On Thursday I enjoyed my first Chatham “Mini” Pelagic of the season. I’ve done a few of these trips over the past couple of years, and have always had a blast out there. Birding nearshore waters on a boat limited to seven people is a much different experience than trudging out to the continental shelf waters on a one hundred foot party fishing vessel. An observer is much, much closer to the water level on the Chatham trips, and often much closer to the birds. Opportunities for photography are unbeatable.
The Chatham Pelagics are organized by veteran Cape Cod birder Blair Nikula, who often leads these trips. Over the past few years they’ve recorded such species as Sabine’s Gull, South Polar Skua, and Long-tailed Jaeger. A similar trip chartered by Blair out of Provincetown earlier this year recorded a Fea’s Petrel (!!), only the second (?) record for Massachusetts.
The weather couldn’t have been more perfect over the course of our voyage, and we enjoyed fantastic seabirding throughout. The highlight of the trip was absolutely killer views of two awesome Pomarine Jaegers (one apparent second and one apparent first summer; another “Pom” was seen more distantly). Other highlights included all four shearwater species (Cory’s, Great, Sooty, and Manx) in a single raft (something that I’ve enjoyed on every trip), triple-digit numbers of Red-necked Phalaropes, three distant Parasitic Jaegers, a couple of Northern Gannets, twelve Lesser Black-backed Gulls representing a variety of plumages, and abundant Wilson’s Storm-Petrels. An eBird checklist with a photo of our route can be found here.
Photos below (click for larger, clearer views):