The waters off Galicia (NW Spain) are probably the best, and easiest, place for seeing good numbers of Sabine´s Gulls in the Western Palearctic.
From mid-August to mid-October, very good views of this highly sought-after and beautiful gull are almost guaranteed on any pelagic trip off the coast of Galicia.
Sabine´s Gulls are not easily seen from land, but, after strong northwesterlies, Estaca de Bares usually offers the best chances. In early September 2010, we had an incredible count of 475 birds flying west from the headland, but unfortunately that´s not something you can expect to happen every year.
On the other hand, they become common in the 15-20 miles offshore area, and, luckily, are readily attracted to chum.
On the average late summer-autumn pelagic, counts of over 100 birds are frequent, and we have encountered some very large tight flocks, of up to 300 (!!) birds, on a number of occasions.
Seeing one of these large flocks get off the water, with hundreds of black and white triangles flying all around the boat, when harassed by a skua is something any birder should experience sometime.
On last weekend´s pelagic, we were fortunate to encounter a 250+ strong flock, still mainly formed by adults (about 75% of the whole group). The day count probably exceeded 350 birds.
The way Sabine´s usually gather around the chum here is quite interesting. Normally, small groups start to fly in, and after feeding for a while, end up sitting in the water. As the groups are usually relatively small (10-20 birds), and are widely scattered, you get the (wrong) impression that not too many gulls have been attracted to the chum.
But that´s until they all get together and take off. Then, you realize the number of small groups that had been arriving, many times unnoticed, from all directions, was much larger than what you had thought, and instead of a couple dozens, there were in fact a couple hundreds!
A few days before, a friend of mine , Marcel Gil, who is working on a research vessel, told me he had seen several thousand Sabine´s a bit further west too, so it seems last week´s westerlies have brought very good numbers of them relatively close to shore.
Now, a few close ups from past trips.