Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Freeport Pelagic - 12th Aug 2014

Pelagics are run by See Life Paulagics out of several NE ports every year, including 2 from New York. The aim is to get into the deeper water offshore to look for some of the gulf stream specials. The trip set off on Monday evening and sailed all night in order to be in the right area at dawn to increase the chances of Storm-Petrels.

Birding started before 5:00am with torches and chum, and continued until we docked at 6:00pm. The commonest seabird by far was Wilson's Storm-Petrel (300-400) which came in quickly to the chumming. Scattered in amongst them were Leach's Storm-Petrel (30+) and Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (20+). The star turn among the stormies though was a single White-faced Storm Petrel. Quite apart from all the others it wasn't found until later in the morning. Sadly I got no photographs, but it was a fantastic little bird, with a marvelous swinging/ twirling feeding behaviour.

Larger tubenoses were very scarce early on, however the first that arrived made of for the lack of quantity by its quality, a gorgeous Fea's Petrel, possibly only the third New York state record of this endangered seabird. Eventually some shearwaters did show themselves, and we had Cory's Shearwater (4), Great Shearwater (3) and Audubon's Shearwater (3).

The long journey home had a few notable birds, particularly a young Bridled Tern. As we got closer to shore the count picked up, and we eventually had Herring Gull, Greater Black-backed Gull, Laughing Gull and Common Tern following the boat in to port.

Non-bird highlights included close encounters with single Bottlenose Dolphin and Common Dolphin riding the bow wave, a Minke Whale, a Loggerhead Turtle and a couple of sightings of sharks.

Other photographers did better than I, check them out here.

Having three species of white-rumped storm-petrel together was very instructive. With practice it wasn't difficult to quickly pick out the more interesting birds from the mass of Wilson's Storm Petrels. Wilson's have a habit of pattering on the surface of the sea, unlike either of the other two species.

Wilson's is the only one with legs trailing beyond the end of the tail. It also has the white rump wrapping around onto the vent further than Leach's or Band-rumped.
Part of a large congregation of Wilson's feeding together. Leach's and Band-rumped are more solitary feeders. Note the individual closest to the camera showing the yellow- webbing between its toes. Not an easy feature to see, but it is also not shown by the other species.
Band-rumped Storm-Petrels are somewhat larger and longer-winged than the Wilson's. They generally have less extensive pale fringes to the greater coverts, making them appear darker above. They also have the white on the rump extending a shorter distance onto the vent.

The white band on the rump is also narrower than on Wilson's. Note the very square tail, and the fact that the feet do not project past it.

Leach's Storm-Petrel is long-winged, like Band-rumped, but has a clearly distinguished forked tail. It also tends to have extensive pale fringes to the greater coverts.
It too has feet that do not project past the tail, and the white on the rump does not extend to the underparts at all.
The shape of the white rump is also different, with a dark central line often visible. This bird shot through a flock of foot-dabbling Wilson's while I wasn't looking!

From the Bad Photography Dept, my only shot of the retreating Fea's Petrel. At least it shows the dark underwings! Sort of...
Cory's Shearwater 

 Great Shearwater
Audubon's Shearwater 
... with dinner!
First summer Bridled Tern 

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