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Menopausal Mother Nature

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Tim Melling – Great Shearwater

Tim writes: Great Shearwater was my final one of the regularly occurring bird species that I managed to see in Britain (back in 1990).  Though it is very rare in Britain away from the Southwest, and even there it only occurs in late summer/early autumn after strong westerly gales. 

Most bird migration is generally in a north-south direction with northern breeding birds moving south for winter to escape the cold or lack of insects.  But only a handful of birds undertake the opposite migration from southern breeding grounds to the north.  Great Shearwater is one such species which breeds  in the austral summer (ie our winter) in places like Gough, Nightingale and Inaccessible Islands and Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic.  They search for fish and squid during the day and bring them back to their nesting burrows at night to avoid being mugged by gulls. 

Then after breeding they migrate to the North Atlantic where they are seen from late summer every year off the coasts of Britain, though rarely in large numbers.  I photographed these at sea east of the Falkland Islands.  I’m not really sure why but this is one of my favourite seabirds and I still get excited every time I see one.

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