Sunday, August 9, 2009

August 8, More Pelagics & Whales

While waiting for shorebird and other early fall migrant activity to pick up here in the Green Mountain State (but not necessarily looking to rush into winter), I've been passing the mid summer birding doldrums by concentrating on the New Hampshire coast. Frankly, I have been having some great experiences there this season. Yesterday was my most recent trip to the coast birding primarily Hampton Harbor in the morning and taking in a five hour afternoon whale/pelagic seabird boat trip aboard the M/V Granite State, based at Rye Harbor, NH, out to Jeffrey's Ledge. Accompanying me to the coast was Lance Tanono, who I rendezvoused with in Keene, NH,; we arrived on the coast at about 8 a.m. We soon linked up with birders Steve and Jane Mirick, Len Medlock, Lauren Kras, Ben Griffith, and Jason Lambert.

Shorebird abundance continues to pick up steadily with good numbers of Black-bellied Plovers, Semipalmated Plovers, Sanderlings, Semipalmated Sandpipers, and Short-billed Dowitchers staging on the mudflats. Less numerous were Greater Yellowlegs, and on the seaward rocky coastline Ruddy Turnstones and a single Spotted Sandpiper. The usual assortment of gulls, terns and egrets continue in the harbor and surrounding marshes. The highlight sighting of the morning was two Hudsonian Godwits viewed from Hampton Harbor State Marina. One of the pair caused some temporary excitement and discussion, as it was a more washed out more grayish bird with a somewhat longer, straighter bill suggesting a possible Black-tailed Godwit than the other bird (an adult male, below photo in foreground). This tentative identification, however, was quickly dashed when both birds took flight revealing black underwing coverts and the mystery bird was concluded to be a juvenile female Hudsonian.
Later in the day Steve, Jane, Len, Lance and I took in the whale watch trip hoping for some good pelagic bird activity and for me getting first-time views of Red-necked Phalarope and Manx Shearwater, both reported seen offshore by others earlier this week. The leg between Rye Harbor and the Isles of Shoals was fairly void of pelagics, but once past the Isles actitivy steadily increased. Winds were from the SSE, skies clear and sunny. The following more notable counts of our observations were tallied by Steve: Cory's Shearwater, 9; Greater Shearwater, 628; Sooty Shearwater, 309; Manx Shearwater, 4; Wilson's Storm-Petrel, 330; Northern Gannet, 6; Red-necked Phalarope, 7; phalarope sp., 12; Common Tern, 45; and jaeger sp., 1. For most of the passengers, anticipation was focused on whales, and they (as we) were not disappointed. A total of 8 Humpback Whales were seen at close range bubble feeding and tail breaching. Surface feeding behavior was a cue to shearwaters in the area that leftover food was present. This was a great asset to me in identifying my first Manx Shearwater after missing the three previous birds sighted that afternoon. The fourth Manx of the day passed just ahead of the boat bow gliding to the shearwater feeding frenzy. Photos below: Top - Greater Shearwater; Bottom - Greater and Sooty Shearwaters cleaning up the spoils following a Humpback Whale feed.
So in the end, the day was a fantastic outing: both targeted life birds were seen and my day spent with the other birders was enjoyable and entertaining. Special thanks to Steve and Len for their efforts and patience in helping me with Red-necked Phalarope and Manx Shearwater. For readers of this post, especially my fellow Vermont birders, I encourage you to make the trip to the coast and utilize Granite State Whale Watch. It has been a fantastic season for offshore pelagics and whales, and the cost for the five hour trip, morning or afternoon, is only $31 person and ask about the birders' discount offer.

No comments:

Post a Comment