Immature Gannet off Deep Point
I'm not going to make any excuses here, I made a complete balls up on a GANNET! I don't care what age it was or what it looked like, it was a Gannet!
With the wind blowing F5-6, SW, Robin and I decided to go and do a brief seawatch off Deep Point this afternoon. After twenty minutes Robin got onto a Balearic Shearwater flying west. I could not get on to it and gave up and tried to search for a strange looking Gannet sat on the water that I had only just found before Robin shouted about the shearwater. Just as I relocated the Gannet, the Baleric flew past and that's when Robin also spotted the Gannet. I said to Robin that there something not right about this bird? It was uniform brown, similar in color to a Sooty Shearwater. I couldn't make out what it was and turned my attention to maybe being a booby sp?! The bird had been there for over ten minutes now and was drifting east further away. I left Robin on it and ran towards Normandy so I could get reception and call everyone, even if it does turn out to be a Gannet. I would rather that everyone was up here looking at it.
Five of us were watching it sat on the water about a mile out and now at twelve o clock, still continuing to drift east. As we were out of sight below, sheltering in the rocks, I was up and down like a yo-yo so I could greet everyone to let them know where to go. Everyone present was happy that it looked very good for a booby, but which one? I've never seen one and it didn't help not carrying a book with me, so I had no idea where to start. Martin was looking through Robin's scope when he shouted it's flying towards us. He moved sharply out of the way and like Joe, was ready with the camera. Looking through the scope, I could clearly see a white lower breast and belly which was sharply demarcated from the brown upper breast. The white axillaries extended into the underwing and the bill looked blue-grey. In all the excitement I still thought about the other guys yet to arrive and raced up to top to find Mick and Big Al wondering around like lost sheep. In the wind I shouted it's flying past and pointed in the direction of the sea. Mmm. They both got onto it and Big Al shouted, 'It's a BROWN BOOBY!! I ran down the hill again and put the news out. On the way down, Ritchie was driving up with Higgo and Ren. When I returned, they only saw it distantly flying away west towards Giants Castle.
We all couldn't wait to see the photos that were taken, however, when Joe showed the shots that he had taken, he quickly pointed out the white horse shoe shape at the base of the tail. Except for Robin, we didn't see that in the field, nor did we see that the white did not extend as far as we thought. I knew that immature Gannets showed these features, but I was still not convinced, thinking that maybe Brown Bobby show it too. A few of us went back to my place to look it up, although Mick wasn't happy now that it was a booby with that white on the base of the tail . We couldn't find anything that showed the latter feature on any of the boobies and when the photos were emailed to me, it was looking obvious that I messed it up and it was just a Gannet! Also I didn't know the boobies were smaller than Gannets.
Even though I was 100% sure that it was a species of booby, this has been a big lesson for me and in future I'll be a extra careful in what I see. If Joe and Martin didn't get the photos of this Gannet, then would everyone that saw it gone home happy after seeing the bird? Well no, because Ritchie, Ren and Higgo got it off Giants Castle and identified it as a immature Gannet.
Note the white horse shoe shape at the base of the tail and the pale markings on the primaries. Features that we could not see in the field.
Here you can see just a pale patch on the underwing. On this side view, you can still see the white at the base of the tail. The weather and light can certainly play tricks.
I think I will go and throw my bins out to sea to join the Gannets and take up taking photos of Lord Sugar instead