John C. Conlon
Any body who took a whale watch trip during the last two weeks of June knows that fog, wind and rain were steady factors in looking at anything including seabirds. The fog is really not that unusual at this time of year. We see it during our trips. It burns off during the middle of the days and rolls back in during the evenings. This year though there were many late-June days that the fog did not burn off at all. None the less the pelagic birding has been good.
Shearwaters in particular have been great! I spotted my first Cory’s Shearwater on the 25th of June. One out on the southern edge of Stellwagen. I returned three days later from time off and there were regular flocks of mixed shearwaters: Cory’s, Greater and Sooty shearwaters. The Cory’s are the most recent addition to these mixed flocks that we’ve been seeing for several weeks. All were in flocks of one hundred to several hundred birds. The Cory’s and Greaters were often in approximately equally mixed numbers while the Sooty shearwaters were generally in smaller numbers. Scattered individual shearwaters were often seen inside Provincetown Harbor but as we neared Herring Cove and moved toward Race Point the shearwaters became more numerous and more regular. Often they thin out after getting offshore of Race Point. The numbers pick up again nearing the south edge of Stellwagen Bank. This is now the second year in a row we have had Cory’s Shearwaters. Some years I see few if any.
Most sighted shearwater flocks number in the hundreds lately, There are however some spectacular sightings. On the 29th of June we traveled through another mixed flock of Cory’s, Greater and Sooty Shearwaters. I estimated this group to be somewhere between 3500 and 4000 birds (excluding the mixed in gulls, terns and Wilson’s Storm Petrels). I generally estimate the numbers of birds within a quarter to a third of a mile form the boat so this number is certainly conservative. This group went on for several miles as we traveled from the southwest corner of Stellwagen toward the eastern edge. Lately the shearwaters themselves have been worth the boat ride.
On less of a bird note and more of a people note the Dolphin Fleet has expanded its volunteer and intern program to include pelagic birders on several trips on Wednesdays. I will be working as field guide on Wednesdays, Sundays and Tuesdays. Dolphin Fleet field guide and very well known Cape Cod bird guide Peter Trull will be working as field guide on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Peter often posts his sightings on the MASSBIRD website. Once we get our volunteers going and helping with our counts my sightings will again this year be posted on Cornell’s eBird site. Our hope is to make pelagic birds more accessible within the context of our whale watching trips. If you are a birder come on up and introduce yourself to Peter or myself…
Don’t forget your binoculars!