On Saturday, July 7th thirty-four birders from across the province sailed from Seal Cove on Grand Manan aboard the Day’s Catch with Captain Peter Wilcox and First Mate Durlan Ingersoll.
We spent from about 11:45 AM to 6:15 PM on the water to the east and southeast of Grand Manan in search of seabirds and any marine mammals we might happen across. Durlan brought 80 pounds of chum (pieces of herring) as well as menhaden oil to be used to bring seabirds close to the boat for observation and photographs.
The following numbers are estimates put together later by several members of the voyage. However because of the difficulty of keeping track of swirling seabirds attracted to the vessel over the space of more than six hours, we decided to state the estimated numbers in the form of approximate ranges, rather than absolute numbers. I daresay if 10 individual birders provided independent estimates, we would likely have 10 quite different sets of numbers. What follows is simply a best attempt.
NORTHERN FULMAR – 15-20
GREAT SHEARWATER – 150-200 (but very hard to be sure as birds came, went and lingered all afternoon).
SOOTY SHEARWATER – 50-75
MANX SHEARWATER – 3-5
WILSON’S STORM-PETREL – 300-500 (the majority were always well away from the boat, despite an attempt to attract them closer with the fish oil).
LEACH’S STORM-PETREL – 15-20 (same as with Wilson’s).
NORTHERN GANNET – 5-10
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT – 5-10
HERRING GULL – 500-1,000
GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL – 10-20
COMMON TERN – 1 (reported by Mitch Doucet)
SOUTH POLAR SKUA – 2 (the first appeared to be a molting sub-adult; the second skua was most likely a fresh juvenile. Thanks to Stu Tingley and Bruce MacTavish in Newfoundland for providing ID opinions)
COMMON MURRE – 5-10
RAZORBILL – 10-15
BLACK GUILLEMOT – 2-5
ATLANTIC PUFFIN – 5-10
RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD – 1 (reported by Mitch Doucet)
The South Polar Skuas were of particular interest this early in the season. Most of our documented records of this species have been from mid-August to late September. I believe these two birds are the earliest documented NB records to date.
The fresh juvenile was at first thought to be a dark-morph non-adult Pomarine Jaeger but examination of photos by Stu Tingley (who was not on the voyage) proved otherwise and that opinion was later shared by several participants and by Bruce MacTavish, who has lots of experience with this species.
The sub-adult South Polar Skua was in heavy wing molt, which provided an indication of the species because it’s a southern hemisphere breeder that molts while spending its “winter” on this side of the equator. The Great Skua breeds in the northern hemisphere and should not be in wing molt until at least August (August-April). Other plumage characteristics at first raised questions but they were later settled by opinions from Bruce and Stuart. Thanks to both!
The fresh juvenile skua would, of course, not be in wing molt because of its age.
There was a lot of effort expended on trying to spot a Cory’s Shearwater. Recent history indicates that early July is the best time to see this rarity in the Bay of Fundy and one had been seen on July 5th of this year in the same area. Although Durlan did spot a distant bird that was suspicious, it did not approach the boat and he couldn’t be sure.
This was another very enjoyable day on the water with unexpected animals appearing. Beside the skuas we had great looks at an OCEAN SUNFISH (Mola mola) which was a new species in the Bay for me and for several other participants.
We also had at least five HUMPBACK WHALES, a few GRAY SEALS and several HARBOUR PORPOISE.
There will be another pelagic voyage on the Bay on August 25th (unfortunately it’s fully booked with a waiting list) and we look forward to the results of that one.
Thanks for the report Jim. Great to hear about all the regulars and rarities that you all had the opportunity to see. Maybe one day, if I fill up on Gravol, I might try the Pelagic trip again.