Ingrid and I love bird watching at sea . . . and I’m not sure why. Its hours of staring out over the ocean with nothing but water and sky to see. You’re always cold or hot, or sun burned or wind burned. There is a curious smell . . . a mixture of diesel fuel and salt air (and sometimes fish chum). The engines can be loud and we often shout to communicate.
But when a bird comes into view . . . either as the boat approaches a nesting island or a wandering seabird ventures by . . . there is a sense of excitement that is hard to describe.
Yesterday, Ingrid and I took a “mini-pelagic” out of Boothbay Harbor for a five hour cruise around Eastern Egg Rock, a nesting spot for Atlantic Puffins and a variety of terns and gulls.
A “pelagic” is day long (sometimes multi-day) trip to find seabirds and the clientel is comprised of the lunatic fringe of birders. There are a number of pelagic trips along the Maine coast each year . . . but not nearly enough. So Ingrid and I “manufacture” our own pelagics by stowing away on tourist oriented whale watches, as sea birds and whales tend to eat some of the same food and can often be found together.
On whale watches birders tend to be a bit of a curiosity as we high-five the sighting of a 7 inch Wilson’s Storm-petrel while ignoring the 30 ton humpback whale on the other side of the boat.
Yesterday’s mini-pelagic was fun as birders from throughout the region were together for half a day and able to exchange stories and point out sea birds together . . . none of that silly sea mammal nonsense.
The visit to Eastern Egg Rock was wonderful as we saw all of our target Alcids
The second half of the trip, exploring the ocean looking for Shearwaters was disappointing . . . still early in the year to see the ubiquitous Great Shearwaters, who breed in our winter on Tristan da Cunha, in the south Atlantic.
We’ll see them later in the summer.