Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pelagic Trip to Jeffrey's Ledge

The trip yesterday sponsored by the Mass Aububon Joppa Flats Education Center turned out to be spectacular. The weather could not have been better and the birds were plentiful and cooperative. Our experts David Weaver and David Larson called out the birds we were passing, supplied interesting information and were extremely helpful in answering questions. I took 600+ photos but only a small fraction were usable.

Double-crested cormorants were perched all along the breakwater as we were leaving the harbor. Here is an adult with a juvenile.

Soon after leaving the harbor we encountered our first Northern Gannets. They were all juvenile - this year's fledglings. Later on we also saw a couple of adults.

We saw rafts of Wilson's Storm-Petrels throughout our trip. They took off as soon as our boat approached. They are small graceful birds, often appearing to be running or dancing on the water. They are spending their lives out on the water and according to David Weaver they are one of the most numerous birds on the globe.

These birds are so small that they were difficult to photograph but the intricate mirror images on the calm sea were absolutely beautiful!

Lastly we saw numerous Greater and Sooty Shearwaters. There were also some Cory's but I did not see them. I also missed getting photos of the single Parasitic Jaeger and the Roseate Tern.

This Greater Shearwater has a drop of a concentrated salt solution hanging off it's beak - that's how the bird excretes the salt it takes in with the seawater. According the Christopher W. Leahy in The Birdwatcher's Companion to North American Bird Life the salt is concentrated in salt glands located in the bird's skull with a duct to the nostrils. From there the salt solution dribbles down the beak to the tip where it hangs until it is shaken off.

Sooty Shearwaters are about the same size as the GS. The name is self-explanatory.

We also a saw humpback whales, minke whales and fin whales. The humpbacks put on a great show with two females, Clamp and Valley, creating a bubble net and appearing suddenly next to each other out of the deep, mouth agape, to gulp the fish.

On arriving back at the dock we received the message that Rte 1 out of Newburyport was jammed up for miles due to a traffic accident on I 95 earlier in the morning. Instead of joining the jam, I drove out to the Parker River Wildlife Refuge. I stopped at Lot # 1 to see the Purple Martins. What a different scene from May a year ago when I came here last! There were only a few birds, not the boisterous crowd of last year. According to Sue McGrath the birds were starving due to the rain and cold weather. Many fleglings and females had perished of the cold and starvation. Here is her report. I drove down to Sandy Point but did not see anything of note and found that by 6 pm the route home was clear.

This morning David Weaver's trip report arrived which gives a vivid account of our trip and a list and number of the birds encountered. Thanks to David Weaver and David Larson and to all who made this trip possible.