Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Black-capped Petrel - Ponce Inlet Pelagic Trip

Back last Memorial Day weekend several of us had reservations for a pelagic trip out of Ponce Inlet sponsored by Michael Brothers and the Marine Science Center of New Smyrna Beach. As our caravan was crossing the state we received word that the trip had to be cancelled due to weather condition.  Tropical Storm Beryl was churning up the coast. It was a disappointment, but we managed to turn lemons into lemonade due turning south to the Florida Keys and some great birding.

This past weekend I was rescheduled to attend Michael Brothers' latest trip out into the Gulf Stream with hopes of adding a long list of expected pelagic species with the possiblity of some rarity to show up.

Saturday September 15th

A Black Tern see on Bio Lab Road
As it was a four hour plus drive, I used a day to make the drive and have time to visit Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Upon arrival I hurried to the Bio Lab Road first with the idea of locating a possible lingering Wilson's Phalarope that was being reported there. The lagoon side of the road was not very fruitful as the water was too deep for waders and shorebirds. The shoreline though offered looks at Sanderlings, Semipalmated Plovers, Black-belled Plovers, Least Sandpipers, Western Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones, Double-crested Cormorants, Short-billed Dowitchers, several Stilt Sandpipers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, a Black Tern a couple of Forster s Terns, many Laughing Gulls and the Wilson's Phalarope I was looking for. I actually missed the phalarope, but another fella, Lee Leatto, photographing the scene, put me onto the bird.
A look at Blackpoint Drive

Next I tried The Blackpoint Drive. Not much was here to see. Best wader was a Reddish Egret. Shorebirds were limited mostly to Sanderlings and Black-bellied Plovers. Came across a nice gathering of Laughing Gulls and terns. Had Caspian, Royal, Forster's and possible common and sandwich Terns.  lacking a scope made it difficult to discern some of the terns ID.

Sunday September 16th
Leatherback Turtle
Photo courtesy of Michael Brothers
The attendees for the pelagic trip needed to be at the dock at 3:30 am for a 4 am launch. We had fifty-three participants assembled with some folks having flown in from other states to attend the trip. Also met several folks I knew by name or reputation.  Like Wes Biggs, Scott Simons, Roberto Torres, Danny  Sauvageau,  John Mangold and Andy Kratter.  We boarded the Pastime Princess for our voyage.. Weather conditions were good, but the seas were a bit choppy for a while. Close into shore, as dawn was breaking we starting picking up a few birds. Cory's Shearwaters were the most commonly seen bird of the day. By the time we reached the weed line some 50 or so miles out we had Pomerine Jaegers, a single Greater Shearwater, Sooty Terns, Common Terns, Magnificent Frigetbirds and a number of land birds in migration including dozens of warblers, an Eastern Kingbird and several Great Blue Herons. At the tuna grounds the crew chummed the waters to try to lure in any storm-petrels. We surprisingly dipped on storm-petrels but did see as many as a dozen  Black-capped Petrels. On the trip heading back to port we could add Bridled Terns too.  Some folks got red-necked phalarope and Audubon shearwater, but I missed them. It was a good trip in that we did find some good birds, but expectations were high that we would manage a much longer list. Maybe next time. Other encounters included great views of a large pod of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins swimming with the boat and a gathering of 6 to 8 huge Leatherback Turtles. Sure wish my camera would have been working. It was a very long and sun-soaked trip. We arrived about 7:40 pm at the dock, were many weary and sun-burned birders departed  for home.

To see photos and stories from fellow birders on this trip, checked the hyperlinked sites above.
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin
Photo courtesy of Michael Brothers
Monday, September 17th

After a very good night's sleep it was time to head for home. But I had a couple of stops in mind on the way. First was to stop at Joe Overstreet Road near Kissimmee State Park with idea of locating the Whooping Cranes that have taken up residence there.  They are a part of the Florida non-migrating flock that we hope will one day be self sufficient.
I arrived about 10:30 am and never did find the whoopers.  Lots of Sandhill Cranes and several flocks of shorebirds on the sod farms including Pectrol Sandpipers, Black-belled Plovers and some Yellowlegs. I did also come across several Wild Turkeys ( should be Osceola subspecies), a couple of early Palm Warblers and found a pair of Kestrels. I'm not sure if they are migrants or resident Southern American Kestrels. The most interesting event here was the cattle round-up. Several ranchers on horse back with thier cow-dogs rounded up a herd of cattle in one pasture and moved them down the road to another pasture. The dogs were very instrumental in getting the cattle to cooperate.
Later, at the Taylor Creek Water Management area I had a trio of Tree Swallows, a  Bank Swallow and several Barn Swallows. I made a point of heading into the Everglades Ag Area south of Belle Glade with the idea of checking the sod farms and fields around Brown's Farm Road for any shorebirds or swallows. Best I got were a lot of Mourning Doves, Starlings, a few Barn Swallows and a couple of Eastern Kingbirds. That pretty much ended my birding weekend.

Trip List - (86)

Mottled Duck, Wild Turkey, Pied-billed Grebe, Black-capped Petrel, Cory's Shearwater, Great Shearwater, Magnificent Frigatebird, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron,  Reddish Egret, Cattle Egret, Green Heron, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork,  Common Gallinule,  Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Cooper's Hawk, Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Common Gallinule, Sandhill Crane, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, Lesser Yellowlegs, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Wilson's Phalarope, Laughing Gull, Sooty Tern, Bridled Tern, Caspian Tern, Black Tern, Common Tern, Forster's Tern, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, Black Skimmer, Pomarine Jaeger, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Crested Caracara, American Kestrel, Eastern Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, White-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Tree Swallow, Bank Swallow, Barn Swallow, Gray-blue Gnatcatcher, Northern Mockingbird, Starling,  Palm Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle and Boat-tailed Grackle

1 comment:

  1. Wish I could have joined you on this trip, Tom. A favorable low tide is critical for very good observations at MINWR. In making a trip there I would want to plan it accordingly. I expect to make many pelagic trips with you in the future. The boat was heavy.