The missing Manx!

When you attempt all-year seawatching, like I try to (mostly on your own in winter!), it becomes a challenge to see a particular species in as many months of the year as possible. For our summer visitors this becomes extremely hard, verging on impossible for some. Never the less, an out of season sighting I class as a rarity. Such an event happened recently on 18/01/19, when at Berry Head to my surprise a Manx Shearwater sailed past. I've seen them in Cornwall in January, but to get one for Devon was pretty special, the missing month now filled and the year full-set completed. Manx is not easy to see off Devon December–February.
This prompted me to pump out some data and see which months I'm missing for other tubenoses and skuas.


J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D
Fulmar
Y
8
12
9
7
7
19
22
21
25
19
7
Cory's Shearwater






10
12
5
1
1

Great Shearwater






9
29
12



Sooty Shearwater
3
1

1
3
9
26
78
70
46
13
3
Manx Shearwater












Balearic Shearwater












European Storm-petrel
4


5
35
29
61
62
27
25
2

Leach's Storm-petrel








2
4
2
2
Great Skua












Pomarine Skua












Arctic Skua












Long-tailed Skua














Not surprising Fulmar can be seen in every month, the hardest month can be October, when sightings become very scarce due to birds going out to sea to moult. Strangely in 2018 we were seeing more in October than usual!

Of the two large shearwaters, perhaps its a surprise I've seen Cory's in two more months than Great (October & November), but both were just single birds. In 2018 I missed an October Great at Berry Head by five minutes - so that's one for me to go for. I have seen October Greats in Cornwall though so I'm sure it will happen in Devon for me. Also sooner or later a June Great or Cory's will sail by. I've never seen April–May birds and don't expect to either. Some have been claimed in Devon though!

There is just one month missing for Sooty Shearwater and that's March, I think it will happen with the right weather system.

Balearic Shearwater is possible to see year-round; during December–April they can be pretty scarce, especially April. In 2008 I managed a Balearic in every month from Berry Head, but I doubt that will ever happen again. In recent winters there seem less sightings off Devon than a few years ago.

European Storm-petrel, is a classic British summer breeder, so I'm missing February–March and December. The January records were surprising (see here on the background of this unusual event), but filling those other missing months is a tall order. While Leach's Storm-petrel typically is late autumn-winter bird for us; as I see very few off Devon, filling the missing months January–August is highly unlikely.

On to the skuas. I've seen both Great and Pomarine Skua every month of the year off Devon. Arctic Skua I'm just missing a February bird. Possible but looking less likely these days, given the downturn in numbers. Arctic is extremely rare in the winter and the January bird(s), occurred in the same event as the European SPs above. While Long-tailed Skua is generally an autumn bird for us. In theory of the months I'm missing, May–June at least are possible, but it's not happened for me yet. Mid-May of course being when the peak passage of breeding adults is heading north far out to sea to our west. I've been lucky to witness this off North Uist a few times, but just one in Devon in May would be nice! The April record was a bizarre one - the well-watched winter plumaged adult that took up residence in a ploughed field at Wembury.

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