By Paul Read
AT APPROX 14:05 ON NOVEMBER 10, 2001 during my normal afternoon seawatch, a wartime mine trawled up a few days earlier was detonated by a bomb disposal team about two kilometres off the beach and directly in front of my house at Kessingland. I watched the whole process through my scope, all very exciting!!!
Immediately after the explosion it occurred to me that there were going to be a lot of dead, or at the very least dazed, fish in the vicinity; and I wondered how long it would take for the local gulls to cotton on to this? The answer: two minutes. Within five minutes 80-100 assorted gulls were squabbling over this unexpected bonanza, the whole circus was slowly drifting south on the flood tide. As I scanned left and right in my constant search for something special I would pick up this group repeatedly, still haggling over the proceeds. At about 14:15 as I scanned passed the group to the south, there it was, something special!
The bird appeared from the south-east. Large sweeping arcs interspersed with two or three languid wing flaps that at first gave the impression of an oversize, bland and very laid back Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis. Within a few seconds I realised that I was watching a Cory's Shearwater. The overall impression was clearly shearwater like but considerably larger than the Manx Puffinus puffinus, Sooty P.griseus, or the one Balearic Shearwater P. mauretanicus that I had previously seen. The bird was bulky, with quite broad bowed wings showing relatively blunt tips. In addition the wing flaps were far less precise or defined than those observed in the smaller shearwaters mentioned above. The whole demeanor was powerful but at the same time totally relaxed. Upperparts were rather featureless grey/brown; (this included the head). The only prominent features being noticeably darker primary areas and a slightly darker tail. The underside was white with the wings edged dark grey. It cruised slowly towards the melee of gulls, then meandered around the whole area twice. During these circuits the height of the arcing glides appeared to increase, as if the bird was attempting to take in as much of the view as possible. As it reached the northern end of its second circuit it peeled off to the north east and continued in that direction, passing outside the' East Barnard' buoy (approximately 2.85 kilometres from my vantage point).
Just beyond the buoy it was passed by an immature (2nd. calender year) Gannet Morus bassanus, flying south. This meeting gave an excellent comparison of size and shape. The Cory's was clearly much smaller and although the head and neck were heavily built they did not show the projection of the Gannet. I followed the bird's flight north-east until it disappeared from view. I estimate that the whole encounter took three and a half to four minutes.
During the watch the wind was S. W. force 3. The visibility: Good .
Observed through Leica APO-TELEVID 77 with 20x WW eyepiece.
Editors note: It seems that large quantities of explosives would make an excellent supplement to the standard chum, and it doesn't smell as bad either. Sadly though it appears to be illegal, unless that is you can find any more wartime ordnance in need of disposal.