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Wintering Seabirds Outing

21 January 2019

Our first outing of the year took place on Saturday 19th January at Harding's Observation Post, Europa Point.

Despite the forecast, the rain held off for the most part but the dark clouds and offshore breeze were not conducive to a great afternoon's birding.

The outing was poorly attended, with a handful of observers making the best of it. The sewage outlet below the lighthouse had attracted nearly 200 Black-headed Gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus), with many resting on the cliff above, among the clumps of Gibraltar Sea Lavender. 



Black-headed Gull in winter plumage.                                                         Photo:  R. Risso.


Great Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) were seen fishing right in the muck, with the gulls pattering the surface, searching for food. In the clearer water further away from shore, Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus) dived for fish. Most were adults but several immature and juvenile birds reproduced the field guide's range of age plumages for us.

Adult Gannet.                                                                                                           Photo:  R. Risso.

Further offshore we were able to spot three small flocks of endangered Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus), flying towards the West. 

Balearic Shearwater.                                                                                                Photo:  T. Finlayson. 


An unusual but most welcome sighting were 10 Common House Martins (Delichon urbicum) arriving from having crossed the Strait, the first migrants of this year's northward passage.

An adult and first-winter Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus) were also seen. It also a delight to see several passes by local Mediterranean Shags (Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii), two of which were immature birds. It was reassuring to witness evidence of recent, successful breeding of this marine species.


Our next outing will be further afield, to La Janda in Cadiz, Spain on the 16th February.