9th July

Another blustery, grey start saw the onslaught of twitchers continue as the Yelkouan/Menorcan Shearwater lingered another day within the swirling flocks of gulls and Balearic Shearwaters. The feeding frenzy off the Bill was also harbouring up to 17 Manx Shearwaters and three Yellow-legged Gulls; whilst two Great Skuas and a lone Arctic Skua passed through. A good addition to the day list - seemingly overlooked by the watchers of the flock - was a passing group of seven Ruddy Shelducks heading west around the Bill tip.

The seven Ruddy Shelduck made a brief appearance whilst everyone else was too distracted by the shearwater © Mike Trew:

We gather that confusion reigned again today at the Bill tip, with reports of two or even three Yelkouan/Menorcan Shearwaters offshore. Our angle on all this is that we ourselves have only ever managed to see one individual - seemingly always the same one both yesterday morning and evening, and again this evening - and we haven't yet seen a photograph/video from either day that conclusively depicts anything other than this one bird. The bird photographed two days ago by Pete Saunders that begun this whole process does indeed appear to show plumage features at variance to what's been seen since but the state of moult of the 'two' birds looks to be very similar and, being notoriously conservative, we remain to be wholly convinced that there isn't some trick of the light at play. We might have got this all wrong but that remains our take on matters. Unfortunately, the waters in this affair are being constantly muddied by the pronouncements of less than well informed 'Wolverhampton seawatchers'; take for example the matter of moult in Manx Shearwaters: we were astonished to yesterday see images from the Bill of what looked to be a typical Manx in extensive wing moult; this has been followed up by social media claims that quite a few of the Manx present are in moult which is patently not the case. We ourselves have never seen a Manx in wing moult in summer and on checking the facts with Richard and Giselle on Skokholm who know an awful lot more about Manx than nearly anyone else in Britain discovered that neither had they - for there to be one moulting Manx off the Bill in July is a vanishingly rare event, there certainly aren't quite a few of them in moult and if you think you're seeing that then you're mistaken. ID-wise, we're not overly bothered what it is: as far as we can see all the features are compatible with Yelkouan/'Menorcan' Shearwater but since we're not aware of any way that these two forms can be conclusively separated on the sort of views we're getting here then we can't really see how things can be progressed - maybe someone else knows differently? For anyone who hasn't seen it and wants to know how to spot it these photos and video from this evening might help. Overall, it's far more like a Manx than a Balearic and looks very clean-cut/contrasty (oddly like a mini-Great Shearwater when it's bobbing about on the water) compared to the scruffy Balearics - beware, though, several of the Balearics are really pale and particularly in flight can really catch you out!...

....Here's a Manx from this evening for comparison all photos/video © Martin Cade: