New England Seabirds
Weather: A.M.: Overcast, NE winds 5-10 knots, 60-75 F.
Clearing throughout the day. PM Sunny and pleasant.
Seas: 2-4 feet. Beaufort scale: 2
Visibility: Moderate to heavy fog in the AM. Visibility less
that ½ mile at times. PM Clear to horizon.
Leaders: Marshall Iliff, Jeremiah Trimble, Steve “check out
my cool iPad App” Mirick; Naeem Yusuff keeping the eBird
list, and of course, Ida Giriunas.
The route aboard the “Helen H” with Captain Joe Huckameyer
was nicely charted by Steve Mirick and can be found at
A full boat set off from Hyannis Harbor at 7AM, with
overcast skies and a thick fog. In the early going, we had
only frustratingly quick glimpses of birds disappearing into
the haze. The epic “one that got away” was a skua, which was
viewed for 20-30 seconds before vanishing. Photos were taken
Keith Mueller of
Connecticut, and all were optimistic about
being able to ID the bird. Unfortunately, after seeing the
pictures, the concensus expert opinion was “skua in the
The skies cleared latter in the day, Captain Joe avoided the
colder water over the Nantucket Shoals to minimize our time
enshrouded in fog. Our first shearwater of the day was a
Cory's, a smattering of Cory's were seen throughout the day,
all appeared to be the expected borealis
subspecies. Cory's Shearwater are a warmer water bird, and
their numbers fluctuate greatly year to year depending on
the water temperatures. Initial reports seem to suggest that
this is moderate Cory's year.
Steaming east into colder waters, slick of menhaden oil
mixed with beef fat and fish chum was put out at about 10AM,
attracting good numbers of Great Shearwaters and Wilson's
Storm petrels, as well as a handful of Sooty Shearwaters.
Steaming away from the slick, a shout of “Leach's
Storm-petrel” came over the ship's sound system – a handful
of birds were seen well with their characteristic nighthawk
type flight. The chumming technique on the BBC Pelagic trips
has really evolved; the combination of fish oil with cubed
chunks of beef fat has made getting these harder to see
storm petrels a little easier. Four Leach's were initially
seen, with an additional handful of Leach's seen throughout
the rest of the day.
Soon afterwards, a
light-morph Northern Fulmar appeared behind the boat, again
attracted by the chum stream. Fulmars are more common in the
winter; we were quite pleased to find this bird. The fulmar
lingered behind the boat making pass after pass, giving all
great looks. Pausing to look at the fulmar also gave all the
chance to appreciate the ubiqitous Wilson's Storm-petrels
dancing in the slick.
The majority of these were in active wing molt (and
therefore adults), but a few fresher birds were seen and
likely represented juveniles hatched in the austral summer
(our winter). Many of the Greater Shearwaters were also in
active wing molt, with multiple distinctive birds seen with
missing greater coverts giving them a huge white band in the
mid-wing--something not shown in most field guides.
Perhaps the best bird of the day was missed by most on the
boat. While steaming away, an alcid was flushed from the
water and seen by a lucky few as it flew directly away from
the boat. Depsite dozens on cameras on board, Keith Mueller
of Connecticut was the only one quick enough to get photos.
His images turned out to be diagnostic, showing the brownish
cast to the back, slender bill, and importantly, the
streaked flanks of Common Murre. Any alcid is unusual in
these waters at this time of year, but Common Murre has been
increasing on the breeding grounds and now has a dozen or
more June records for Massachusetts. Still, this was a great
rarity and a first for us on these summer trips -- too bad
it flew off before most folks could get on it.
Steaming further east, a gill-net fishing boat was
encountered, with a massive entourage of birds following. A
conservative estimate of 250 gulls, with an additional 100
shearwater were seen taking advantage of by-catch. We kept a
respectful distance, and followed the fishing boat seeing an
additional 2-3 Northern Fulmar, 2-3 Cory's Shearwater, 60
Sooty Shearwater, 40 Sooty Shearwater, as well as an
cooperative Pomarine Jaeger. Rather than the typical fly-by
view of the jaeger, this bird sat on the water several
times, and gave several passes with great looks for all.
We next encountered one of the more impressive spectacles
I've observed in MA waters– a massive collection of bait
fish had attracted tuna, stripped bass and bluefish, all
actively feeding around the boat – in addition to a huge
swarm of shearwaters. I was overwhelmed by trying to count
them all, Marshall Iliff estimated 1200 shearwaters, roughly
8:1 Sooty:Greater. Tuna, stripped bass and bluefish were
seen breaching the surface. The crew of the Helen H got a
couple of fishing lines into the water, but alas, no dinner
Next came our second jaeger of the day – an exceeding
obliging Parasitic Jaeger was sitting on the water, then
gave mulitple passes around the boat. Jaegers are powerful
fliers, not even the Helen H can keep up with them in full
flight, so we were fortunate to find both a pomarine and a
parasitic which allowed such close study. Field guides show
the length and thickness of the bill of jaegers being
diagnostic, with the parasitic having a long slender bill,
while the pomarine's is shorter and thicker. This is the
first time I've seen them well enough to study the
The return trip brought us past Monomoy Island, with about
70 grey seals including many young (resembling Harbor Seals)
lounging on the beach. Common Eider, Double-crested
Cormorant as well as a handful of gulls were the most common
birds on the beach, and a few people espied a Piping Plover.
Over all, another highly sucessful BBC Pelagic! Check out
the BBC webpage and contact Ida to join our next “extreme”
pelagic, July 16 to the Hydrographer Canyon area. Join us
and get those pelagic birds.
16, 2011 Extreme Pelagic to Continental Shelf Edge
The Brookline Bird Club
had its first "Extreme" pelagic trip of the year to the edge of
the continental shelf on Saturday. While the birds were
relatively scarce, we still managed to get great views of
Long-tailed Jaegers, Leach's Storm-Petrels and other more common
birds such as Manx,
Cory's and Great Shearwaters.
The highlight was, without a doubt, the incredible views we got
of a WHALE SHARK, the largest fish species in the world. They
are a tropical
ocean specialist and are extremely rare north to Cape Cod. It
very slowly approached the boat and then lifted its head right
up to the
surface so that you could almost touch it! It then, literally,
bumped the boat! A piece of blue paint from the boat hung on to
its nose while a remora circled the head looking for scraps of
food. It then circled around and came right up to within inches
of the boat for a 2nd time! People with telephoto lenses missed
Also seen were large numbers of Risso's Dolphins, a single
(only!) Bottlenose Dolphin, stunning views of a Loggerhead Sea
Turtle, a Mola
Mola, two Basking Sharks, a Tiger Shark, and lots of Portugese
Man-o-wars. Oh ya....and lots of Fin Whales and a probable Sperm
The next trip is scheduled for August, but it is sold out. I
hope some NH birders can make one of next year's trips!
Below are links to maps and photos and videos from the trip.
The best video I've seen of the Whale Shark. Taken by Scott
Photo taken by Luke Sietz of the Whale Shark with Jane in it:
More photos by Luke:
Photos and video by Ryan Schain:
Photos by Jeremiah Trimble
And maps of the trip by me:
Notes from webmaster:
This trip left Hyannis at 4 AM and returned about 9:30 PM the
same day. Weather was beautiful, seas relatively calm with
no big swells. We were on the Helen H a party fishing
boat. A mid-water Trawler was seen working.
Steve Mirick map of route of July 16,