Thursday 22 July 2021

Kayaking amidst Mediterranean Gulls, Sandwich Terns & speedboats on the Camel estuary. 20th July 2021.

Adult Med Gull first ringed as an adult in 2017 in Antwerp, Belgium.

As Cornwall swelters in an unusual heatwave the only place I could feel comfortable was out on the water in my kayak. 

Getting a parking space at Rock was my first hurdle to overcome and it was a case of driving around in circles until any red & sunburnt tourist had decided they'd had enough sun for one day!

As there had been several sightings of Risso's dolphins at the mouth of the estuary I thought I'd try paddling out that way to have a look around. I've been kayaking quite a long time but still haven't the strength or confidence to go out to sea. I paddled along past Rock and Daymer Bay until I met the Doom bar, a notorious sand bar at the mouth of the estuary which, as it's name suggests, has caught out many a mariner over the centuries.

I couldn't spot any dolphins although did have good views of Compass jellyfish & also Purple jellies.

A very poor pic of a Compass jellyfish taken with my phone through my polarising sunglasses!

Purple Jellyfish washing up on the shore.

It was unbelievably calm and the water looked so inviting but there were dozens of speedboats out there with crazed people shouting & screaming in excitement as I did my best to keep a good line on the kayak to avoid being tipped out. The final straw for me was when one of the boats made a bee-line for me and just veered off before "taking me out"!

Selfie time!

Daymer Bay


Rock beach & dunes.

That was enough so I headed back to the area around Porthilly in search of some birds to photograph.

Being high tide I guessed that the oyster floats would be supporting a few good birds and I wasn't disappointed as they were covered in over one hundred Med Gulls along with a few Herring & Black headed gulls. Sandwich terns also held territories at the rear of the floats.

My tactics for photographing from the kayak are to slowly drift up to the floats with my paddles low in the water until I can get a good angle on the birds. I'm using my old Nikon D300 with a 70-300mm lens. Not the best optically but cameras & salt water don't work too well together so it's a balancing act of how much expensive kit to risk for the photos.

Mediterranean Gull

Mediterranean Gull

Mediterranean Gull

Mediterranean Gulls

Mediterranean Gull 

Mostly Mediterranean Gulls. 

 There were quite a few birds with colour rings or metal rings and I'm aware of a few international projects so I tried to get a few images where the rings could be read. I sent a load of pics off to Mark Grantham of the West Cornwall Ringing Group and by the next day have had some interesting results with 4 of the birds being ringed in Antwerp, Belgium & 1 in Vendée, Pays de la Loire, France.

A few of the Med Gulls with rings


Alongside the gulls were about 10 Sandwich Terns coming & going from the floats, their constant chittering call highlighting their presence. Some had this seasons juveniles close to them and a couple were ringed with metal rings so very difficult to read from the photos.

Juv Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern 

Sandwich Terns 

This juvenile Shag also liked to haul out on the floats.



All in all a super afternoon and a yet again aching arms & shoulders but we have to suffer for our art!


Jasmina said...

What an interesting report - kayaking certainly opens a new avenue of views of birds on the camel… the doom bar can be a challenge though….

Sas said...

Stunning photography and a beautifully written and interesting account of your experience :)