Thursday, November 10, 2011

Storms, Albatross, and Passerines

If you have been paying attention to the ship's course, you will see we haven't moved far. We (i.e. people who are in charge) have decided to make a run for safe waters between two storms that are brewing in the Bering Sea. They are spaced apart so we should miss the worst of it, but things are bound to get ugly for a bit. I promise I'll take video of the nasty waves and swells we encounter from the bridge as they crash over the front of the boat (pre or post vomit).

Birds were slow yesterday, but marine mammals put in an appearance, the first ones of the trip thus far.  7 Dall's Porpoise and 1 Pacific White-Sided Dolphin were in attendance.

Birds today were awesome! I didn't officially survey too much since we sat on station for the better part of the day, but there were a lot of birds around and I thought it would behoove me to sit and watch anyway. Boy am I glad I did! First great bird was a Black-footed Albatross that flew by shortly after I decided not to bring my camera up to the bridge. That prompted me to grab the camera and head back up. Shortly after, I noticed a passerine flitting below. Turned out to be a Gray-crowned Rosy Finch that has stuck around all day, and even flew into the bridge. I caught him when he was banging around the glass and let him go outside. A Pine Sisken briefly joined him on deck before departing.

A splash of color to brighten up an overcast day!

Another excellent bird really got me going. I noticed a giant white and black seabird uber far away. I knew it was a Laysan Albatross by the size and white/black pattern, but it was so damn far! I made the mistake of putting the bins down and reaching for the camera and lost the bird. Frantically pacing the boat looking for any Albatross-like bird, I noticed a black and white seabird floating far ahead of the front of the boat. It finally got up, and this time I could ID it. I even managed to take a few really crummy pictures, but the features are there. Needless to say, it was frustratingly far, but I'll take it.

A veeeeeeeeery distant Laysan Albatross

It is surprising to me the number of dark Shearwaters still out in the waters. I only could ID a few as Sooty, and the rest were left as Unidentified Dark Shearwater. I also saw a couple flocks of small dark, portly alcids that HAD to be Crested Auklets, but I couldn't get any field marks on them. Size, shape, color and geographic location all point to Crested.

As I type, we are nearing Unimak Pass, but it will be too dark to see anything. Here is to hoping tomorrow produces the Auklets!

P.S. I'm working on figuring out how to post pictures from this secure network. Keep checking back.

EDIT: I figured it out. The pics must be kept small due to bandwidth restrictions, so I may add some nicer ones when I'm back on land.

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