I can’t wait until Sunday! I’ll be on a day-long pelagic trip from Freeport, Long Island, into the briny deep of the Atlantic Ocean. There are so many potential lifers it is ridiculous, as I have never been on a pelagic trip this time of year. Birds like South Polar Skua, Pomarine Jaeger, and Audubon’s Shearwater are possibilities. And trust me, you are not alone if you are looking at those bird names and thinking to yourself, “Skua? Pomarine what-now?”
I’ve been studying, not as much as I probably should, but studying nonetheless, so I have some small chance to actually identify a bit of what I’m going to be (hopefully) looking at on Sunday. Fortunately for me the trip is being run by See Life Paulagics and will have many expert birders who already know a skua from a hole in the ground. I, on the other hand, am just hoping not to embarrass myself by calling a storm-petrel a shearwater or something similarly stupid. Actually, I have five goals besides not embarrassing myself: to see five lifers (which is actually possible as the “target birds” list for the trip contains eleven that would be lifers), to not succumb to chumming, to learn about seabirds, to have fun, and to be present for a first confirmed record of a bird in the Atlantic Ocean.
Wait, what was that last one? Isn’t that a little, well, unlikely? Probably, but that’s what happened the last time I took a pelagic trip in February, 2006, which just happens to be the only pelagic trip I’ve ever been on. That is, we saw what is likely (I think) to be confirmed by the New York State Avian Records Committee as the first-ever accepted record of a Western Gull in the Atlantic Ocean. Here’s a picture I took of it while wondering what all the fuss was about:
One bird I really hope to see is a Cory’s Shearwater, even though the bird-namers managed to spell it wrong. Two of the birds that aren’t terribly likely but would be cool to see are White-faced Storm Petrel and Long-tailed Jaeger. I really don’t deserve to see those two yet, not having put in the time on boats, but I’ll check ’em off if I see ’em.
Also, I have to make sure I am prepared with provisions in addition to seabird knowledge. I will be bringing a bag of pretzel rods to slowly eat all day long as I discovered that really helped calm my stomach on the last pelagic. I’ll also bring sunscreen, a change of clothes, and lots of water. I’ll also be bringing a pen, because the first lifer I see, if I see any, will be life bird number 400 and I want to check it off with a flourish. It had better be a cool bird.
Does anyone out there care to share any advice on pelagic birding?
You forgot to mention that you have a trunk full of bad bread…
Oh yeah…I stopped at a local bread outlet today on Rich‘s advice and picked up a trunk full of expired bread for $12.81 (a trunk full is a LOT of bread). I even had to fill out a form that said I wouldn’t feed it to people.
The bread is to keep the gulls behind the boat, which will hopefully lure other birds in…
What a coincidence, I’m going on a pelagic out of North Carolina this weekend! And many of your target species are also my target species.
Here’s a tip: non-drowsy Dramamine (or it’s generic equivalent) . It takes the edge off. And if you see an Albatross, send it down south would you?
Oh, I love Pelagics!! Have all the fun in the world and an Albatross is certainly not asking too much for life bird No. 400?!
Don’t forget to bring some food!
On my first Pelagic, I didn’t want to get sick on board, so I had neither dinner the night before, nor breakfast before the boat left.
After an hour at sea, I started to feel slightly sick but managed to keep it under control and eventually I was really fine. Around noon however, I started feeling ill again until I noticed that this was not from sea-sickness but simply from hunger!
A few sandwiches and I was back with the birds…