|Brown Pelican at Cape Canaveral|
It's been several years since I had participated in one of Michael Brothers' pelagic birding trips out on the Atlantic Ocean. On Saturday we joined with some 52 birders aboard the Carnival Princess out of Cape Canaveral
In the days and weeks leading up to this trip the weather was looking like it was going to be a wet, rough voyage. Recent weather conditions were contributing much needed rainfall, but these same conditions were not letting up for the weekend. But this didn't deter the Carnival Princess from heading some fifty miles into the Gulf Stream.
I met up with Dave and Tammy McQuade on Friday, who were generous enough to offer me a ride, as we all were heading out for the pelagic trip. Expectations were high for getting to see many of the off-shore species. Shearwaters, Storm-petrels, Jaegers, Terns, Black-capped Petrels and maybe even a Tropicbird.
We made a quick stop at Nokomis Beach to check-out the House Crow, then continued on to Cape Canaveral. We caught dinner with our event host - Michael Brothers, trip leader - Bob Wallace and last year's Big Year Adventurer - Yve Morrell. Yve had counted some 813 species in North America and Hawaii in 2017.
The Canaveral Princess left port on time early Saturday morning and took us out into some choppy surf and overcast skies. It was nice to see a lot of faces for familiar names on board. Met Hugh Whelan from Ft Myers and Dave & Tammy unexceptionally ran into a business acquaintance.
Luckily the seas became somewhat tolerable and we missed the rain for the most part and the birding was a mixed bag. The number of species was a bit low but had some awesome looks at Wilson's Storm-Petrels and Audubon's Shearwaters. Thought we were going to dip in spotting any Black-capped Petrels, but a lone individual was seen late in the day. Sooty, Royal, Sandwich, Black and Bridled Terns turned-up. Missed on seeing any Arctic Terns or Jaegers. Some folks added Banded-rumped and Leach's Storm-Petrels. I didn't take very many pictures on the day, but the following ebird LIST for our group has some nice examples.
About the biggest surprise was that the entire crowd on board were greeted by a pair of Common Eiders as the Canaveral Princess docked back in port. We don't expect this species in Florida in May.
Usually on these pelagic trips, which are an event sponsored for the support of the Marine Science Center at Ponce Inlet, young sea turtles will be released when we reach the weed line in the Gulf Stream. Today we had a pair of 'endangered' young Hawksbill Sea Turtles.
Jessie Stein from the Marine Science Center brought the Hawksbill sea turtle wash backs that were released in the Sargassum weed.
Wash back turtles are young sea turtles that wash ashore due to heavy winds and surf
Sea birds aren't the only draw on these trips. Usually large sea turtles or pods of Spotted Dolphins come along side the boat. Today a few of us noticed a pair of cetaceans. They were probably Pilot Whales which are actually in the dolphin family. Kinda cool.
|Barn Swallows at Lake Apopka|
But our weekend wasn't over. Even with rainy conditions continuing on Sunday Dave, Tammy, Yve and I drove Wildlife Drive at Lake Apopka. Our targets were Mississippi Kites and Fulvous whistling Ducks. The kites were a no show. The rains were probably not helpful. We did find both whistling Duck species, Plus lots of Purple and Common Gallinules, Coots, Barns, Bank and Cliff Swallows, Purple Martins, Least Bitterns, Ospreys and Bobolinks. We also added a Pectoral Sandpiper, a Solitary Sandpiper Killdeer and Least Sandpipers.
|Purple Gallinules at Lake Apopka|