My Bird Blog: A blog about my birding discoveries, bird feeders, birds on my life lists, and all things bird related

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Pelagic Life List Bump

Published August 14, 2014
Tags: Life List Happenings, Wilson's Storm-Petrel, Band-rumped Storm-Petrel, Leech's Storm-Petrel, White-faced Storm-Petrel, Audubon's Shearwater, Cory's Shearwater, Great Shearwater, Fea's Petrel

Stepping WAY out of my comfort zone, I decided to commit to joining a pelagic (ocean) birding trip out of Freeport, New York. I was a bit apprehensive as I'm prone to motion sickness, but my quest for more life birds overcame!  I prepared with ginger root, a prescription patch, and wrist bands and I thought I was ready!

Two birding friends, Gale VerHague and Greg Lawrence, joined me for the drive to Long Island where we met up with Alec Humann, a co-leader on the trip. After our large group of excited birders got situated on the 110 foot boot, we embarked on our 22 hour voyage.  Lined up like little cocoons, sleeping bags covered the floors of both decks; sleep was nearly impossible for me with the excitement, the lights and noises of the ship, and the proximity of my fellow shipmates.

By 4 AM, we had gotten beyond the Continental Shelf and the crew started the chum slick - a mix of fish oil and fish parts and a great attractant for sea birds.  Within the hour, everyone had their sleeping bags rolled up and had begun scanning the beams of light projecting from the ship onto the dark water looking for signs of birds.  Very soon, shouts of "Wilson's Storm-Petrel!" were heard and I had my first fleeting glimpses of a new life bird. The sun was just rising and it was an awesome sight seeing these delicate, agile birds swoop in and almost dance on the surface of the water to find their morsels. I was fascinated and would have loved to watch them more but I sensed my stomach beginning to roll - noooooo!!

Leech's and Band-rumped Storm-Petrels soon came in to feed with the Wilson's Storm-Petrels and I got some good views, but had to limit my studies of the birds. I tried to minimize the time looking through my binoculars - and I found that looking through the camera's view finder had the same nauseating effect.  And it was only 6 AM - I had twelve more hours to go!  I still clicked away a few shots when I could - but it was at a great cost!

The rest of the trip was a bit of blur between trying to hang onto my dignity and not hurl - and trying to see every life bird that came by. As it turned out, I only missed one great bird, a Bridled Tern.   The mega bird of the trip, a Fea's Petrel, came just after tossing my breakfast over the side of the boat - so I actually felt pretty good for that one!  This was the first accepted state record for New York for this bird and I'm so happy I was there for the event!

I missed the Audubon's Shearwater twice before finally getting a look at one - and that's all due to Alec who, God love him, literally steadied me on the ladder at the stern and gave me his binoculars so I didn't miss it again.  I owe him BIG TIME for that one!

Eight life birds later - and a few pounds lighter - we gently sailed into port.  I was feeling a tad better by then - and even a little social.  Maybe it was because I had nothing left in my stomach - or maybe it was the sight of land, I'm not sure!

Life birds for me were:  Wilson's Storm-Petrel, Band-rumped Storm-Petrel, Leech's Storm-Petrel, White-faced Storm-Petrel, Audubon's Shearwater, Cory's Shearwater, Great Shearwater, and Fea's Petrel. Greg got 3 life birds and I believe Gale got TEN!

The next day, Greg, Gale, and I birded a couple of spots at Jones Beach and Jamaica Bay.  Greg spotted a Red-necked Phalarope at Jones Beach, which was great fun getting to call it in to the Long Island birders. We enjoyed Laughing Gulls, Least Terns, a Gull-billed Tern (life bird for Gale!), Boat-tailed Grackles, Glossy Ibises, Snowy Egrets, literally hundreds of Sanderlings, White-rumped and Stilt Sandpipers, Red Knots (a personal favorite), Black-bellied Plovers, Short-billed Dowitchers, a Northern Waterthrush, and a few cute little Piping Plovers.

Great birds, great people, great trip!
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Wilson's Storm-Petrel almost "dancing" on the water
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Wilson's Storm-Petrel
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Wilson's Storm-Petrel
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Great Shearwater
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Cory's Shearwater
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Ruddy Turnstone
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Least Tern with lunch
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Least Terns
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Shorebirds and terns: Black-bellied Plovers, Red Knots, peeps, and Least Terns
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Killdeer
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Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron
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Lesser Black-backed Gull
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Osprey carrying fish
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Osprey and fish