Saturday, February 3, 2018

Out on the Boat Again

We left Wildwood Crest at 6 AM on Saturday aboard the Atlantic Star headed offshore with hopes of seeing birds and whales. The seas were just rough enough to make everyone have to pay attention and hold on but not as rough as other trips. By 7:00, the sun was beginning to rise.

Sunrise on the Atlantic Star
The birds were weird. Normally on a winter pelagic trip, we chum and get lots of gulls and Gannets to follow the boat diving to pick up a piece of suet or fish guts from our wake. But on this trip, those birds were not interested. We only saw a few dozen gulls all day. We did see a few dozen Black-legged Kittiwakes. These are kind of in the gull family and mostly found up north. The ID is distinctive on juvenile birds. They have an "M" pattern on their wings in flight.

Black-legged Kittiwake
Here is a young bird that figured out that suet is yummy.

Kittiwake with treat
We did find the alcids that we were after - Common Murres, Razorbills, Puffins and Dovekies.  Again, the birds were weird. Typically, they all fly away from the boat and we only get to see them flying or sitting on the water at distance. On this trip, these 2 Razorbills didn't get the memo and hung around the boat giving us all fantastic views. You can see the "razor"bill on both birds. You can also ID Razorbills at a distance by the way they sit with their bills pointed up.

They finally had the shits of us and took off. It is always funny to watch alcids try to take off. They need a running start.

The bird that is often difficult to see on these trips is Atlantic Puffin. They are mostly black and blend in well with the water. In addition, they typically dive underwater when they see the boat rather than fly away. Not this guy. He hung around for a long time.

Atlantic Puffin
In summer, Puffins have a ridiculously colorful bill and bright white cheeks. You can see how dull they are in winter.
The other highlight of the trip was 3 Fin Whales that were pretty close to the boat. You can see the "fin" in this photo.

Fin Whale
Other than these highlights, the trip was pretty long with long periods of nothing to look at. Good thing the boat was full of nice people to chat with!

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