Three hours after waking up and driving 140 miles east to the coast, we set off at 5 AM from the marina at Belmar, NJ. Since it was still quite dark, the only birds I could see were Laughing Gulls streaming overhead and Great Black-backed Gulls loafing on the docks.
Things really got exciting once we were 20 miles out when we came across a Fin Whale feeding frenzy. The whales were lunge-feeding, Common Dolphins were feeding all around us and Cory’s and Greater Shearwaters and Wilson’s Storm-petrels were all around. Photos below are all from flickr because I wanted to focus on seeing the birds instead of trying to photograph them.
After leaving the feeding frenzy and heading out to our destination of 85 miles from shore, we came across a few small flocks of shearwaters. One of the flocks held a Manx Shearwater which we got to watch until it flew away. Manx Shearwater is smaller than the other shearwaters I had seen up to this point and is very similar to Audubon’s Shearwater which I saw later.
A highlight of the trip for me was getting to see two jaegers. The Pomarine Jaeger put on a good show for us, chasing terns and shearwaters as well as sitting on the water and allowing us to get close. We also attracted a Long-tailed Jaeger with a fish lure the boat was pulling. The Long-tailed Jaeger was a very young bird because its plumage was very fresh. It had probably fledged and flew straight to where we saw it.
This was my first summer pelagic so I managed 8 life birds: Red-necked Palarope, Wilson’s Storm-petrel, Greater Shearwater, Cory’s Shearwater, Manx Shearwater, Audubon’s Shearwater, Pomarine Jaeger and Long-tailed Jaeger. Its hard to see everything you want on a pelagic but I missed Artic Tern, Bridled Tern, Sooty Shearwater, Leach’s Storm-petrel and White-faced Storm-petrel. Just more reason to go out on another pelagic!