The period between May and September offer the best potential for an assortment of pelagic species (species which live most of their lives far from land) off the Atlantic coast of Florida. The Friends of the Marine Science Center sponsor several pelagic trips every year out of Ponce de Leon Inlet to explore the deep ocean waters around the Gulfstream in search of many of these pelagic species.
For those willing to wake up early (the boat leaves the inlet at 3:00AM) and with a spirit of exploration, these trips offer the birder a good chance to see many species which they would otherwise never see from land such as Cory’s Shearwater, Great Shearwater, Pomarine Jaeger, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel, and many more. Furthermore, rarer species such as Black-capped Petrel (which has been recorded on every May trip) and White-tailed Tropicbird (nearly annual on the handful of pelagic trips that go out of Ponce de Leon Inlet) are species recorded frequently on these trips. Finally, since Florida’s pelagic waters are relatively unexplored, there is always a high potential to see a state first such as a Trinidade Petrel — one can always hope!
For those who have been on pelagic trips in places such as California, Chile, or Australia, keep in mind that pelagic trips in Florida almost always feature long birdless stretches interspersed with brief spurts of activity. Days are long (3:00AM to 9:00PM) with the trip involving over 100 miles of travel off the coast to the east wall of the Gulfstream. However, the birds that are seen such as the petrels and possibly the aforementioned tropicbirds are truly special, and these pelagic trips always include sightings of other incredible denizens of the open ocean such as dolphins, seaturtles, and sunfish (mola mola).
For those who are interested in participating in one of these special trips, please contact Michael Brothers at firstname.lastname@example.org. The next pelagic trip of 2013 will be on Sunday, July 21st.