Saturday, March 26, 2016

At Sea - 18 Mar 2016

We woke to relatively calm waters and a steady cruise at sea. Clocks had been turned back an hour last night, so it was actually 6 am when we stirred from (another) poor night’s slumber. Outside, the clouds were relatively heavy, and winds were at our tail; so much so that you couldn’t quite tell from the ocean which direction we were moving.

As we sat on the 12th deck eating breakfast a large, white sea bird floated past the balcony – I immediately suspected a Masked Booby. A second one would appear before we finished, so I decided that they might be around for photo opps once we finished our mile walk around the top of the ship.

Sure enough, I grabbed the camera and headed to the 7th deck (Promenade) to look for the Masked Boobies, and had to (again) settle for drying the lens off before I could shoot. Turns out that the A/C in the room cooled the camera enough that, when I stepped out into the 80F / 100% humidity of the ship, the camera turned into one drippy fog! So, I disassembled the lens, dried it, and waited for it to come to ambient temperature before I could photograph any birds.

They stayed around long enough for me to catch up with them at the front of the ship and photograph them as they soared by. Similar-looking Nazca Boobies were also possible, but are more black and white with a rose-colored bill (as opposed to the yellow bills of these birds). Still, as many as seven boobies were soaring by as I photographed them.

As they left a small flock of tiny, white birds were flying by in the distance. I couldn’t tell what they were through binocs, so I relied on the 300/2.8 VRII to capture enough images for me to tentatively ID them as Least Terns! Though the images aren’t good, the bright yellow bills, black caps and white foreheads are good for Least, as is the dark carpal bar (or leading edge of primaries).

A pair of large, brown sea birds would also be seen in the distance, but I’d be unable to even verify if they were shearwaters; they tended to flap more than glide, so I have no clue. They’ll have to remain unidentified. ☹

After an hour or so, and a good 2-miles worth of loops around the ship, Robin and I headed off to a quick lunch. While enjoying a quiet part of the ship I couldn’t help be distracted by the hundreds of flying fish scattering away from the ship as we moved along. Until now we had been seeing singlets of silver-colored flying fish, but now dozens of dark-blue to black fish were strafing the ocean surface like machine gun reports.

A peck on the cheek, and several minutes later I was down on the Promenade shooting flying fish. For the next hour or so I walked the ship and attempted to capture some of the little buggers as they shot away from the ship’s hull.

Robin would catch up w/ me, and we decided to get an afternoon Bahama Mama and enjoy some shade under the canopy of the ship’s Tiki Bar. By now the skies had cleared, and the sun was scorching exposed skin. I was already burnt on the face and arms from spending the 1st 2 days at sea scanning seabirds.

We weren’t more than 5 minutes into our drinks when a pair of Masked Boobies soared over the boat just a few feet away. I would grab the camera from the backpack and take off after them. For the next 10 minutes I took flight shots of 3 birds that were soaring (and even landing on the water) by the ship.

Between bursts of frames I spotted a large brown bird close enough to photograph. I would have no idea what it was until I reviewed frames later on, but it would appear to be a jaeger sp. I suspect either a Parasitic or Pomarine Jaeger based on size, but will have to try to narrow it down when time permits.

We would spend the next half hour or so chatting with folks from New Jersey who were interested in what my reasons would be for carrying such a heavy camera system on the ship. They had seen me on Curacao yesterday so we swapped camera stories while I helped them ID the Banaquits that entertained them on their tour yesterday.

1 comment:

Cathy Carroll said...

The booby photos are terrific but I love the flying fish. The single shot really gives a great view of this unique little creature.

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