Monday, February 15, 2010
Pelagic Trips--Day 2
Weatherwise, yesterday's 2nd pelagic trip from Hatteras was like night and day from day 1. It was a bright blue sky day all day. While the sea was not too rough, the wind was still cold, so everyone was bundled up (see picture above). We saw pretty much the same birds as the day before, and added great views of dovekies and great skuas. One great skua appeared quite near the boat fairly early in the day, making several birders day since they were on the trip to add this bird to their life list. We even saw another one far behind the boat briefly mixed in with the feeding gulls and gannets.
Generally dovekies are seen flying very fast just above the water away from the boat. Yesterday we had the good fortune to have several that were feeding near the boat. They would disappear under the water for a bit, and then pop up for us to get good close up views. This bird is the other main reason birders go out of Hatteras in the winter. Little gulls and razorbills also made appearances, plus 1 black legged kittiwake, 1 northern fulmar, and a group of red phalaropes. I was unable to pick up the kittiwake, but did see the fulmar and phalaropes. A brief sighting of a manx shearwater was also missed by me. So I did not get everything that was seen (which is not uncommon on a pelagic trip), but overall it was a very good day.
After some review a consensus was reached that the jaeger seen the day before was a parasitic jaeger. For non-birders, jaegers and skuas are similar to large seagulls, but are very aggressive and will try to steal food from gulls. Normally only skuas are around Cape Point in the winter, so when the jaeger was spotted everyone 1st thought skua, but then when it was more clearly seen, it was obvious that it was not a skua, but a jaeger. And yesterday after some discussion of its characteristics, parasitic was the conclusion.
On my drive home near dusk I was able to find a few cackling geese mixed in with a large number of snow geese on Pea Island. Cackling geese look like canada geese, but are much smaller, have short necks and their breast feathers are much darker. So after day 2 of the pelagics, 6 more YTD birds were added to the list, bringing the total to 299. I leave for Florida on Wednesday, driving my Tacoma pick-up. Stay tuned!