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.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tom. I had my first pelagic trip on the Pastime Princess in September and I really enjoyed it. I wasn't able to make it out for the most recent trip so I enjoyed your report. The Booby and the Gannet would have been lifers for me, so I'm jealous, too. :) Here's my blog post about the September trip: http://www.magnificentfrigatebird.com/blog/my-first-pelagic-birding-trip/