Pelagic Outing May 2012

Meeting at 6:00 am at One Degree North yacht club on Sentosa, we began a self funded outing to check out the spring migration.

Our trip in May 2011 proved to be the high count of migrating Swinhoe’s Storm Petrels, and we saw our first Short-tailed Shearwaters.  Little did we know we would get a repeat performance this year!  The day started out with an overcast sky which gradually improved to bright and sunny by mid day.  We had the usual 40 minute wait for ICA clearance and finally got underway by about 7:30 am.  First birds seen were several Lesser Crested Terns and roosting Black Naped Terns at the BB Buoy.  Then around 8:10 am we came across a pod of about five Indo-pacific Bottlenose Dolphins.  This was in approximately the same spot as we had seen a mixed pod in November 2011. One individual had rather unusual markings on it’s fin.

We stayed with the dolphins for about 20 minutes trying to improve our count.  Coincidentally while we were watching the dolphins a tug steamed past bearing the name Indiana Dolphin 🙂

We saw our first Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel just before 9:00 am, the first sightings were just a handful.  By 9:40 am we had reached our favorite Cable Buoy which was loaded with about 24 Lesser Crested Terns.

They took flight on cue, but failed to concur up a lurking skua as we have had happen on two or three prior occasions.  At 10 am we were treated to four Short-tailed Shearwaters, but far enough in the distance that I couldn’t get any useful photos, but we did get good looks with bins.  The shearwaters breed in Austalia and some disperse after breeding to the west coast of Malaysia, but around this time of year instinct directs them to make their way to their North Pacific summer feeding grounds and so they pass through the Straits of Singapore heading East.

Travelling further out in the Straits and crossing the Southern tip of Johor it became birdless, so around 12:30 pm we turned around and headed back.  This was to be the start of many sightings of Swinhoe’s Storm Petrels.  We kept seeing ones and twos and then even up to a dozen or so crossing our bow on the left or right as they are headed East.  They will be heading to their breeding grounds on offshore islands in Korea and Japan from their wintering grounds in the Indian Ocean.  Many or most of them will use the Straits of Malacca and the Straits of Singapore to make the passage.  If they have other routes, it is not known.  It looks like they were in a hurry, none stopped to feed on the water, and most were a bit far from the boat but here is one that came close enough to make out some detail.  We had petrel sightings almost the entire trip back to port, winding up with a tally of nearly a hundred!

We also came across a hapless crab who chose the wrong bit of flotsam to stand out and was swept out to sea on the rising tide!

Besides birds, the straits is always interesting to watch ships.  Such a variety!  Here’s a local fishing boat.

And a modern stealth warship.  Note this is not a Singapore boat, this is the Republic of Korea stealth destroyer DDH 978 Wang Geon.

And a United Kingdom flagged triple masted yacht!

Here is our route, the dophins really were close to our November sighting!

Towards the end of our journey we got some distance sightings of Bridled Terns and also a few Little Terns.  Back on the dock around 2:30 pm, we were tired and sun burnt but happy to have seen so many birds on this outing.



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One Response to “Pelagic Outing May 2012”

  1. John Holmes says:

    Saw a link to this on Dave Bakewell’s blog….. it’s really exciting to see the Swinhoe’s Storm Petrels !

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