Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cory's Shearwater - Ponce Inlet Pelagic Trip

Sunday November 13th

The Pastime Princess in New Smyrna Beach
Had to be at the dock by 5:30am  so we could all embark on the http://www.pastimeprincess.com/ for a pelagic trip to the gulf stream.  I had not ever taken one of these trips and certainly as a lister needed to find new birds to enjoy. There were plenty of experienced and noted birders aboard as well as several neophytes such as myself. Michael Brothers, Director of the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet, Florida sponsored this trip as a fund raiser for the science center. I sat on the top observation deck and if I were to have a return visit, I think next time I'd get onto the bow. Seems that they were finding much more than I was seeing at my position. As a neophyte to pelagic birds and birding I did relie a great bit to the more experienced birders aboard.
Ponce Lighthouse at sunrise
One disappointment was that I only added four lifers - Brown Booby, Cory's Shearwater, Great Shearwater and Pomarine Jaeger.  Had hoped for a larger variety of seabirds.  Maybe next time.  I was also able to add Parasitic Jaeger, Common Tern, Northern Gannets and Lesser Black-backed Gull.  As we were passing the rock jetties on our way out into the Atlantic we were able to scan the rocks for for any purple sandpipers, but only got Snowy Egrets and Ruddy Turnstones.

Cory's Shearwaters

Sometimes you really had to hold on. Makes it hard to get your bins on a bird
Mr Brothers had brought aboard a dozen or so sea turtle hatchlings for release. When we reached the appropriate location the baby turtles, all but one a loggerhead, the other a green, were released onto floating beds of sargassum weeds. At another spot, were we were encountering a lot of birds, the crew were reeling in a lot of dolphin (mahi) that were also being attracted to the chum line.

The following is a excellent report Mr Brothers posted on Brdbrains

    Sunday morning, 11/13, 48 brave souls boarded the Pastime Princess and ventured on another offshore adventure out of Ponce de Leon Inlet, Volusia County. We headed just offshore to search the gulls following the nearby shrimp boats. We set out a chum slick and soon had hundreds of gulls following our boat.  Just a couple of miles offshore we found a Parasitic Jaeger chasing some Laughing Gulls. We headed out offshore and had an occasional Cory's Shearwater and Great Shearwater, but little else. Eventually a Great Shearwater came up right behind the boat and settled on the water giving everyone an exceptional up-close opportunity to see this beautiful bird.

We had a long period with few birds until at about 48 miles offshore, inside the west edge of the Gulf Stream we started to find shearwaters on the move. A constant stream of Cory's and Great Shearwaters approached us from behind and also a Brown Booby.  Soon we found our first large group of about 60 birds - Cory's and Great Shearwaters feeding frantically in patches of Sargassum weed. In the middle of the group of shearwaters was an immature Brown Booby. Nearby, a Pomarine Jaeger flew off the water. We met group after group for the next 12 miles. We found another Pomarine Jaeger and 2 more Brown Booby. We found about 400 shearwaters in total over the next 12 miles.

Species List
Cory's Shearwater  350
Great Shearwater   50
Probable Audubon's Shearwater  1
Brown Booby 4
Pomarine Jaeger  4
Parasitic Jaeger 2
Common Tern   30
Sandwich Tern
Royal Tern
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Laughing Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
American Coot  5
Several small flocks of unidentified ducks

Several excellent photos can be seen attached to Mr Michael's report on Brdbrains

The Ponce Lighthouse as we returned to the dock at sundown

The trip took twelve hours with the bulk of the time heading out and heading in.  We got back to dock at about 6 pm.  Very tired.  The weather had been good and the seas were too bad. But it was now time for my four hour drive home.  A long day.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Eurasian Wigeon - Merritt Island NWR

Saturday, November 12th

I haven't done much much birding lately and expect to have to back-off some in the near future to attend other responsibilities. But one event I had been looking forward to was my first pelagic trip. I was signed up for Michael Brothers' trip out of Ponce Inlet on the 13th. Due to logistics I took two vacation days from work for the trip. Day one, today , was a travel day capped off with visit to Merritt Island NWR. I had originally planned to only take time to explore the rock jetties at Ponce Inlet for any early purple sandpipers, but a report on a Eurasian Wigeon among the newly arriving ducks was very tempting.

Snowy Egret

Arrived at Merritt Island around 2:30 and committed to only viewing Black Point Wildlife Drive today. The water levels were a bit high and not a lot of waders and shorebirds were present that I could see. Did have Reddish Egrets, Great Blue Egrets, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets and White Ibis. As for shore birds only found Dunlins, Blackbellied Plovers and Willets.

Great Egret
At stop #8 is were to look for the ducks. American Coots were by far the most numerous paddler. Next were probably American Wigeons. Also saw Green-winged teal, Blue-winged Teal, Redheads, Gadwell, Northern Shovelers, Mottled Ducks and Northern Pintail.  And I did locate the reported.Eurasian Wigeon. I assisted another birder, Jason, in locating the wigeon and he produced a photo that actually showed that there were at least two male eurasian wigeons present.

Others birds seen included an American Gallinule, Pied-billed Grebes,  a Bald Eagle and several Osprey.  On the fishing pull-offs at the bridge I looked for any black-backed gulls, but only added Laughing Gulls, FOS Ring-billed and Herring Gulls.  Dipped on avocets, white pelicans and the black-backed gulls.
Northern Shovelers

Ran out of day light as far as exploring the rock jetties, so maybe next year.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Florida Scrub Jay

Wednesday November 2nd

Did a little birding today in Cape Coral were I had  located the Monk Parakeets and Burrowing Owls around the Pelican Blvd ballfields.  Next headed up to the north side of the Cape to see if I would run into Bob Pelkey who had commented yesterday that he was interested in looking for a life bird the Florida Scrub Jays found there.  Missed Bob, but got a few good pics of the jay.