Date: 8/13/19 8:38 am
From: CHELEMER, MARC J <mc2496...>
Subject: [JERSEYBI] Pelagic out of Wildwood Sunday night - Monday afternoon

I don't know if there's a protocol on pelagics here on this listserv, but I thought I'd take the shark by the dorsal fin and offer a writeup.

At 4:15 AM, we all awoke about 80 miles SE of Cape May, well off the continental shelf, in 81 degree, several thousand feet deep water. We watched a few meteors flash across the sky as the Perseid shower continued. I saw a satellite as well. The crew set up a chum slick in the calm sea. At first light, storm-petrels quartered in to the ship, and the guides helped everyone use wing shape and flight style to identify all three of the common species: Leach's, Wilson's, and Band-rumped. After sunrise, we cruised back and forth in that area of deep blue water for some hours, the highlight being sailing up to a piece of flotsam to find a Bridled Tern sitting on it. Three shearwater species: Cory's, Great, and Audubon's, were also identified out in this area. However, their numbers were low; the lack of any wind kept the shearwaters from being able to dynamically soar, so they were not active (and no South Polar Skua picked up the scent of the fish oil, so that was a "miss" on this trip). Other ocean life was present, the highlight being a pod of Spotted Dolphin who cavorted by making spectacular leaps out of the water, or "racing" the ship by riding the bow wave. I also found the flying fish to be mesmerizing, and they were present all day long.

After a few hours off the shelf, we headed to another area closer in where the guides and the crew had, on recent forays out into the ocean, found more birds. In the hour that saw us sail WNW over the "lip" of the canyon and back onto the continental shelf, we found five Red-necked Phalaropes, a lone Marbled Godwit, a lone Least Sandpiper, a swallow (sp.) and a Brown-headed Cowbird (55 miles from land!). Also encountered was a bat (!) and a Monarch butterfly.

Upon arriving at the "area" (Captain Ernie later said we were about 45 miles out), we espied certainly the species of the trip: a White-faced Storm-Petrel doing its remarkable open-winged bouncy-bouncy feeding style. The bird was confiding enough to allow the boat to make two full circles around it, at a distance of no more than fifty or so feet, giving all passengers exceptional looks. Of the fifty or so birders on board, I think it was a Lifer for nearly half (myself included).

Not long afterwards, around 1 PM, we encountered a bonanza of stimuli, all within the space of an hour: two Humpback whales, a Minke whale, a hammerhead shark, another shark sp., two Fin Whales, dolphins, and several gigantic (Tom Reed estimated the number at 12,000!) flocks of storm-petrels, where the guides and crew found not one, not two, but another DOZEN White-faced Storm-Petrels mixed in with the Wilson's.

In the end, the open-ocean tally was four storm-petrel sp., three shearwater sp., five shorebird sp. (we added Black-bellied Plover and Sanderling), the Bridled Tern, the swallow and the Cowbird. We also observed eight mammal sp., numerous fish sp., several Loggerhead Sea Turtles, and numerous butterflies and moths. With fine sunny weather, glassy-smooth seas, and an excellent crew and volunteer guides (thanks Tom, Scott, Ed, Mike, David, and Paul), everyone disembarked around 5:15 happy, with stories to tell.

Good birding,

Marc J. Chelemer
Tenafly, NJ

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