Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why not another pelagic?

In the days leading up to September 12th, birders kept asking me: You've already seen all the regular stuff, why blow money on ferries and another pelagic when you can't anything to your list?

Two answers:

1)Pelagic birding is awesome

Because a) the birds themselves are unique, interesting, and therefore AWESOME. And B)----See reason #2-------

2) Every trip is different. Therefore even though I have seen all the usuals, there is always a chance of seeing something UNusual. And you're not going to see anything UNusual unless you GET OUT THERE.

Oh and maybe there is a third reason too... I'M DOING A BIG YEAR! Everybody who has done a serious big year in an area that boasts a coastline, knows that "victory lies at sea." Anyone can chase down an Indigo Bunting coming to someone's feeder, but if I told you to "go find a flesh-footed shearwater" (after all, there are probably hundreds off the coast of BC as I type), you would be hard-pressed to succeed.

I guess what I'm getting at is a general big year strategy. The late summer and fall is probably the best time to get out on the sea because birds dispersing from the south (e.g. most shearwaters, south polar skua, etc.) are mingling with northern breeders heading south (e.g. jaegers, phalaropes, etc.). Here's a mathematical formula to explain what I'm trying to get at:

BIG OCEAN (Pacific) touching 4 continents + no physical obstacles + ability to fly hundreds of miles in a day + WINDY!!! + workable 10x42s = unlimited possibilities.

So if you're doing a big year and you're not kicking up rarities in the weedy fields behind you're house, I would suggest going on as many pelagics as possible! Just look at what has been reported off BC in the last few years: Slaty-backed Gull, Lesser Nighthawk, Hawaiian Petrel, Murphy's Petrel, Solander's Petrel, Parakeet Auklet... and on and on.

Of course it makes things easier if you're not prone to seasickness... but a little extra "chum" never hurts!

Perhaps this picture from my most recent trip can illustrate my point:

LAYSAN ALBATROSS-- a much anticipated lifer for me, my 13th albatross species for the world, and #363 for the year in BC!
[ALL PHOTOS ON THIS POST COURTESY OF BEN LASCELLES-- who kindly sent me some of his pics since I was too much of a sissy to bring my own camera... it was pouring rain most of the day okay??!!]

Here are couple more photo highlights from Sept 12th out of Tofino (full report below):
[Sabine's Gulls]

[Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel with lunch]

[Buller's Shearwater-- a lifer for many on board]

[Black-footed Albatross mob]

***Once again, BIG THANK YOU to Ben Lascelles for the great photos***

Trip summary taken from my post to the BCVIBirds site (because I'm lazy):

Hi all,

I have just returned from a local Tofino pub where 17 other seabird enthusiasts
and myself celebrated a very wet but successful day out on the waves. I had the
pleasure of joining a bunch of attendees of the World Seabird Conference (held
in Victoria this year)--in today's case: a mixture of French, South African,
British, and American birders--on what turned into a 9 1/2 hour pelagic.

We had to deal with a steady drizzle for most of the day which kept us soaked
and for the most part, unable to use out optics. Luckily however the birding
didn't drop off and we were very fortunate to run into a fleet of fishing boats
towards the end of the day which boosted some of the numbers and provided for
excellent views of many of the usual species. Ironically, our bird of the day:
a single LAYSAN ALBATROSS was not among the hundreds of Black-foots tailing the
trawlers but floating by us earlier on in the day. This bird had very sooty
underwing parts so could possibly be a sub-adult? Here is the day list in
rough tax. order:

Anas duck sp. 300+
Harlequin Duck 12
Surf Scoter 50
Pacific Loon 1
Common Loon 3
Red-necked Grebe 30+
LAYSAN Albatross 1
Black-footed Albatross *300+
Northern Fulmar *2,500+
Pink-footed Shearwater 250+
Buller's Shearwater 2
Sooty Shearwater 100+
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel 40
Leach's Storm-Petrel 2
Peregrine Falcon 1
Pomarine Jaeger 3
Parasitic Jaeger 6
Sabine's Gull *200+
California Gull 750+
Herring Gull 30
Heermann's Gull 100+
(prob.) Common Tern 1
Sanderling 50+
Western Sandpiper 1
Red-necked Phalarope 15
Red Phalarope 1
Ancient Murrelet 2
Marbled Murrelet 3
Pigeon Guillemot 30+
Common Murre 50+
Rhinoceros Auket 30~
Tufted Puffin 4
Cassin's Auklet 600+

All this rain seems to have brought in a lot of migrants. Both this morning
before the trip and this evening walking out of the pub I can hear that the
trees are alive with YELLOW WARBLERS. Will have to check the bushes carefully
tomorrow morning!

All the best,

Russell Cannings
Tofino, BC

No comments:

Post a Comment