Published: 19 February 2016
The British Ornithologists’ Records Committee (BOURC) is delighted to announce the addition of the 600th species to the British List.
Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan, breeds on islands and coastal cliffs in the Mediterranean Sea (primarily the east). Whilst the majority of the Yelkouan Shearwaters population moves east outside the breeding season to winter in the Black Sea, small numbers (presumably of the western most breeding birds) are known to move west and enter the North Atlantic to find food during the summer and autumn after breeding.
Yelkouan Shearwater seen off Berry Head National Nature Reserve, Devon, 29 July 2008
This individual, the first positively identified in British waters, was discovered by Mike Langman and Mark Darlaston while surveying for a similar species, Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus. Balearic Shearwaters also breed within the Mediterranean Sea, but as their name suggests breed primarily around the Balearic islands and western sea area) and move into the North Atlantic in summer. They are seen around the shores of the UK and Ireland every year, with largest numbers in the south-west of England and off southern Ireland. Thus the observation of this Yelkouan Shearwater accords with the known pattern of movement of a shearwater species with a similar range.
Yelkouan and Balearic shearwaters are very close in appearance, so it was fortunate that the observers had much experience of the two species, and both species were present on the day to allow direct comparison, photograph and confirm the identification.
Local experts Mike Langman and Mark Darlaston said 'We were delighted to hear the Yelkouan Shearwater seen at Berry Head National Nature Reserve, Devon on 29 July 2008 had finally been accepted as the first for Britain. What has made this even more special was the realisation it was the 600th species for the British list – a truly remarkable milestone and we’re sure neither of us will be here when 700th is added! The identification of the species is far from straightforward and we commend BOURC and BBRC for the thorough process the record went through before arriving at a final decision. We were lucky on the day to see the bird well at fairly close range for a prolonged period (in a seawatching context), in the company of a Balearic Shearwater off the headland. Undoubtedly the photographs we both managed to secure at the time helped the evaluation process together with some detailed observation notes made on the spot.
Torbay Coast and Countryside Ranger Noel Hughes, who is based at Berry Head NNR said ''This is such great news not just for Berry Head NNR, and the many birders that come here, but also testament to the rich diversity of wildlife that use Torbay and Lyme Bay. Whether it be the many varieties of seabird and cetacean, or rarities such as the long-snouted seahorse, basking shark or sunfish now the Yelkouan shearwater can be added to the list. We are truly lucky to have such natural bounty on our doorstep. It also supports the decision in 2013 to announce Torbay as one of the country’s first Marine Conservation Zones, giving protection to a range of nationally important marine wildlife, habitats, geology and geomorphology that are found here in Torbay.'