A full day on the open sea in September, that looked good. Together with Thijs Fijen, Pieter and Maartje we booked the trip that began on Thursday evening September 5. The ship "De Dageraad" sailed at night to the place of destination , the Botney Cut located on the Continental Shelf about 50 miles west of the Wadden Islands . The tour lasts until Saturday morning 6am so you're a full day at sea to spot seabirds. The trip is organized by Pterodroma Adventures and is appropriately called "The Botney Cut Experience".
Thursday at the end of the afternoon I pick up Thijs, Pieter and Maartje and together we drive to the port at Lauwersoog where the boat lies. In the harbour we eat a fish before we get on board De Dageraad at half past five. We leave with good weather and the first birds are noted as Black Tern, Little Tern, Common Tern, Common Scoter, Eider and of course the usual Gull species. Also there are remarkable numbers of Small Tortoiseshells flying. We are witnessing a beautiful sunset and a beer to go with it. With the coming of complete darkness we move to the bar where we continue for a few hours.
The next morning I wake up a bit stuffy but after the fried eggs and coffee I recover quickly. The sun is on the rise and it seems it's going to be a beautiful day. Once on deck the first Northern Fulmars are being observed. Also Northern Gannets fly in reasonable numbers and occasionally a group of Common Mures is seen. After an hour we sail into a fog bank that we think would solve quickly. However, this appears to be wishful thinking because for the rest of the day the sun is seen little, yet the visibility was getting better.
The first Arctic Skua is observed and the bird chases the Kittiwakes, it is a light morph. The chumming is now fully on and this provides a nice number of Fulmars that linger around the boat, Thijs is able to make a sound recording. The first songbird is seen in open sea and it is a Northern Wheatear. The bird circles the boat but flies steadily on. Around 7 o'clock the first Sooty Shearwater (this is a new year specie for me) of the trip is observed, unfortunately too far for a photo opportunity but that would change.
Call Northern Fulmar (Copyright Thijs Fijen)
Around half 9 there are three Dunlins observed and the first Sooty Shearwater is put neatly on the picture. We see a few light morph Artic Skuas and around 11 am the first Great Skua is observed. This is also a new year specie for me and with this one the 300 species is reached again this year! Around noon a small songbird flies in and lands in the branches that are put down on the ship for this purpose. The bird goes down between the leaves but it's clearly to see that this is a Willow Warbler. A crying Common Mure is recorded by Thijs.
Call Common Murre (Copyright Thijs Fijen)
The first Little Gull is seen and the second songbird makes use of the branches, a Meadow Pipit. A single Common Snipe flies by and a second Northern Wheatear is seen, also this Wheatear flies by and does not use the boat for a short rest. The Willow Warbler is soon joined by a second Willow Warbler, still amazing to see these little birds so far out at sea. Among the many Fulmars a dark morph is found and the bird is put nicely on the picture.
At half past 3 a small Skua passes not too far away from the boat. Quickly, the right features for a juvenile Long-tailed Jaeger are observed. The bird remains around the boat and there are some nice photo's made. As it becomes later in the afternoon the numbers of Artic Skuas increase, and also a few Great Skuas are seen. From the cabin is called that the dinner is ready, endive stew with a piece of meat. Not my favorite meal but the sea air made my hunger great enough to enjoy it. After dinner we remain on deck until dark and after have a few beers in the bar. We do not make it late this time.
At half past five in the morning we wake up and the boat just enters the harbour of Lauwersoog. The stuff is gathered together and we have breakfast on board before we say goodbye to the crew. I highly enjoyed myself and it's definitely worth repeating. For a complete overview of the species of journey.