Friday, September 9, 2011

Arctic Ocean Pelagic

I have just returned from 3 weeks on a boat in the Arctic Ocean as a seabird observer for Fish and Wildlife. Needless to say, there were some exciting sightings, but nothing too outlandish. The eastern Beaufort was quite boring, sometimes only seeing a few birds a day. Black-legged Kittiwakes were one of the more common species, often following the boat hoping for an easy meal.
Shooting through the glass of the ship resulted in no good photos, only useable for identification purposes.
Northern Fulmars were around, with a few seen on a typical day, and more seen further west in the Beaufort.
Phalaropes were on the move, with both Red and Red-necked Phalaropes being seen.
Mixed Phalarope flock. I thought these would be the only shorebirds seen on the trip, but this Pectoral Sandpiper threw me a curve-ball and landed on the boat! 
Why couldn't it be a Sharp-tailed!?
One of the most common birds ended up being Short-tailed Shearwater. None were seen in the eastern Beaufort, but thousands of them were seen in the eastern Beaufort, and I had at least 15,000 at one time. Here are 3.
The big surprise was the amount of Kittlitz's Murrelets I found. I counted 12, and I'm sure I missed a lot due to the choppy water that was the norm. On the few calm days, it was easy to pick them out. Here are two of them.
Foggy Kittlitz's Murrelets in the Beaufort Sea.
2 species of finch were seen in the Arctic Ocean, which was 2 more than I expected. The first to land on the boat was a Pine Sisken. He was at least 24 miles north of the closest land mass, and who knows how far from the nearest pine tree! He should have stopped at the Brooks Range.
Near the end of the trip, a tired Common Redpoll landed on the boat.
This Common Redpoll has a fairly small bill, but had heavily streaked undertail coverts. I have a picture, but it isn't very good.
Then there was the one that got away. On two occasions I saw a small, dark alcid too far away to identify. I snapped a few pictures, but it can't be identified to species, or really even from the Loch Ness Monster.
It appers to have an Auklet appearance, and also appears to have a Crest and a white line on the face. Not that I'm suggesting anything....
A total of 27 species were seen on the trip, not bad for that far north. Sorry this wasn't a more entertaining post, I'm still adapting to Michigan and have more important things to do, like look for year birds!

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