Thursday, 16 September 2010

From the archive: September 2004

With all of the recent leach's petrel reports from the north-west of England I was prompted to have another quick look back at my own images of this pelagic species. Taken in September 2004 at New Brighton, Wirral, this has, to date, been my only encounter with leach's petrel... and what a great day it was. Mark and I set off early from the north-east on the back of a good petrel weather forecast and increasing petrel numbers over the preceding days.

Upon arrival the wind was blowing a hooley and we did not even need to get out of the car before we saw our first bird ~ struggling to get out of the River Mersey. A UK tick for us both.

Many more followed throughout our visit, with many birds pushed right over the waters edge, and some flew between the observers! It's amazing how such a small bird can cope in such conditions.

The image above shows a bird struggling along the tide-line and was taken using a 6 mega-pixel Canon 10D and 100-400mm IS lens. Photographically my strike rate was poor ~ even with exposures of 1/1000th second most images were blurred as I struggled to stand in the gales. Lack of experience at the time meant that exposure compensation was not utilised either - so detail of the bird plumage has been difficult to extract. If time was not a premium I'd have been back this week to have another go!

Added to the mix were two immature long-tailed skua, an immature sabine's gull, manx shearwater and several gannet.

2004 was a very good leach's petrel year with numbers peaking at New Brighton on 22nd September (the day of our visit). Accoding to the Cheshire and Wirral Bird Report 2004, 300 leach's were recorded past New Brighton on that day (!)... with only 3 on the 23rd.

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