Sunday, May 18, 2008

Pelagic Birding Trip

The day finally arrived. The trip was planned many months ago and seemed like it was so far away. Today we would depart from the marina at 3 AM and head 100 miles out across the Gulf Stream in search of pelagic birds. This would be my first Pelagic trip.

Much like air travel, I couldn't sleep as we headed out into the darkness. Too much to look at even in the pre-dawn hours. Shore lights. Boat lights. Lighthouses.

After the sun came up, and we were about 30 miles out, we had our first bird of the day. An Eurasian Collared-Dove. Odd. Occasionally, a small flock of warblers would pass by the boat. Once the waters began to get a bit more choppy the show was about to begin.

Our first sighting was a Bridled Tern but it was too far out to get any photos. Soon afterward the call came out for a more elusive bird. A Black-capped Petrel.

Black-capped Petrel

The arcing flight of these birds was spectacular to behold.

It wasn't too long after that when a Wilson's Storm Petrel made its way into view. We spotted many of these birds during the day and several followed behind the boat picking up pieces of chum laid out by the boat crew.

Wilson's Storm Petrel

We eventually made it out to the eastern side of the Gulf Stream and the water turned a brilliant cobalt blue. Off in the distance we could all make out a flock of birds diving over a school of tuna. This is what we had been hoping to find. Among these birds were many Sooty Terns.

Sooty Tern

Joining the Terns were a few Audubon's Shearwaters.

Audubon's Shearwater

During the trip we actually had a few weary warblers use the boat as a resting spot. This Common Yellowthroat would rest on the boat awhile, take off and circle the ship, then land in a different part of the boat. We were on near constant watch to make sure no one stepped on her as she searched the deck for crumbs.

Common Yellowthroat

When the waves got higher we had to hold on tight. I know I left the deck a few times as we rolled over the largest of the waves. Looks like I wasn't the only one!

American Redstart

The trip was called a little short as the captain thought the seas might be too rough for the long haul back but we did have some other exciting finds such as a Loggerhead Sea Turtle, a couple of Marlin fins, Spotted Dolphins, and a pod of Short-finned Pilot Whales which surfaced right next to us.

Pilot Whale

We arrived back at the dock again in the dark. 19 hours at sea. Would I do it again? Sure. Tomorrow? Nope. Maybe next year.

1 comment:

Gallicissa said...

I enjoyed seeing the pics of the weary Warblers resting in the boat. I experienced broken links for your Wilson’s Storm Petral, Sooty Tern and Pilot Whale