On Sunday morning, 75 excited birders departed Provincetown Harbor aboard the Dolphin 7, setting sail for a much anticipated 6-hour pelagic. The sky was clear, the breeze heavy as we left the harbor. Overall, though, it was a wonderful day to be out!
On our way out, we enjoyed great looks at 6 Great Cormorants among many Double-cresteds along the breakwater. Black-crowned Night-Herons and Ruddy Turnstones were also taking advantage of the food availability. A look at a far-flying Merlin was also obtained.
No sooner had we passed Wood End Light, did 3 Parasitic Jaegers (including 2 adults) fly past the bow. Many terns flew overhead, which were absolutely dominated by Roseate Tern calls! With all the terns, came more Jaegers. The real show was off Race Point where we encountered 4+ Parasitic Jaegers chasing terns. Two Jaegers flew right along the boat providing great looks. Just awesome!
Along the horizon, we noted 2 Humpback Whales and raced toward them. The first Humpback put on a heck of a show, porpoising, fin slapping and leaping out of the water multiple times. I stood there in awe and don’t have many photos to show for it.
While we were enjoying the show 3 Northern Gannets flew over. After the whale we moved on, heading for more birds.
The birding was slowing down, so I went up to ask the leaders about our course. It seemed that they had come up with a new plan instead of the traditional route to the Stellwagon Bank, as it had been very slow this year. A good strategy, and as we continued it would start to pay off.
We started to encounter fishing trawlers and with them flocks of gulls. Great Shearwaters along with a few Cory’s were mixed in. A few more trawlers held much the same. A Manx Shearwater flew by, but we somehow missed a look at it, and although it was naked eye I believe I saw the bird, albeit poorly.
The ride began to quiet down again. We went over an hour without many highlights. I was dozing off when I heard, “Northern Fulmar, in front of the boat!” Instinctively, hearing the name of a bird I’ve never seen, I jumped up and ran outside. A beautiful Northern Fulmar flew right across the bow. As we were enjoying it, a second Fulmar came in. Our views were great and we were high-5ing all around when then a cry came “Kittiwake, stern!” Dave and I immediately ran to the back of the boat
When we arrived it was just us and a few others. A single bird flew right over our heads. Black-legged Kittiwake! The looks were insane! More birders kept arriving but the bird stayed put in the back, diving down for pieces of chum every so often. I’ve always loved the flight style of Black-legged Kittiwakes. What a bird!
Finally, after 20 minutes the Captain picked up speed and the Kittiwake who was trying to keep up with the boat was lost.
2 more Northern Fulmars appeared making it 4 on the day! While on our way into deeper water two flocks of phalaropes appeared about 18-20 birds each. The flocks were of Red-necked Phalaropes, no Reds were intermixed at all.
Soon it was time to turn around and head for the harbor. 4 Northern Gannets flew by and another Humpback Whale also made a good showing and again I missed most of the photo ops. However, I was able to capture this one shot of it in front of another Dolphin Fleet Vessel.
Nearing P’town, we caught up with a leucistic Great Black-backed Gull along with a normal adult Lesser Black-backed following another fishing boat. While watching the gulls, a wayward Black-throated Blue Warbler flew over the boat.
Almost on cue, as we neared Race Point, the Jaeger and Tern show picked up once again. Fantastic views were had as the chases continued. Just awesome!
Overall it was a very successful trip, all about quality over quantity. I do have a couple disclaimers however. First, the PA System was not very good, as many find on pelagic boats. It only worked in the front of the boat, so if you were at the back you had to run up to hear the announcement. Furthermore, it was very crackly inside. Now, I understand this is a whale-watch boat but I think changes in this can be made to help birders and whale enthusiasts alike. Second, we didn’t have enough, nor did we have adequate chum. Mahaden Oil would’ve been a great addition as well. Plus we didn’t chum long enough. I think next time these small changes would be much appreciated by all participants.
This was my second trip of the season, and it was awesome to be out there again!