Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Brooklyn Pelagic - 29th Aug

The last hurrah for the summer holiday was a pelagic trip out of Brooklyn with See Life Paulagics. We apparently got out about 120 miles or so to the continental shelf. The weather was fantastically calm, with low winds and minimal waves, great for avoiding seasickness, not so great for finding seabirds. Overall numbers were quite low, with the exception of a few rafts of mainly Cory's Shearwater on the way back. Diversity was pretty good though, with crippling views of White-faced Storm Petrel being the highlight. Other birds were: Band-rumped, Wilson's and Leach's Storm Petrels, Great, Audubon and Cory's Shearwaters (both diomedae and borealis), Black-capped Petrel and American Black Tern.

Cetaceans were well represented with great views of pods of Spotted Dolphin and Striped Dolphin, along with hundreds of (Short-finned) Pilot Whales.

A large Hammerhead Shark came close, as well as at least 3 Loggerhead Turtles, 2 Oceanic Sunfish and several Portuguese Men-of-war.

White-faced Storm Petrel.

Two ssp. breed in the North/ Central Atlantic, Pelagodroma marina eadesi (Cape Verde I.), and P. m. hypoleuca (Canary and Selvagen Islands). They breed at different times of year.
P. m . eadesi : Nov - May
P. m. hypoleuca : Mar - Sep

The fresh plumage and thin white trailing edge to the wing indicate this is a juvenile, probably P. m. eadesi,  hatched on Cape Verde early this year.

Moult timings of flight feathers are also different.
P. m. eadesi : Jul - Sep
P. m. hypoleuca : Oct - Feb.

This bird is clearly in the middle of a heavy moult, indicating it is almost certainly P. m. eadesi. This ties in with all previous records of this species off the coast of the US. Interesting to imagine this tiny bird hopping to New York all the way from the coast of Africa!
Both birds gave prolonged, close views. It was fascinating to watch the extraordinary bouncing behaviour where much of the forward momentum of the bird was generated with the feet...

...and a couple of times it just ran across the surface of the water. The yellow webbing between the toes is visible here, about the only feature it shares with Wilson's Storm-Petrel!
Black-capped Petrel. Quite a few seen today, at least 16 separate sightings.

Cory's (Scopoli's) Shearwater.
Great Shearwater

 A young Spotted Dolphin, which don't develop spots until they are older. They apparently form bachelor groups until they're old enough to mate.
Striped Dolphin. These were the most acrobatic species we encountered, leaping high out of the water and generally being very dolphiny...

For a couple of hours on the way back we seemed to be constantly in the presence of Pilot Whales (probably Short-finned). They were in pods of up to 15 or so, but the total number we saw must have been in the hundreds
They were very inquisitive, and came very close to the boat. A few also porpoised to have a proper look at us.
One of several varieties of flying fish we disturbed
File Fish sp.
Hammerhead Shark, quite large and very close...
Portuguese Man-of-war.

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