Sunday, July 19, 2015

Whale and Seabird Watch, July 11, 2015

It is always a crap-shoot when heading out on a Whale watch boat as naturally the whales take precedence over the birds. Some years the birding is slow, limited to far off views.

But more times than not, we get to view a lot of interaction between the species. When the whales are actively feeding, the birds tend to join in, picking over the "scraps". Other times, we find large rafts of shearwaters just floating about.

This year, twelve individuals join the club trip as we headed out on the Captain John from Plymouth Harbor to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary for a morning of seabird watching.

With clear blue skies and calm seas (always my favorite!), we headed out past Plymouth beach on the high tide. The normally active tern colony appeared quite, but I am sure this related to the tide. A handful of terns were loafing at the end of the beach. At least one person, reported seeing a Black Skimmer, but I and a few other seasoned birdwatchers could not find it.

Aside from a few Common Terns coming and going from and to the colony and a few gulls, birds were lacking for over the first couple of hours. We motored right past a couple somewhat distant humpback whales, as more were being reported, north and east of P'town.

As we continued, east, a few Wilson's Storm-Petrels started to show up, then the show began.
We came upon two rafts of shearwaters, 30- 50 birds, but as we got closer, but not close enough, the birds tended to pick up and fly away from us. Were they Greats or Cory's Shearwaters? At this point, the light was not in our favor, so we could not be sure.

We then came upon the whales, other whale watching and pleasure boats and lots of bird action. Three to seven whales were actively feeding in the area, including three whales which ended up right next to our boat. For the next half hour, we enjoyed one of the wonders of nature as the birds and chased the whales as they surfaced bringing sandlance and other aquatics to the surface.

Several other rafts of Shearwaters were found with 95+% were Cory's Shearwaters.

Cory's Shearwater

We finally did manage to see Great and Sooty Shearwaters, along with more Storm-Petrels. As soon as the show began, we had to return to Plymouth.

On the way back, we did see Willets and Piping Plover on Plymouth beach.

Below is a full list of birds seen.

Canada Goose 7
Mallard 15
Cory's Shearwater 290
Great Shearwater 4
Sooty Shearwater 4
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 57
Great Blue Heron 1
Osprey 2
Piping Plover 1
Willet 2
Laughing Gull 2
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull 5
Least Tern 4
Common Tern 55
Black Skimmer 1
Rock Pigeon 5
American Crow 1
European Starling 1
Song Sparrow 1
House Sparrow 6

Mike Emmons


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