Monday, May 20, 2013

The Red-eyed Birders and the White-tailed Tropicbird

Sunday May 19th

Today, Bob Pelkey and I,  participated in the pelagic trip sponsored by  the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet, Florida.  The event was lead by Michael Brothers, director of the Marine Science Center and is a fund raising function as well as a great opportunity to go out into the Atlantic after pelagic bird species we rarely see near land. Today's trip would take us across the Gulf Stream, to about 100 miles out, to the  deep water canyons in an area they called the tuna grounds.

The Pastime Princess
This was a long, long day with the boat, The Pastime Princess,  leaving the dock at  three in the morning.  Bob and I left Ft Myers at eight o'clock and arrived at the dock by midnight. Extra travel time had been allotted to avoid any possibility of missing the departure. With this spare time,  we attempted to grab a bit of sleep. 

It looked like we had forty-nine participants.  Some folks I was familiar with, including Bob Hargrove from North Ft Myers., but most  were not familiar faces. Like Bob's friend and fellow bird photographer Robert Doiron of New Brunswick, Canada.

The first leg of our trip really was challenging. Three hours of rain as we headed east  into the Atlantic. Ended up soaked to the skin as did Bob. Robert was lucky as he ended-up in a cozy spot in the cabin, which was already full before the rains started.. The misery would be abated hours later after clearing the weather, having our clothes dry off in the sun and passing a long bird-free stretch of ocean. We did have a few land birds check out the boat early-on in the darkness and rain. A small flock of Red-necked Phalorope - lifer approached twice as did a warbler, probably a blackpoll, and a thrush.

In the following hours we had some nice contacts with some good birds. They were not  numerous but a nice variety. The star was a fly-by of an adult White-tailed Tropicbird. Lifer!!

White-tailed Tropicbird
photo courtesy of  Michael Brothers

Other birds seen were Arctic Terns - Lifer, Sooty Terns, Bridled Terns, Audubon Shearwater - Lifer, a single Cory Shearwater,  Wilson's Storm-Petrels - Lifer,  several  Black-capped Petrels, a Brown Booby and a Pomarine Jaeger.  I see that other participants reported a sooty shearwater, red phalaropes, and leach's & band-rumped storm-petrels. We're checking Bob's photos to see if we captured these as well.

Black-capped Petrel
photo by Bob Pelkey
Other sightings included the mates landing a wahoo and had earlier hooked and lost a blue marlin. A leatherback turtle was sighted but few of us actually saw it. We missed on any pelagic dolphins or whales, but one interesting sight was seeing a large ray breech and leap three times.  Not sure what species it was. Maybe a manta or an eagle ray.

Arrived at the dock just before 9 pm. Very tired and feeling the effects of bouncing on the waves for eighteen hours in the rain and sun. Would I do it again.  Maybe next year.

Mr Brothers Birdbrain report-

49 stalwart adventurers joined us for a pelagic trip out of Ponce de Leon Inlet in Volusia County that started out at 3:00 a.m. in rain. Eventually the rain left us and we began to find a great assortment of pelagic birds.  At about 90 miles out, we began to find a lot of action, with Black-capped Petrel, Band-rumped Storm-Petrel, Arctic Tern, then the show-stopper of a fabulous adult White-tailed Tropicbird!
Despite times of no bird activity, we found a good assortment of pelagic species:

Black-capped Petrel  12
Audubon's Shearwater  15
Cory's Shearwater  2
Sooty Shearwater  1
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  6
Leach's Storm-Petrel 1
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  5
Brown Booby   1
Arctic Tern  5
Bridled Tern  8
Sooty Tern  74
Pomarine Jaeger  1
Laughing Gull  2
Red-necked Phalarope  12
Warbler sp.  1
Thrush sp. 1
Loggerhead Turtle 1
Leatherback Turtle 1
Sailfish  1
Wahoo  1

Special thanks to all of the great leaders that helped me out:
Mark Berney
Wes Biggs
Dave Goodwin
Sea McKeon
Mitchell Harris
Ed Kwater
John Murphy
Roberto Torres
Murray Gardler

The next trip will be in July.


Michael Brothers
Marine Science Center
Ponce Inlet, FL

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Spring Migration - II

So far, weather conditions in Southwest Florida have been very favorable for migrants passing over Florida on their way north. Few had cause to visit our locale as the winds pushed them along. Last Spring we experienced some great birding as a weather front held the migrants here for several days. We have seen some migrants who stopped by, but their numbers were very thin.
Screech Owl nesting at Sanibel Lighthouse

Gopher Tortoise seen along the trail at
Caloosahatchee Regional Park near Alva
Sanibel Lighthouse has been a popular migrant trap and I did visit a couple of times, but I almost daily visited Six-mile Cypress Slough Preserve. Had no grosbeaks, orioles or tanagers. Did have one Worm-eating Warbler, several Black-and white Warblers, several American Redstarts, a few Black-throated Blue Warblers, a few Cape May Warblers, a single Tennessee Warblers, one Magnolia Warbler, a few Blackpoll Warblers, an Ovenbird, a Prothonotary Warbler and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. But we do have tons of Bobolinks passing through right now. So did have a nice variety but it took a lot of work
Some migrants seen by others included Blue Grosbeak, Cliff Swallow, Blue-winged Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Orchard Oriole, Scarlet Tanager, Summer Tanager, Eastern Kingbirds and a Gray-cheeked Thrush.