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Where to get good close up views of Manx shearwater

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Old Sunday 11th August 2019, 21:59   #1
Earnest lad
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Where to get good close up views of Manx shearwater

Please can anyone advise where I can photograph the Manx Shearwater with my bridge camera. Is there any boat trips where they get in close?
Or maybe there is some place on land with close fly pasts? I understand Scotland is the main place but also Wales
Thanks
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Old Monday 12th August 2019, 05:39   #2
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Close usually means a pelagic which is not guaranteed and can be pricey plus birders are normally going for much rarer species. As you say there is the breeding colony option but that has logistical issues. Visiting island reserves in Wales where they breed will be a no-no as you will have to book to stop overnite. These birds feed away from their burrows or ‘greens’ during daylight hours only returning under the cover of darkness in order to avoid predation. I spent several hours at one such colony many years ago whilst working on the Sea Eagle scheme on the Scottish isle of Rhum. The experience (along with Petrels) of the returning birds with them calling to the young was amazing but pictures would have consisted of silhouettes and that was either side of the longest day when it was only twighlight conditions from about 11-2.

The breeding season is over for this year so if you have the dosh i would suggest you seek out a pelagic off of the South West or better spend 3 or 4 days birding in Madeira and use the local seabird conservation group who go out regularly (about a £100 quid a pop) where you should see an excellent range of stuff. A friend went last year and had 4 spp of Shearwater including Manx and Little plus Skuas and Fea’s Petrel.

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Old Tuesday 13th August 2019, 01:10   #3
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Dear Laurie
Thank you for kindly providing this helpful advice. I thought about Rhum, but again it is not much fun just to see a sillhouette. One wants to see the defining features and hopefully take a picture. I read somewhere the ferry over to Rhum or other similar ferries to the Western Isles afford a good chance of seeing this species (which would be a lifer) at the right time of year. However I wonder if the views would be most likely distant. I am therefore thinking about your suggestion of going on a pelagic in the south west : Do the birds come near the boat? And on such a trip would there be good chances of other species such as storm petrels and rare shearwaters like the Great Shearwater and the Little Shearwater?
Other birds I have yet to catch up with are Arctic Skua, Pomarine Skua, Sooty Shearwater, Long tailed Skua, Leaches Petrel, and Great Skua. However I have heard that some of the skua species pose considerable identification challenges especially if the views are distant.
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Old Tuesday 13th August 2019, 06:56   #4
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Rhum is pro-rata quite expensive for a species that you are more likely to encounter on the crossing as they feed in that area during the day. As i say the season is over now. Ferries can allow much closer views of these pelagic species than viewing from land watchpoints unless you are actually up around the colonies.

Visit Portland in the Spring for return passage of the species you mention, the views might be mid-distance but if you have a scope and there are more experienced birders about then you should see stuff. Alternately you can go to many of the Cornish watchpoints from mid-Aug onwards when there is a SW blow.

Pelagic trips are really the best option for views of a wide range of species and close up because they use fish offal to attract the Petrels and Shearwaters. There are a couple of operators that provide this service or you can take a day trip on the Scillonian from Penzance to St Marys spend a few hours on the island possibly picking up local stuff and/or a rarity then make the return. That would give you 6 hours or so on the boat looking for stuff and is easily the cheapest option - what you see depends on the weather and your knowledge but in the past i have had all 4 Skuas, both small Petrels and Manx n Sooty Shearwater. If you have the dosh, ca£250 for single room, you can book with ORCA who organise a top deck viewing and guides for seabirds and whales. They travel Portsmouth > Santander which takes 25+ hours each way with an evening in the latter where you can go onshore for tapas n beer. The price includes an overnight berth, passage both ways and the services of the guides and the list of both birds and particularly Cetacea plus larger fish species can be extensive.

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Old Tuesday 13th August 2019, 07:40   #5
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Dale Sailing, who operate the boat trips to Skomer, run an evening "Seabird Spectacular" trip through most of the season though it is too late for this year now.

Manx Shearwaters gather in very large flocks around Skomer waiting to go ashore after dark. Sightings aren't guaranteed as the birds sometimes stay away, for example on very bright moonlit nights, but most evenings there are large flocks to be seen on the water. You will need a nice clear evening though to get photos with a bridge camera. Unfortunately on my visit this year it was overcast and drizzly, the birds weren't being overly co-operative, and I only managed to get a few usable photos with my DSLR by shooting at very high ISO.

http://www.pembrokeshire-islands.co....d-spectacular/
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Last edited by andreadawn : Tuesday 13th August 2019 at 07:51. Reason: Added link and a couple of pics
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Old Tuesday 13th August 2019, 08:13   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Earnest lad View Post
Other birds I have yet to catch up with are Arctic Skua, Pomarine Skua, Sooty Shearwater, Long tailed Skua, Leaches Petrel, and Great Skua.
Handa Island in the far north west of Scotland is good for very close views of Great and Arctic Skua (both breed) although numbers of Arctic are declining rapidly. Great Skua is also fairly easy to find around the north end of Skye. There are usually a few lurking about around the headland of Rubha Hunish where you might also see passing Manx Shearwater (at the right time of year of course).
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Old Tuesday 13th August 2019, 08:19   #7
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I'd suggest the Oban to Tiree ferry should produce close views, at least through the summer. Rhum birds will be at sea in that area. From the land, large numbers tend to pass close in shore to Rubha na Faing headland in southwest Islay (overlooking Frenchman's Rocks). Early morning with a westerly wind is best. This time of year should still be good for them, although numbers will probably be lower by next month.
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Old Thursday 15th August 2019, 17:00   #8
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We saw hundreds of Manx Shearwaters in May this year, when we took the ferry from Oban to Barra. It was a very calm day, so there were large flocks sitting on the water.
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Old Friday 16th August 2019, 10:54   #9
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Any west coast crossing at this time of year (that goes through open water...) will have manxies available. Can't guarantee good views, but you'll see them...
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Old Friday 23rd August 2019, 15:41   #10
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If you're in Tobermory get yourself on a Sea Life Surveys Whalewatching cruise. We saw hundreds of Manxies when we did it at Eater. If I remember right, a 4hr trip was £60 pp
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Old Sunday 25th August 2019, 21:09   #11
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Thank you everyone for those very helpful replies. There's a lot of useful information there. The Oban -Tiree ferry sounds good, but I like the idea of the Whale watching trip from Tobermory.
andreadawn: those pics of the Manxies are very good!
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