11/19/11 – RI Pelagic – Gannets by the dozen!

Sunrise over the harbor

Phil Rusch, Glenn Williams, Brendan Murtha, John Vanderpoel, myself and others headed out of Galilee RI for a stab at some of the more uncommon winter alcids, any bird in the Stercorariidae family (although I’m sure Great Skua led the list for most) and anything else that might be out there. In short, it was the least-successful pelagic I’ve ever been on, but, as I mentioned to Phil and Glenn, there was really no other place I would’ve wanted to be that day. The thrilling adventure and large swells (which caused the trip to feel more like a visit to a theme park than a pelagic at times) alone made it a very worthwhile experience, and there were definitely some avian highlights as well.

The definite downside of those large swells was that we were never able to reach Mud Hole and other areas in its vicinity. Most of the time we spent actually watching birds was in the calm waters right off Block Island where we spent some time chumming.

Highlights included all three Scoter species (predominantly Black), Cory’s, Great and Manx Shearwaters, 30+ Northern Gannets, including a number of individuals that put on an incredible show while we were chumming, Black-legged Kittiwake (one of my favorite gulls), Iceland Gull (a nice 1st cycle bird just inches from the waiting lenses), Lesser Black-backed Gull (an adult and 1st cycle, the young bird providing terrific looks and comparisons with the adjacent GBBGs and HEGUs while chumming), Razorbill and Dovekie (two birds seen flying away at distance). Click here for the day’s checklist.

Photos below (click for larger views!):

Common Loon in the vicinity of Block Island

Black and Surf Scoters; also notice the one Greater Scaup and Common Loon

One of 7 Great Shearwaters

Razorbill and Block Island

Both of Keith Mueller's decoys seem to be screaming "ahhh"

Iceland Gull definitely enjoying our chum!

Iceland Gull - note the more rounded head, kinder "expression" and coloration in comparison to the photos of HEGUs

Lesser Black-backed Gull - this shot shows the dark brown underwing including the lesser coverts and auxillaries

Also note the lighter (than HEGU) uppertail coverts and dark inner ps

Laughing Gull

1st year Northern Gannet

2nd year


Can’t wait for the next one!


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6 Responses to 11/19/11 – RI Pelagic – Gannets by the dozen!

  1. Deanna says:

    What a great day to be on a boat on the Atlantic! Glad you had your sea legs under you with all the swells. The gulls are beautiful–they make me think of the Sound and home. I love the fall and the migratiion–thanks for keeping this site updated. Hugs, Deanna

  2. Betsy Hermann says:

    Hi Alex,

    Thanks for all the wonderful birding classes. Your description of the boating trip made my stomach flip a little. I’ll do my birding on solid ground.
    Keep the birding emails coming. I love them.
    Hugs from Rangeley,

  3. Great Pics! Nice you got a identifiable shot of one of the razorbills, and great job summing up the trip!


  4. Dave says:

    Nice! It’s good! Great gull shots and explanations.

  5. Great post! I can’t wait to go on my first pelagic trip they look like so much fun!

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