Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ponce Inlet Pelagic Trip

Saturday May 17th

Tomorrow I am going to participated in Michael Brother's sponsored pelagic birding trip out of Ponce Inlet. Michael is director of the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet and sponsors three or four of these trips a year as fund raisers for the Center.  This trip was scheduled to travel, aboard the 'Pastime Princess', a hundred miles out into the Atlantic to the eastern edge of the Gulf Stream. Lots of pelagic bird species were expected including white-tailed tropicbirds. I got to see one on last years trip.

Bahama Mockingbird at Leffis Key. Photo by Dr Jose Padilla

 Today I am driving over to the East Coast, but first is a required stop near Longboat Key in Manatee County to locate a reported Bahama mockingbird. I arrived at Leffis Key around 2 pm and joined with three other groups of birders seeking both the vagrant mocker as well as a reported black-billed cuckoo. For an hour we searched without success for either bird. We did get a yellow-billed cuckoo and noted at least 60 Magnificent Frighatebirds soaring above. The mockingbird appears to have been an easy sighing for many observers including my friend Dr Padilla who photographed the bird early this morning.

Sunday May 18th.

Arrived dock-side at 2:30 am after a short rest in my hotel room. We have forty-three participants plus the trip leaders heading out today. But there is some bad news. The weather conditions, though were expected it to be nice, are actually a bit windy. The sky will be clear and the temperature somewhat comfortable. But the seas will be too rough to venture out past the Gulf Stream. This will effect the quality of the day's birding.

Heading out on time we slowly pass through the inlet, were the first bird of the day for me was Black-crowned Night-heron staking out a spot at the draw bridge. We soon enter the Atlantic and travel east for forty or fifty miles. Come dawn the search for pelagics starts.  But it is a slow start. A few unidentifiable phalaropes are spotted cruising low above the waves. And eventually the chum-line attracts a few birds. First to appear are a couple of Black-capped Petrels.   Then we see a steady show of Wilson's Storm-petrels. A band-tailed storm-petrel and an audubon's shearwater are seen, but not on our side of the boat.  We get to see a single Cory's Shearwater and a Lifer for me in a Sooty Shearwater. An Artic Tern and a Pomarine Jaeger put on a show circling the boat.
Pomarine Jaeger

We stayed out on the water till late afternoon before heading back to the dock. Our counts aren't very high. Dipped on tropicbirds and few other targets, but we did get a few very good birds. As we travel west toward shore a few Common Terns pass by.  We originally called them sooty terns, but photographs determined that they were actually common terns. Its kinda nice to have instant replay while birding. Later a pair of juvenile Northern Gannets pass behind the boat. Only other marine life we encountered was a loggerhead turtle or two and a few dolphins. As for fish, there was a claim of a sailfish following the chum-line, but I only really saw were the flying fish bouncing atop the waves.

As the sun was setting we reached the jetty at the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, were our attention was on drawn to an Arctic Tern working the waters along the jetty. But a bigger surprise was that a Purple Sandpiper was spotted and seen by all of us. This bird is very late in returning north as was a common loon seen floating below one the bridges we passed as we neared the dock. We landed about eight-thirty and we all headed home. I returned to my hotel room for a good nights sleep
The tiny spec is a Wilson's Storm-petrel

Monday May 19th

Today was a travel day with options on were stop to done some more birding. I elected to head straight back to Leffis Key for the bahama mockingbird. Got there about one pm and again dipped on the bird. I do believe early morning is a much better time to arrive. I did get a Lifer in a pair of Blue-crowned Parakeets at nearby Ann Marie Island.

A Loggerhead Turtle

Next tried for the tropical kingbird at St Armand's Circle in Sarasota. I'll have to go back for that one too,

Next stop was at the Celery Fields. Best birds there would be the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and a Limpkin. Then home for some rest.

Trip List - (73)

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Muscovy Duck, Mottled Duck, Mottled-Mallard hybrid,
Blue-crowned Parakeet on Anna Marie Island
Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Black-capped Petrel,  Cory's Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Wilson's Storm-Petrel, Magnificent Frigatebird, Northern Gannet, Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Cattle Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Swallow-tailed Kite, Snail Kite,  Bald eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, American Coot, Common Gallinule, Sandhill Crane, Limpkin, Killdeer, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Purple Sandpiper, Great Horned Owl, Pomarine Jaeger, Laughing Gull, Least Tern, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-dove, Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Chimney Swift, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Nanday Parakeet, Blue-crowned Parakeet, Loggerhead Shrike, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Finch, House Sparrow

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on the lifers, Tom. Perhaps Poseidon will be more forgiving on the next pelagic trip.