Posts Tagged ‘Grand Manan Island


Dirty Twitching

More reminiscing. Another photo from Grand Manan this summer. A Cedar Waxwing.

Looking at the birds white under-tail coverts, rather than the chestnut of our own ‘Bohemian’ Waxwings was a sort of double reminder. I recall going to Nottingham. It must have been in 1996. God that’s 20 years ago. Early in the year maybe … probably February. My friend Ken Laban and I set off to search the huge flock of about a thousand or more Waxwings for the Cedar Waxwing that had turned up among them. We found it … eventually. The flock was very mobile. After an initial brief glimpse the whole flock took flight but eventually settled a mile or so away on the outskirts of the city in berried bushes surrounding an industrial estate. This  enabled us to have really good views. Those were the days. Nothing like a spot of dirty twitching!



For Fun

As we get past mid December it starts to get quiet for me. Or at least it does on the tour front. The days are still busy but on catch-up work; admin that’s been in a state of comatose on the edge of my desk for the past season is now resuscitated and given a sharp fist in the chest. However, no matter how busy I am if I sit down at the laptop I can’t help daydreaming and looking at some of the photos I took during the summer.

I came across this one I took in the Bay of Fundy during August. There’s just something wonderful about seeing a humpback breach; throwing it’s entire bulk from the water. How on earth do they manage to do that. I liked the photo not just for the whale and what it was doing but for the setting; the arching spray, a gently rippling sea, blue sky and white fluffy clouds and Grand Manan Island in the distance. It sort of set the scene. It was a good reminder of a special time.

On a recent talk I did on cetaceans for the North East Norfolk Bird Club I was asked, by the youngest member of the audience, why whales breach. It’s difficult to say with any certainty. It could be to dislodge annoying parasites and barnacles. It could be a way of communication with other whales – after all the sound they make on re-entering the sea is like the report of a cannon. It could be part of their display or it could just be for the sheer hell of it … for fun!



The day of the Petrels

I tried it several times so I know it holds true. On the Island of Gran Manan it didn’t matter where we were if I raised my bins to watch the sea for a minimum of 60 seconds I would see at least one Harbour Porpoise break the surface, often it would not be alone.

On one particular day however we had sailed out beyond Gannet Island with its distinctive lighthouse and had crossed a particularly rough patch of water called the devils half acre. I stared through my optics in disbelief; it didn’t matter which direction I turned all I could see from the boat to the horizon were Wilson’s Storm Petrels… in their thousands; a never ending cast of tiny dark dancing seabirds pitter-pattering across the waves. It was as if the whole scene was orchestrated by a million puppeteers. There seems to be good reason why they are often said to be the world’s most numerous bird. These birds are small no bigger than a sparrow and spend much of their life far from land on the ocean. Small and fast they were easily the most difficult bird I have ever photographed.

Each individual ‘walked’ on the water as it picked up copepods from the surface of the sea. Called Petrels from the similarity with St. Peter and the walking on water miracle  … a miracle indeed.

Wilsons Storm Petrel

Each dot on this photo among and beyond the humpbacks is a Wilson’s Storm Petrel

Wilson's Petrels



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Mar 2023


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