On Tuesday 15th of September, we ran another Birding Boat Trip in Cadiz. It made our third pelagic so far this summer off the Gulf of Cádiz, Andalusia. Our previous pelagics this year took place on the 23rd of July and the 1st of September.
This time we departed at 9:00 am from the port of Chipiona. Here, as we were boarding the vessel, we got to see a few of the local Little Swifts. Sailing conditions and visibility were excellent: low wind, calm sea and very soft light during the first half of the morning.
A good start
Right after we left the port, we noticed a notable feeding activity of Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-Backed Gulls. Among them, we soon found the first Arctic Skuas, Great Skuas and Balearic Shearwaters of the trip. This was, no doubt, a good start!
Next, we continued sailing West into deeper Atlantic waters. Shortly after, the first Northern Gannet showed up. We also found the first raft of Balearic Shearwaters totalling around 20 individuals. We enjoyed great views at close range of this Critically Endangered species. It became evident that adult birds had undertaken a recent body moult in the Atlantic, away from their breeding grounds. We could not detect heavily abrased individuals, as it was the case in our birding boat trip in Cádiz in July. Balearic shearwaters breed between February and June. Next, they move into Atlantic waters, where they complete their moult off Spain, Portugal and the Bay of Biscay. After the moult the majority of them return to the Mediterranean Sea, although large numbers winter off the Spanish Atlantic coast.
Fishing Trawlers Ahoy!
As we were sailing on a working day, we encountered several fishing trawlers. Here, we asked our skipper to make a slight detour and approach a particular one that was followed by a large number of gulls. Among hundreds of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and fewer Yellow-legged Gulls we found a single Mediterranean Gull and up to 4 Audouin’s Gulls.
It wasn’t until we got further offshore that we connected with the first groups of Cory’s Shearwaters. Here, they finally offered a great show, as numerous individuals flew past at very close range. Moreover, we could approach different groups fully engaged in their fishing activities. We could hear their voices, see them immersing their heads to locate fish, and being fiercely chased by Bonxies.
Among the abundant Cory’s, this time we could not positively identify any Scopoli’s. In turn, we observed a single Manx Shearwater and no less than 7 Great Shearwaters. Remarkably, both are considered locally scarce or even rare.
For the delight of the group a juvenile Great Skua patrolled around our boat for a while, at times getting too close for pictures! At the same time numerous Atlantic Gannets and two different Great Shearwaters beautifully displayed for our cameras. We could even see a Great Shearwater diving and disappearing under water!
Probably due to the abundance of food (fish) and the fishing trawlers, the two blocks of frozen chum we used did not attract any storm petrels as in previous occasions. It did bring us, however, a Great Shearwater, offering an excellent opportunity to get flight shots of this target species.
As expected, given the date, the presence of Northern Gannets was notably larger during this boat trip. These were mostly immature individuals, with very variable plumage patterns. The group chiefly enjoyed observing and photographing them around our boat.
Next, we include a selection of our best shots!
In general terms, the journey back to the port was not as rewarding. However, it produced a Pomarine Skua and the only Wilson’s Storm Petrel. Unfortunately, the latter took us much by surprise, at very close range, and not all in the group got to see it.
We reached the port of Chipiona around 15:30 after 36 nautic miles sailing off the Gulf of Cadiz.
Contributing to Citizen Science
All in all, this was another highly satisfying pelagic. We continued learning about the possibilities of pelagic trips off the Andalusian coast. Moreover, we collected interesting data on the abundance and distribution of pelagic seabirds in Andalusia. As usual, we systematically recorded all our sightings using the pelagic protocol provided by eBird. This is part of our commitment with citizen science.
Great Skua: 17
Pomarine Skua: 1
Arctic Skua: 3
Mediterranean Gull: 2
Audouin’s Gull: 4
Yellow-legged Gull: 105
Lesser Black-backed Gull: 60
Yellow-legged / Lesser Black-backed: 1500
Black Tern: 7
Common Tern: 3
Sandwich Tern: 27
Wilson’s Storm Petrel: 1
Cory’s Shearwater: 180
Balearic Shearwater: 57
Northern Gannet: 60
Next Boat Trip in Cadiz
We will definitively keep running more of these pelagic trips later this year and during 2021. Let us know if you are interested and we will sign you up on the waiting list for the next pelagic trip!
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