Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Birds, Fish and Mammals Highlight Offshore Trips
July 02, 2011
By Steve Grinley

     I had the opportunity to go out on 2 pelagic boat trips this past week. On Saturday Margo and I joined the Brookline Bird Club all day trip aboard the Helen H out of Hyannis. The trip started out slow in the fog, but we ended up with an amazing number of birds for a June trip. The following are excerpts from the trip report written by Naeem Yusuff:

     “A full boat set off from Hyannis Harbor at 7AM, with overcast skies and a thick fog. In the early going, we had only frustratingly quick glimpses of birds disappearing into the haze. The epic “one that got away” was a skua, which was viewed for 20-30 seconds before vanishing…

     “The skies cleared latter in the day, Captain Joe avoided the colder water over the Nantucket Shoals to minimize our time enshrouded in fog. Our first shearwater of the day was a Cory’s, a smattering of Cory’s were seen throughout the day…

     “Steaming east into colder waters, slick of menhaden oil mixed with beef fat and fish chum was put out at about 10AM, attracting good numbers of Great Shearwaters and Wilson’s Storm petrels, as well as a handful of Sooty Shearwaters. Steaming away from the slick, a shout of “Leach’s Storm-petrel” came over the ship’s sound system – a handful of birds were seen well with their characteristic nighthawk type flight… Four Leach’s were initially seen, with an additional handful of Leach’s seen throughout the rest of the day.

     “Soon afterwards, a light-morph Northern Fulmar appeared behind the boat, again attracted by the chum stream. Fulmars are more common in the winter; we were quite pleased to find this bird. The fulmar lingered behind the boat making pass after pass, giving all great looks…

     “Steaming further east, a gill-net fishing boat was encountered, with a massive entourage of birds following. A conservative estimate of 250 gulls, with an additional 100 shearwaters was seen taking advantage of by-catch. We kept a respectful distance, and followed the fishing boat seeing an additional 2-3 Northern Fulmar, 2-3 Cory’s Shearwater, 60 Sooty Shearwater, 40 Sooty Shearwater, as well as a cooperative Pomarine Jaeger. Rather than the typical fly-by view of the jaeger, this bird sat on the water several times, and gave several passes with great looks for all.

     “We next encountered one of the more impressive spectacles I’ve observed in MA waters– a massive collection of bait fish had attracted tuna, striped bass and bluefish, all actively feeding around the boat –in addition to a huge swarm of shearwaters. I was overwhelmed by trying to count them all…

     “Next came our second jaeger of the day – an exceeding obliging Parasitic Jaeger was sitting on the water, then gave multiple passes around the boat. Jaegers are powerful fliers, not even the Helen H can keep up with them in full flight, so we were fortunate to find both a pomarine and a parasitic which allowed such close study…

     “The return trip brought us past Monomoy Island, with about 70 grey seals including many young (resembling Harbor Seals) lounging on the beach. Common Eider, Double-crested Cormorant as well as a handful of gulls were the most common birds on the beach, and a few people spied a Piping Plover.

     “Overall, another highly successful BBC Pelagic!”

     On Monday, I joined Dave Larson and others from the Mass Audubon Joppa Flats Education Center for the first of their Seabird and Whales trips aboard the Prince of Whales of the Newburyport Whale Watch. We went out from 10 am to 3 pm, and spent most of our time on Jeffrey’s Ledge, northeast of Newburyport Harbor.

     In contrast to the Hyannis trip, we didn’t have the numbers of birds, but the mammals and fish were fantastic! It was a great day to be out on the water with clear skies and smooth sailing all the way. We did see some great seabirds including almost a thousand Wilson’s Storm Petrels, 167 Great Shearwaters, 28 Sooty Shearwaters, 9 Manx Shearwaters and 6 Northern Gannets.

     This trip found many more mammals and fish than the Hyannis trip, headlined by 10 Minke, 8 Fin and 2 Humpback Whales, 200 Atlantic White-sided Dolphins, and an amazing 25 foot Basking Shark that was “basking” near the surface of the water right next to the boat!

     The next Seabirds and Whales trip out of Newburyport will be Saturday, July 23, from 8:30am – 12:30pm. Registrations are through Newburyport Whale Watch at 1-800-848-1111.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
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