Saturday, May 30, 2015

Out in the Blue Desert: A Tale of Three Jaegers (5/30/15 by Steve NG Howell)

Three days left of the 2015 Spring Blitz, and every day has been different. Today, after passing through a few shearwaters and jaegers on the transit offshore we came upon some dolphins, and then a feeding flock of Cory’s, Great, and Audubon’s Shearwaters near the shelf break – just like yesterday, but with nicer sea conditions, a low swell and light easterly wind. It was a pretty day to be out, and we enjoyed some great flyingfish as well. But then it got quiet, and hot. The tropical Atlantic is the second biggest desert on the planet (after the tropical Pacific), and by mid-late morning we came to appreciate that just because it’s full of water doesn’t mean it’s not a desert. The 360-degree vista of blue water was punctuated by only a handful of Wilson’s Storm-Petrels in the wake, as we headed deeper into the desert. Few people realize that Black-capped Petrel is an oceanic desert species, adapted to cover huge areas in search of food, and we did have a few nice views of this threatened gadfly petrel. But mostly it was hot and seemingly lifeless.
Around lunchtime, however, a cry of “jaeger in the wake” stirred folks to life, and one, then two, then three jaegers were behind the boat – two Long-tailed and a Parasitic, affording great comparisons. Then a Pomarine Jaeger came in, a few more Long-taileds, and a couple more Pomarines – wow! For well over an hour we got to study all three jaeger species together, including 1st-summer, 2nd-summer, and adult-type of both Long-tailed and Pomarine, along with an uncharacteristically cooperative 2nd-summer Parasitic. A few Great and Cory’s Shearwaters joined the fray as numbers of Wilson’s Storm-Petrels increased – we had found an oasis of birds out in the desert. A Bridled Tern and a very obliging Arctic Tern appeared, and then Kate spotted a Scopoli’s Shearwater in the wake, amid the ‘blizzard’ of jaegers. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and surely millions of electrons were captured by the digital cameras on board!

Heading back we enjoyed more flyingfish, and closer inshore a couple of Manx Shearwaters flew by. Well within sight of land Bob spotted a skua on the water and Brian pulled the boat right up to a very confiding South Polar Skua - nice. A few more shearwaters, some Spotted Dolphins, and a turtle rounded out the transit back to the inlet after ‘just another amazing day at sea.’ As they say, ‘today was typical of today.’ You never know what you’ll see, or when.

Thanks to our leaders: Steve Howell, Bob Fogg, & Jeff Lemons - and thank you to Steve & Bob for the blog photos!  Big "Thank You" to Steve for writing today's post and some of the captions, he very kindly gave me more time to sleep tonight!!  -Kate

Black-capped Petrel  5
Cory's Shearwater  130
Great Shearwater  36-37
Sooty Shearwater  2
Manx Shearwater  4
Audubon's Shearwater  19
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  80
Leach's Storm-Petrel  3
Oceanodroma sp  1
Bridled Tern  1
Arctic Tern  6
South Polar Skua  1
skua sp  2
Pomarine Jaeger  3
Parasitic Jaeger  1
Long-tailed Jaeger  11

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin  10-12
Bottlenose Dolphin  25-30
Loggerhead Turtle  2

Photos: Steve's have his name on the photo, Bob Fogg's are labeled!
Black-capped Petrel, white-faced
Audubon's Shearwater
Cory's & Audubon's Shearwaters by Bob Fogg
Cory's Shearwater by Bob Fogg
Scopoli's (nominate Cory's) Shearwater
Bridled Tern by Bob Fogg
Bridled Tern & Long-tailed Jaeger by Bob Fogg
Adult Arctic Tern
 by Bob Fogg
South Polar Skua on the water by Bob Fogg
1st-summer Long-tailed Jaeger, the first bird
1st-summer Long-tailed Jaeger, the second bird
1st summer Long-tailed, dorsal by Bob Fogg
2nd-summer Long-tailed Jaeger, dorsal
2nd-summer Long-tailed Jaeger, ventral – note the barring under the wings
Adult-type Long-tailed Jaeger
 Adult-type Long-tailed by Bob Fogg
Parasitic Jaeger 2nd summer dorsal
Pomarine Jaeger 1st summer ventral with retained juvenile outer primaries and middle secondaries
Pomarine Jaeger subadult (some underwing barring)
Pomarine Jaeger adult-type
Jaeger 3-way: Parasitic 2nd summer below, Long-tailed 1st-summer at top (nearer camera, so looks big!) and 1st-summer Pomarine on right
Jaeger 3-way with Great Shearwater: Parasitic 2nd summer left, Long-tailed 1st-summer middle, and 1st-summer Pomarine on right (bleached and retained juvenile outer primaries create false Long-tailed upperwing pattern)
Pomarine (behind) and Long-tailed Jaegers, 1st-summers
Pomarine (left) and Long-tailed Jaegers, adults
Portuguese man o' war
 Purple Bandwing
 Rosy-veined Clearwing

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