Our partnership with Cap'n Fish's Cruises out of Boothbay Harbor continued on Friday, 7/16 with a special edition of their regular "puffin/whale watch combo" cruise. This time, however, I joined the on-board Naturalist to talk about birds, and we put a little more emphasis than usual on finding seabirds offshore. It also maximized our time around Eastern Egg Rock.
Seas were fairly high (3-5ft) as we bounced offshore to deeper water first. Wilson's Storm-Petrels were soon visible, and we passed one Razorbill. We could not stop or turn around for it as the seas were just a little too rough for that, and this was unfortunately our only Razorbill of the day. We cruised around waters over 300 feet deep, and were treated to a good performance from Great Shearwaters, Wilson's Storm-Petrels, and picked up a few Sooty Shearwaters. We had one offshore Atlantic Puffin, but the big surprise was a rare, mid-summer NORTHERN FULMAR - definitely the pelagic bird of the trip.
With the seas building, we made a turn and took advantage of much more pleasant conditions as we trolled the area, giving people a better chance and seeing the aforementioned species. We also spotted a couple of Mola Molas, but no marine mammals, unfortunately.
Away from Eastern Egg Rock (both coming and going), our offshore ("pelagic") scorecard was:
76 Great Shearwaters
61 Wilson's Storm-Petrels
21 Northern Gannets
3 Sooty Shearwaters
2 Arctic Terns
1 Atlantic Puffin
1 NORTHERN FULMAR
1 Common Loon
scattered Common Terns and unidentified Sterna
As we approached Eastern Egg Rock, the action really picked up with all of the island's breeding species soon apparent. Roseate and Arctic Terns joined the multitudes of Common Terns. At least a dozen Roseates included several putting on a good show, and we singled out quite a few close-passing Arctic Terns for good studies. 4 migrant Ruddy Turnstones joined island-breeding Spotted Sandpipers onshore, and we heard a couple of singing Song Sparrows. And of course a plentitude of Laughing Gulls; about half of the entire state's population breeds here. Black Guillemots were also conspicuous today.
But Atlantic Puffins are the star of the show out here, and today, they did not disappoint. In fact, it was a great mid-summer performance, with several dozen on the water - often in very close proximity to the boat, commuters passing by, and dozens more stately stationed on the island's rocks.
We wandered offshore on the way back, near where the boat had recently seen whales, added a few birds to the tallies, but alas, the only marine mammals of the day were two species of seals: lots of Harbor Seals and two Gray Seals. Hopefully, this got the seal of approval from the marine mammal watchers aboard today.
Our next scheduled trip with Cap'n Fish's is on October 11th, a dedicated half-day mini-pelagic heading to the same waters as we had success in for seabirds last October, and again this past June.