Saturday 7 November 2015

Mirbat pelagic brings up 300

Yesterday morning, I went on a pelagic trip out of Mirbat harbour. It was organised by Jens Eriksen and I am grateful for the place on board and the company of all four others.

Despite the stormy weather in these parts of late, the sea was like a mill pond. It was incredibly calm.

Persian shearwater

Within 15 minutes, we had encountered a group of Persian shearwater which were spending much time swimming on the surface and "periscoping" the sea for food.

Two Persian shearwater

Perhaps surprisingly I had previously only seen flesh-footed shearwater and wedge-tailed shearwater in Oman and that by sea watching from land. The much more common Persian shearwater had escaped me. It was a lifer and also the 300th bird on my Oman list. This was fine start to the trip.

Persian shearwater taking off

Apart from the odd sooty gull flying out to sea, the next species seen was brown noddy.

brown noddy

This bird is much more familiar to me but in Oman I had only seen one before which had flown into the bay at Khawr Rori.

There were three at Mirbat.

Jouanin's petrel 1

Soon after seeing the three brown noddy we came across our first group of Jouanin's petrel. This was another lifer and another addition to my Oman list. 

This turned out to be the second most common bird of the trip. Several small groups were seen throughout. When flying it is easily separated from other all dark sea birds by the 45 degree angle it holds its bill at.

Jouanin's petrel 2

Only one great crested tern was observed. All other terns were bridled tern.

bridled tern

When resting, they showed a strong preference for standing on pieces of wood rather than swimming like all the other sea birds including the distantly related brown noddy.

three bridled tern

As a crude rule of thumb, it seems the bigger the piece of wood the more bridled tern.

red-necked phalarope

The most abundant bird of all on pelagic trip was red-necked phalarope. This was not unexpected as most of the world population winters off the Yemen and Oman coast.

Following the early flurry of species, we were seeing the same ones for a long while until three Socotra cormorant flew by.

After a little over 3 hours, we decided to head to harbour and going fast towards it when a small dark bird was spotted.

We soon realised it was a lone Wilson's storm petrel.

first view of Wilson's storm petrel

It looked like it was walking on water. It turned and walked towards us. It was using one wing to catch some wind which was enough to propel it forward at a fast enough speed that it didn't need to fly. It was like it was yachting.

"walking"" Wilson's storm petrel

Occasionally it would jump up a few centimetres but resuming its walk.

"jumping" Wilson's storm petrel

The picture below shows this use of one wing.

 Wilson's storm petrel "walking" again

Just as we were about to leave it changed direction again but was still walking.

 Wilson's storm petrel having turned

This was magical end to the boat trip and I think all of us found this spectacle the highlight. Wilson's storm petrel was a third lifer and the third addition to my Oman list. I started the trip with 299 species and ended it with 302.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely shots. Unusual to see most of the seabirds on the water. I don't think conditions are ever calm enough on our pelagics for that.