Tuesday 9 June 2020

19 Fork-tailed Petrels

My birding this spring netted to Japan ticks, each from a different ferry. I've already posted on the Aleutian Terns from the Tsushima to Kyushu ferry, these Fork-tails were from the Tomakomai - Hachinohe route.

The downhill run (May 22) was amazing, pretty much non-stop birds from top to bottom. The uphill, next day, was much harder work partly because there were fewer birds (not species) involved, longer lulls between bouts of action and much colder conditions. At least that was our feeling but surprisingly some stats don't back that impression up such as albatross numbers:-

                                                 downhill                             uphill
Laysan                                          93                                     103
Black-footed                                24                                       33
Short-tailed                                   0                                         2

Perhaps it was more the cold and damp that coloured our impression to be honest, but though the uphill run was murkier without ever being very foggy, the biggest difference was the ship itself. I don't remember the names of the ships but presumably the morning sailings will always be the same vessels. On the downhill run there was sufficient hot air being pumped out of the ship somewhere in our vacinity (starboard, as far towards the pointy end as possible) to create a pleasant micro-climate that we didn't fully appreciate untill the following day.

Fork-tailed Petrel was a one-day species, 18 birds were seen in Hokkaido waters and one passing the Tsugaru Strait. Their total absence the following day amply illustrates no two days in teh same waters are alike. The Petrels no doubt also strongly affected my view on the two sailings. Most Petrels were rather distant, small grey birds dipping behind similarly grey waves were sometimes difficult to pick up and definitely difficult to photograph. Unfortunately I needed to change camera battery just as the closest party of Petrels appeared so I missed the best opportunity. Many of the following images are heavily cropped to show any detail.

Five Fork-tailed Petrels; small grey, black and white birds weaving through similarly coloured waters.

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