Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Skua Fest in NY Waters...

Captain Mike and his 1st mate saying bye after we returned.
When the Brooklyn VI pulled out of Sheepheads Bay in Brooklyn NY on  June 1st for the See Life Paulagics, overnight pelagic, almost everyone save for those crazy optimistic types were probably thinking about the weather.  It was almost 6:00 p.m. when I parked and headed towards the boat and the clouds were gathering. Rain was on its way and it was going to be a rough ride heading out to sea, especially for those who might be assigned to sleep on the top deck. One leader who was assigned the top deck "presumably" took one look and bailed out attributing his departure to not feeling well. I don't blame him, I might have felt sick too had I ended up on the top deck.

Jesus who worked hard all through the trip providing a steady supply of chum.
Luckily, signing up early paid off, I was first to be called and I grabbed a bench in the lower deck cabin. This, by the way is the process of assigning benches--it goes by who signed up first, which I think is pretty fair. A few, rather I should say all of our leaders as far as I know, opted to stay top deck thereby leaving room for more folks in the cabin.  And that night, you wanted a cabin slot because it was raining, meaning a wet, cold and likely a miserable ride out for anyone on the top deck which had no cover. I decided to try and get some shut eye and so after most people had their fill of chatting and getting their sleeping area sorted out the cabin gradually got quiet.

Participants await their bench assignments in the lower cabin.
I was in and out of sleep for most of the night and was up and ready for birds at around 3:45 a.m. By 4:00 a.m. I was geared up and heading outside to the  stern of the boat. I checked in with the crew and found out that we were some 120 miles offshore, the seas were calm and you would not know we rode rough seas the night before.  Some people were already up and our chum monkey (pelagic term), Jesus was already getting the good stuff together. Paul Guris the owner of Sea Life Paulagics had explained the strategy for the day the night before. We were going to set out a chum slick (consisting of fish oil, beef fat and other nasty stuff--good for the birds but not something we want to chow on) which we hoped would first bring in the Petrels including Leach's as well as the expected Wilson's. It did not take long before we began to get flashes of Petrels; some, we could identify with the help of the boat lights while others were just flashes. Soon we had ample light and all hands were on deck as calls for Leach's among the many Wilson's Storm Petrels began to fill the air.

Wilson's Storm Petrel dancing on water.
Not long after the 1st South Polar Skua made its appearance. I had a hand in seeing it first but could not get a solid ID and mumbled large bird/shearwater type way out near the horizon. It was way out and one of our leaders on top got on it as it broke the horizon giving a better view and called it out. South Polar Skua, was a target bird and for many it was a life bird, for others like myself it was a state bird. I was quite happy but hoped for better views. Little did I know that I would see 5 more South Polar Skuas before the trip was over--most with killer views and I fulfilled a wish of mine as I got to shout, "SKUA" on a New York Pelagic.

1 of several South Polar Skuas seen throughout the trip.
In fact, by the time the trip was winding down, shouts of SKUA hardly evoked any responses, imagine that on a New York Pelagic. Other great birds we got included Audubon's, Manx, Cory's Sooty and Great Shearwater, a sweep for the expected Shearwater species, Long-tailed and Pomarine Jaeger along with Arctic Tern rounded out the birding highlights. The non birding highlights included Blue Shark, Risso's Dolphin, Common Dolphin, Offshore Bottlenose Dolphin, Portuguese Man O' War, Mola Mola (Ocean Sunfish), Pelagic Barnacles likely the genus lepas , and one of the best moments of the trip a Basking Shark, which breached twice.

Greater Shearwater
Overall, it was a fantastic trip but not without some issues for some as a few people got very sick. I myself felt queasy twice but managed to held it together. If you are interested in See Life Paulagics, check out their website. Paul and Anita Juris are two of the nicest people trip/organizers you could meet.  The leaders can fluctuate but for the most part, the consistent lineup include Sean Sime, Doug Gochfeld, Shane Blodgett, Angus Wilson, Andy Guthrie, Joe DiCostanza, Shai Mitra and others (sorry forgot all the names) along with Paul and his gregarious personality all work hard to get people on birds. In addition, there are several people on board who equally lend their skills to spotting and getting people on birds. The New York Pelagic Birding with See Life takes on a family affair atmosphere. Our next trip is in August and maybe I'll see you on-board on out next outing.

Another South Polar Skua.

Cory's Shearwater.

Tags: , , , , Share with SociBook.com Bookmark and Share

No comments: