Monday, July 13, 2009

Chicken Soup for the Summer Blues

I have an admission to make: the wet weather northern New England has experienced so far this summer has really gotten me down. Since returning from New Mexico over two weeks ago, nearly every day has been punctuated by downpours more often than not occurring after work dashing any hopes of squeezing in home chores or even some birding during the remaining hours of daylight. As a life long New Englander I'm certainly accustomed to our fickle climate but we're stuck in a rut and my overall attitude is showing it. So when last Friday was forecast to be a splendid day weatherwise, it did not take a second of thought to decide to escape to the New Hampshire coast with Lance Tanino to take in a morning whale watch cruise out of Rye Harbor with the hopes of observing pelagic birds. Conditions were fantastic: sunny, warm, nearly cloudless skies, and a light southeast wind. The birds did not disappoint us nor did the whales.

Arriving at the coast an hour or so before the boat's scheduled departure we checked out Hampton State Park, Bicentennial Park and Seabrook Harbor, all locations from which a first-cycle Sabine's Gull has been reported. No luck!

The Granite State Whale Watch cruise began at 8:30 a.m. with the boat returning to port at 1:30 p.m. During the five hours we headed out past the Isles of Shoals to Jeffrey's Ledge and then south to off Rockport, Massachusetts. Lance was the "official" note keeper with species observations and counts as follow: Greater Shearwater, 26; Cory's Shearwater, 12; possible Sooty Shearwater, 2; Wilson's Storm-Petrel, 250 (conservative count); Northern Gannet, 17; Double-crested Cormorant, no count; Parasitic Jaeger, 1 adult; other possible jaeger sp., 3; Herring Gull, no count; Great Black-backed Gull, no count; and Common Tern, no count. In addition to the birds we got close-up views of 3 Humpbacked Whales, 7 Minke Whales, and a Fin Whale. Passengers were treated to several of these behemoths blowing bubble rings and breaching the water surface to feed (photo).

After getting back we had the afternoon and early evening to bird the New Hampshire coast beginning at Odiorne Point and ending at Hampton Harbor. Species of particular note included Common Eiders; Mute Swans, 2; Wilson's Storm-Petrels; Double-crested Cormorants; Great Blue Herons; Great Egrets; Snowy Egrets; Black-crowned Night-Herons, 2; Ospreys, 2 adults and 2 immatures; Willets, 12; Whimbrels, 2; Short-billed Dowitchers, 126; Laughing Gulls; Bonaparte's Gulls; Ring-billed Gulls; Herring Gulls; Great Black-backed Gulls; a Caspian Tern; and Common Terns. And again no Sabine's Gull or the Little Gull also recently sighted in the area.

So, did the day lift my spirits? You bet! Besides a great weather day, Cory's Shearwater was a lifer for me, and as a side Lance returned to the coast on Sunday and added Little Gull to his life list.

No comments:

Post a Comment