177 – Arctic Skua
Another new birding adventure for Helen and me today – The RSPB Skua and Shearwater Birding Cruise on the Yorkshire Belle from Bridlington Harbour.
The cruise runs in September each year to coincide with the Autumn migration. Leaving the harbour at 9am, the cruise lasts around three and a half hours and is always heavily-booked.
This was our fourth attempt to get on the cruise; our previous attempts had been thwarted by bad weather causing the event to be cancelled. On one previous occasion we’d even booked-into a Bridlington B&B and stayed overnight only for the trip to be cancelled on us.
Consequently, this time we decided to get up early and drive straight to Bridlington from home. It was something of a shock getting up at 5.45am, but we managed it like a military operation and were on the road by 6am. The drive to Bridlington from Sheffield is about two hours and were comfortably there for about 8am. A large number of keen-looking birders assembled around us on the harbour and we set-off promptly at 9am as scheduled.
I mentioned previously that the weather plays a major role in the success of this cruise. Helen and I had been watching the (near) constantly-changing forecasts for today over the last few days. Most forecasts had predicted heavy rain. Well, it was certainly a grey, non-descript sky above us, but thankfully the rain managed to hold-off whilst we were at sea. Phew! No repeat of our drenching enroute to the aborted Staple Island landing we experienced a few weeks ago!
No, the problem today wasn’t the weather, but rather the distinct lack of seabirds! For what was billed as a Skua & Shearwater Cruise, we saw only one very distant Arctic Skua as we were returning to harbour (early because of some undisclosed on-board medical emergency!). Otherwise, we saw more juvenile Herring Gulls than anyone would every want to see in an entire lifetime(!), some Gannets, a couple of Guillemots and some Cormorants. Only the Herring Gulls came close to the boat, in response to ‘chum’ being thrown off the back of the boat.
What a shame! Obviously it’s no-one’s fault, as the presence (or lack thereof) of any birds is clearly beyong anyone’s control, but this episode serves to illustrate what Birding can be like – totally unpredictable; sometimes very exciting and sometimes a bit disappointing. When all’s said and done, however, Helen and I still had an adventure of sorts. We enjoyed our day out and being at sea on the boat was very enjoyable.
Would we go on this trip again despite today’s lack of birds? Absolutely yes!