11 Jul 2010

Part 2 of our Canaries epic - a mammoth seawatch.

An leisurely breakfast was in order before we checked out of the hotel and headed towards the port to catch our Armas ferry to Tenerife. Mind you our first glimpse wasn't to promising.

Dropping Kenny D, Kenny M & Eddie at the terminal with our passports (checking in is much much easier on these ferries if you have your passport as they just scan it) and all the gear Al and I headed back to return the hire car intending to get a taxi back. We got completely lost in Arricife's notorious traffic and one way system. Even a kindly local who jumped in the back of the car to help shrugged his shoulders and left us to it. A phone call from the lads asking where we were decided our course of action. Having paid cash and not used a credit car we decided to exact our revenge for leaving us fuelless and neglecting to warn us and dumped the car at the ferry terminal and ringing the hire company. Actually they were every understanding and told us to leave the keys in the glove compartment and they'd collect it.

Safely on board and having secured a good viewing point at the stern we settled down, drunk the first of many cuppa's and got a bemused local to take our photo.

Wirral Seawarchers Association members on their field trip to the Canaries.
Yours truly trip photographer, Kenny 'Kendo Nagasaki' Mullins, 'Spannish' Eddie, Al 'Albatross' Conlin and Kenny 'Braveheart' Dummigan.

With the ferry departing and still no sign of our hire car being picked up Al decided to hide his face in shame until we'd left the harbour area.

Our luck was holding. The conditions were ideal for seawatching being overcast and dull and we were soon picking up Cory's Shearwater's.

Our target birds were Bulwers and White-faced Storm Petrel. All of us, except Kenny Mullins needed this elusive species and this ferry route was hoped to provide us with our best chance of success.

As the ship ploughed on we saw plenty of Cory's but nothing else until around an hour into the journey when I picked up the first Bulwers Petrel heading down the starboard side. This was to be the first of many and we eventually tallied 43!

Bulwers were a new species for several of the party and are amazing long winged Petrels. Kenny D likened them to a cross between a Leach' and Arctic Skua. Although many birds were distant some were close enough to see the pale carpel bars.

With Eddie and Kenny M deciding to go for lunch Al, Kenny D and me were standing on the port side chewing the fat as only birders can when Kenny suddenly screamed WHITE-FACED STORM PETREL. He was so excited he could hardly spit the words out and suspecting a wind up from one of lifes practical jokers I glanced sideways to see him peering intently out to sea.He wasn't joking. By now panic was setting in. Where the hell was it. Anyone who's been seawatching off a moving boat with no landmarks will realise the problem. This could be our only one of the trip and I couldn't see it. For what seemed an eternity but infact was probably only seconds I scanned until finally I found it. Huge bat wings and ultra long dangly legs bouncing across the surface of the sea like Zebedee from the Magic Roundabout. Success and much back slapping and congratulations all round until the realisation that our compatriots hadn't seen it. Having never seen one before Eddie was gutted but no fear the intrepid team picked up more . Unfortunately Eddie couldn't get on to the first few and his voice was getting higher in desperation but then he got his eye in. Incredibly we saw 21 White-faced Storm Petrels between 13.15 and 15.30 - the final one being only 20 minutes from Los Palmas.

Absolutely stunning birds and much better suited to their old name of Frigate Petrel. We mainly saw singles but on two occasions saw two birds together, saw one interacting with a Bulwers and one mobbing an unexpected Bonxie sat on the water.

An announcemnt on the tanny that we had to leave the ship at Los Palmas had us a bit bemsued as we thought the ferry took us directly to Santa Cruz on Tenerife. Instead we had a three hour wait before catching a ferry around 19.00 that saw us arriving in Santa Cruz around 22.00. The second leg of our journey was unproductive bird wise with only the Cory's and a single Bulwers being seen. However we did pick up two Common Terns and a Green Turtle in Los Palmas harbour.

We also saw Risso's Dolphin & 4 Blainvilles Beaked Whales on the trip between Lanazarote and Gran Canaria

Arriving in darkenss we walked from the port to our hotel before deciding to join the locals in a celebratory 'few' beers - they celebrating Spains success in reaching the World cup final and us our success in seeing our two target seabirds and the fact Germany got knocked out!! And so to bed for a new adventure in the morning.

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