Seabird Masterclass: The Results

7-9 September 2012

by Martin

Very pleased with our first ventures into guided Seabird events billed as Seabird Masterclasses. They are open to all and indeed we did have both very experienced and new birders. As one person put it:

“Despite gloriously unsuitable weather for sea-watching (280C plus a lot of the time, southerlies), a combination of a boat trip and dedicated enthusiasm watching from the Old Head at Flamborough yielded an incredible list of sought-after birds – 4 species of skua and shearwater, Black Guillemot, Mediterranean and Yellow-legged Gull, auks and gannets in abundance plus the evocative sight of the first Pink-footed geese of the autumn in off the sea noisily cackling their way overhead and away inland. Couple that with the enthusiasm and knowledge of Martin, Richard and Steve, and you find you’ve had an unforgettable sea-birding break demanding an early return ! Thanks for a great trip !”  Phil Hyde

Pomarine Skua – This bird was one of the highlights of a bird filled 3 days. Photo by Phil Palmer (

The 3 days (or option of one day event) included sea watching from Flamborough and 4 hour pelagic out from Bridlington harbour (in conjunction with RSPB cruise).

We Saw:

Long-tailed Skua (1 superb juvenile heading north off Flamborough showing off distinctive combo of  plumage/ structure and flight actions.
Pomarine Skua– superb adult flew around the boat
Arctic and Great Skuas several of each
Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns– plenty of looks at all ages, including and ad and juv close off the boat
Black Guillemot – a local ‘mega’. A first winter bird off the boat which thankfully all guests got on to as it stay stick around
Guillemot, Razorbill and Puffin– good views of all 3
Cory’s Shearwater- a distant bird which was ‘hanging around in the area. Almost certainly seen briefly in flight then sat on water- but rather a long way out to for satisfying views
Sooty, Manx and Balearic Shearwaters– all seen
Gulls- included, Mediterranean, Little and 1st winter Yellow-legged– all on sea watches
Gannet and Fulmar- plenty of them and a chance to practice aging Gannets from juveniles to adults!

waiting by the pier at Bridlington on beautiful morning

View from the bridge with the ‘Great White Cape’ of Flamborough Head in the background

This superb adult (dark morph) Arctic Skua flew right over our heads (by Phil Palmer) (

This juvenile Great Skua flew around giving excellent views of its distinctive plumage- by Steve Race

another view of the same juvenile ‘Bonxie’ by Phil Palmer (

loads of close views of auks of different ages- and we got 4 different species! These Guillemots by Steve Race

1st winter Black Guillemot by MG. Bit of a mega!

Having spotted it, shouted it out, a few folk managed to get on it, I rattled off some blurred pics, it dived and wasn’t seen again.

Adult Arctic Tern. Always a pleasure to see, especially close-up. By Steve Race

Fulmar. Plenty of these, juts no ‘Blue’s’ this time. By Steve Race

Evening (above ) and morning (below) seawatching provided lots of fun, learning and some pretty cool seabirds. Non seabird highlights included superb skeins of the first Pink-feet Geese of the autumn, coming in close to the headland and calling as they went.

Special thanks to Steve Race and Phil Palmer for photos used here and Sal Cooke and RSPB team on the Skua Cruise and Phil for his kind comments

About Martin Garner

I am a Free Spirit
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