the scope up, the first bird was an adult dark morph Arctic skua, moving in full speed through the light mist. I had the gut feeling of a good morning was about to unfold. After that, there was a steady flow of Arctic and Pomarine skuas. Most of the Pomarines dressed in the beautiful white belly suit, with the "spoons" dragging in the air. Loose flocks of Common and Arctic terns were moving just below the horizon, with the occasional flocks moving closer, making it possible to positively abandon the Comic realm.
Most of the birds were moving beyond the mid-distance, and honestly, was the time that I felt the power of the Swarovski ATX95 scope, delivering colors and definition, in such a distance and challenging conditions.
There was also a Dutch birder that joined me for some time, unfortunately, he did not bring his scope, so with most of the birds moving quite far, he was scanning closer Cory´s and Gannets.
Around 07:30h, with my eye at the scope, a flock of darkish birds enters the field of view, that my brain associated with terns, just for a second later catalog them as skuas. It was clear the slender shape of the bird leading the flock, long tail, and the white chest, dissolving in the darkish belly. A beautiful adult (pale morph) Long-tailed skua! With it were four more birds: two more adults, and two sub-adults. Including a sub-adult with a dark head and chest and white belly, a beautiful plumage that I only had seen before in photos.
With my brain calibrated for picking up Long-tail skuas, I started to pick up singles and pairs along the morning. The smallish, angular wing shape of the birds made the jizz quite distinctive. I finished the morning with 31 Long-tailed skuas, it was the maximum number of birds I´ve seen before in one morning. Along with the Long-tailed skuas, also regular numbers of Pomarine and Arctic were seen during the morning.
For what I´ve been told by António Sandoval, in Estaca de Bares their annual numbers can vary quite a lot. In 2015, during all campaign, we counted 36 individuals, with 27 on the first half of September. So, hopefully I can add a few more.
You can check the day totals: here
Birding Portugal & Spain - Blog
2020 Count Totals:
I was born in west Portugal and began birding at the age of 11. I have particular interest in bird ringing (banding), moult, seabirds and rarities. Currently I work as a guide for Birds & Nature Tours.
Search by month:
Search by keywords:
© Helder Cardoso. All rights reserved.