If you haven’t already heard, my first real pelagic birding trip turned out to be one of the best pelagic trips ever. Not only did we see Maryland’s first state record for Herald Petrel, we also found the target bird of the trip, White-faced Storm-Petrel. If you haven’t already booked a trip with See Life Paulagics, you may be kicking yourself even more than you are right now for missing this one.
Stormy weather was likely part of the reason why our trip list was so unbelievable. Bad weather and rough seas were also to blame for 5 out of 6 of our group members getting sea sick, including myself. After a rough night’s sleep on the top deck of the boat, first light meant that the boat finally stopped; a welcome relief for all on board. The relief was short-lived, though, as the smell of freshly butchered shark organs triggered my sea sickness. I scrambled to follow the directions of the guides to get on the early morning Cory’s Shearwaters and various storm-petrels, but I knew I’d spend the rest of the day running in and out of the cabin and hanging over the side of the boat. After finally getting to sleep in the cabin, I was awakened by shouts and loud footsteps, and before I knew it the cabin had cleared. I caught a glimpse of a distant bird that people were saying was a White-faced Storm-Petrel, but I never saw it in my binoculars. Feeling much better from sleep, I grabbed my camera and hoped it would come back. This bird proved just as cooperative as most of the other birds for the day, and the boat’s captain amazingly chased the small 1.6 ounce bird down, while the ship mates created a massive oil slick to draw it in. It nearly immediately joined a group of Wilson’s Storm-Petrels at the slick, giving us all amazing looks at its unique feeding behavior as it bounced along the choppy waters.