On Friday and Saturday, I enjoyed, for the first time, pelagic trips without pain. After many touch and go trips, I finally got "the patch" and had two great pelagic trips without any queasiness. A miracle!
Friday the winds were up and the seas a bit choppy as we headed out to the deep water. We had Wilson's and Band-rumped Storm-Petrels following our boat for most of the day, and I managed to see one Leach's Storm-Petrel come in.
Shearwaters were few and far between, and we only had Cory's and Audubon's.
Gadfly petrels were seen off and on, but almost always at a great distance. We only positively identified Black-capped Petrels. None of the more uncommon or rare ones.
Saturday was a completely different day. Skies were more sunny, less wind, and the seas were smooth. Too smooth, and probably too calm, as we had a tough time finding Gadfly petrels and other birds that use the wind to get around out there. Most birds we found were on the water.
When we hit the Sargasso weed patches, we had tons of birds. Mostly Audubon's Shearwaters and Wilson's Storm-Petrels. Far fewer Band-rumps. And only a small handfull of Black-capped Petrels. But we did get Bridled Tern, Parasitic Jaeger, and Greater Shearwater.
But the stars of Saturday were the whales and dolphins. We had a total of 14 sperm whales! Several very close to the boat. We also had a pod of pilot wales. We had several groups of offshore bottlenosed dolphins. And at one point we had a large group of Atlantic spotted dolphins jumping completely out of the water. On the way back in we were surrounded by maybe 500 common dolphins leaping together and streaming past the boat. Amazing. Its another world out there!
Other highlights included Portuguese Man-of-War, Loggerhead sea turtles, blue marlins, yellow-finned tuna, and mahi-mahi. And of course thousands of flying fish!
Low points were quick or distant looks at birds which may have been good rarities--but not confirmed by other members of the trip (British Storm-Petrel, Bahama Petrel, and Fea's Petrel). Note to potential pelagic birders: you will see more birds if you continuously scan the ocean with your binoculars. If you wait for someone to point birds out to you, you will miss a whole lot. For a good part of both trips most participants were just standing there, I suppose waiting for birds to come in close. I think I probably saw hundreds of birds more than many of the other participants, mostly by scanning continuously.
Again, thanks to the patch! This would have been unthinkable on my previous trips.
So, if you're going offshore, get some drugs if you need to. The patch is a performance enhancing drug, for sure!
Can't wait to get back out on the ocean and take another crack at finding some rare seabirds!
Wanderings in December Fog
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