Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Canada Cruise, Day 4 - 24 Sep 2012

At Sea

Today was an all-day at sea.  Almost from first light I was able to spot seabirds soaring low over the water from our 9th deck balcony.  As soon as breakfast was done I grabbed the scope and cameras and headed for the mid-ship deck.

Camping out at the port side forward of the ship I spent the entire day scanning the waters for flying seabirds.  By far the most numerous and common birds were Great Shearwaters (Puffinus gravis).  Their dark caps, white collars and rump stripe made them easy to spot and identify.  Most were far away from the ship, crossing in front at the last moment, but I was unable to get to the front of the ship.  So I had to settle for those birds that soared alongside the ship.





An all-dark, heavy-looking bird passed by in the low morning light.  I immediately suspected Sooty Shearwater, but upon reviewing my images, realized it was a Stercorarius sp. (jaeger or skua).  Unable to ID the bird myself, I created this composite image and sent it to the Frontiers in ID Listserv (Listserv@listserve.ksu.edu).  With huge thanks to the many folks who responded the unanimous consensus was that the bird was a Pomarine Jaeger (S. pomarinus). The following comments were provided:

Your bird looks like a dark Pomarine Jaeger to me. Skuas are even bulkier, darker, and show more white on the upper primaries, among other field marks.

Looks like a dark subadult Pomarine Jaeger.

I think this is a Pomarine Jaeger. The prominent double flash on the underwings created by the white bases of the primaries and primary coverts are evident in at least four of the images. This argues against Parasitic Jaeger (aka Arctic Skua). Also the bill looks bicolored and not heavy enough for any of the skuas. The white flash on the upper wing should also be more extensive on true skuas. Lastly, the dark cap extends right down around the base of bill. I'd like to hear the thoughts of others on the aging of this bird.


A small pod of dolphins appeared next to the ship, and I managed to grab several images of the jumping 'fish' as they made their way toward the ship.






As I fired away at the dolphins a single Cory's Shearwater appeared, and I managed a single capture of the yellow-billed seabird as it sped by.


Northern Gannets were also seen today, with several birds (2-3 at a time) making relatively close passes to the ship.



The surprise sightings of the day, however, went to a Mourning Dove and Baltimore Oriole that were seen flying alongside the ship 10 miles from the closest shore (halfway between Halifax and Prince Edward Island).  I'm guessing that they may have stowed away prior to leaving port, but its also possible that the field guides will need to be modified to include these two new seabirds...




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