Poor old Gilbert is getting restless. Despite the fact that there is more interest in wildlife than ever before, it seems that most of the so-called conservation organisations are losing interest in species. Instead they prefer to babble on about landscape scale conservation and ecosystem services (whatever they are). Could this be because most of their staff don't have any knowledge about species if they don't have four legs?
This is my attempt to encourage an interest in good old-fashioned natural history.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Brunnich's eaten by shark shock

I was wondering what to do today. Didn't fancy sitting at the microscope all day when the weather was fairly decent but nothing else particularly appealed and I was just mulling about what to do when I heard that there was a Brünnich's Guillemot in Portland Harbour. There's unlikely to ever be one closer and there was even a lift coming virtually past my door so it would be rude not to go.

I always thought that if I ever saw a Brünnich's in Britain it would be a speck on the horizon, constantly disappearing behind waves and it would be a struggle to convince myself that I could see the relevant features, so it was a pleasant surprise to say the least that it was floating around a mill pond-like marina at a range of about 100 metres. This meant that even with my cheap little camera I could get passable photo's.

After spending about an hour around the same small area, it started to drift towards us. As it came round the front of the quay we moved round the corner expecting it to emerge right in front of us but it didn't appear. After a couple of minutes people started to look back where it had been, then all around the area. No sign. Now this was clearly an extreme version of the 'Why does the watched diver always drown?' conundrum but after giving the matter due consideration, I came to the only obvious conclusion; that it had been eaten by a shark.

Now some might say that my theory was disproven by the discovery of a Brünnich's about half a mile away towards Portland Castle shortly afterwards but this is clearly a second bird. I'm just rather gutted not to have added Great White to my pan-species list today.

Further highlights today were my first Black Guillemot for many years, also in Portland Harbour, and a ridiculously situated Glossy Ibis on a football pitch just north of Weymouth.


  1. Did the Glossy Ibis keep glancing nervously at the sky, if so it was probably the bird I saw almost getting added to the gene pool by a peregrine a while back. It looks remarkably like the bird I saw :-)

    1. Didn't notice it doing that Bill but we only had a short view of it before it was flushed by a dog walker. I'd forgotten about your sighting, I doubt anyone will ever have such a strange experience of a Glossy Ibis again.