I took a vacation day and boarded the boat on Sunday night at 10 PM. The trip started out great. The weather was delightful, the stars were bright, the Perseid Meteor shower was in full swing. I slept a little bit but mostly watched the shooting stars and the Milky Way until about 4 AM when the boat came to a stop 85 miles off of the NJ coast. In the dark waters, we could see squid and flying fish under the spot lights and then a few birds flew past the boat in the pre-dawn light. Leach's Storm Petrels are most active at night. Our best chance to see them is at first light. We were not disappointed.
|Leach's Storm Petrel at first light|
|Cuvier's Beaked Whale|
The birding and whale watching heated up quickly with many Band-rumped and Wilson's Storm Petrels following our boat.
|Wilson's Storm Petrel|
You can see the Pilot Whales heading toward the boat. The storm petrels are not afraid of the whales and stay on the surface of the water looking for food.
The whales came close to the boat. They didn't seem to mind us.
|Me and the whales|
We saw over 200 Pilot Whales by the end of the day. The ocean currents often carry seaweed from far away lands like Africa and South America. We often find Bridled Terns sitting on the floating debirs. Here is an adult that found a tree at sea.
This is the Sargassum crab which is completely camouflaged. We put the creatures into a little aquarium so that we could all get good looks and photos before returning them to the sea.
Can you see the File Fish in this photo? Another camouflage specialist.
I helped reel one in and was rewarded with a filet to take home. Yum.
|White-faced Storm Petrel|
At last, my curse was broken. Little did we know that this would not be the only sighting of the day. We found 2 more in the same area as the first bird. Most trips find 1 at most. We already had 3 and then we found 10 more for a total of 13 White-faced Storm Petrels. I think that might be a record for New Jersey. Crazy.
Most of the time on these trips, we get a burst of excitement and then hours of nothing. Not on this trip. Between storm petrel sightings, we saw a pod of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins who played with the boat.
No rest for the weary. With many eyes on board staring out at the ocean, we find a lot of creatures that break the water's surface with fins. We found 2 shark species. One was a Great Hammerhead which is easy to identify as it swam past the boat. The other had a large dorsal fin but never came close to the boat for identification. Another fin popped up. This time it wasn't a shark fin but a Mola Mola. These freaky creatures look like giant man-hole covers with long fins on top and bottom.
They often float at the surface on their sides to absorb the warmth of the sun - hence the common name of Ocean Sunfish.
The most common fish of the day was Flying Fish. We saw hundreds or thousands of these as they flew away from the boat. It is amazing to watch them fly for hundreds of feet before crashing back into the water. I managed to capture this photo.
Our last creature of the day was a lifer for our host Anita - Humpback Whale. We spotted a mother and calf about 30 miles from shore. As we approached, the whales were under the water but we could clearly see the mother's white flippers.
|Humpback Whale underwater|
What a great day! I'm afraid to go out again and be disappointed. LOL.