Things that go SKRAWK in the night

At this time of year in La Palma, you might hear rather unnerving Howie-howie-SKRAWK! noises in the night, something between a furious tom cat and a duck. You’re particularly likely to hear it near the sea.

The first time I heard it, I wasn’t exactly scared, but I was rather glad that I was inside a solid house and the whatever-it-was clearly outside. I’m sure I’d have felt decidedly uncomfortable about it if I’d been camping, especially in the dead of night. In fact, I’ve heard of people thinking it was the witches or the devil.

There’s an audio recording here. See what you think yourself. Now imagine that it’s dark and you’re half asleep.

Actually it’s just Calonectris diomedea borealis a nocturnal seagull called Cory’s Shearwater, or in Spanish a Pardela Cenicienta. Or you might have your romantic, sea-side stroll inturupted by a Manx shearwater, (Puffinus puffinus) which sounds like this. Again, it’s fine as long as you know what it is, and unsettling if you don’t.

Posted by sheila

Sheila came to La Palma with a six month contract and has stayed 24 years so far. She used to work as a software engineer at the observatory, but now she's a writer and Starlight guide.

This article has 2 Comments

  1. First time I heard Manx shearwaters was on the Island of Eigg – at midnight when it was pitch dark – with only a sheet of canvas between me and all the terrible fiends screaming around me. The kids slept through it!

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