Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 28 - History at Hatteras

Our final day of pelagics into the Gulf Stream off Hatteras, NC was record setting. Unfortunately it wasn't exactly the sort of record we were hoping for. It was the first spring/summer trip on which Black-capped Petrel was not recorded.

Things were quite slow for most of the day, as you might have imagined. We did have many Audubon's and Cory's Shearwaters, plus a few Great Shearwaters and Pomarine & Parasitic Jaegers. Storm-petrel numbers were low for the second consecutive day.

The highlight of the day was a great look at Cuvier's Beaked Whale (photos).

- NB

Monday, May 28, 2012

Hatteras Pelagics May 27 - both tropicbirds

Following Saturday's cancelation, we were itching to get out and see what Beryl churned up. Throughout the day numbers were low but diversity ended up rather high.

The day started with a surprise imm. Red-billed Tropicbird only 8 miles from shore. An adult White-tailed later in the morning provided the North Atlantic tropicbird sweep for the day, a rare occurrence. Other highlights included a subadult Long-tailed Jaeger and a South Polar Skua. All were photographed (coming soon).

Cetaceans were highlighted by a pair of Gervais' Beaked Whales.

-NB

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hatteras pelagics, halfway done

Friday's trip was really nice. No rarities but I had a lot of fun with the Band-rumps and Black-cappeds. Possibly two forms of BRSP included, photos to come.

Today (Saturday) was canceled thanks to a large swell from Beryl. Really a major bummer, but what can ya do. Here's hoping we'll be able to get out tomorrow.

We have two trips left, Sunday and Monday.

-NB

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Back from AK, off to Hatteras

Just back from Alaska, some highlights of which I posted while on the road. A summary post with photos will come in the future.

Next up is Hatteras, NC for four days of Memorial Weekend pelagics with Brian Patteson. My only previous experience off Hatteras was a single July trip a few years ago that produced two White-tailed Tropicbirds and many BRSP & BCPE.

Once my travels end next week I'll start to go through photos and will eventually post summaries and photos from Florida, Alaska, and NC pelagics.

-NB

Monday, May 21, 2012

AK - Aleutian Terns, finally!

After a couple days of narrow misses between wedding festivities, I finally caught up with Aleutian Tern in the Homer area today.

A dawn watch at Anchor Pt produced at least five of them, along with one of the continuing Bristle-thighed Curlews plus a Yellow-billed Loon, imm Glaucous Gull, and a few Parasitic Jaegers.

Later, at Beluga Slough, Carolyn and I had four Aleuts foraging well offshore. Here we also had a hen King Eider, two Black Brant and a Gadwall.

On our way back north, at the mouth of the Kenai River, one or two pairs of ALTE were quite vocal as they quickly passed by. After two days of dipping, I couldn't get away from them! Also here were a pair of Hudwits and a pair of adult dark morph Parasitic Jaegers. Plus two Caribou, life mammals for both of us.

So we've departed Homer after an awesome wedding with some great birding sprinkled in. Congrats to newlyweds Chris and Jessie for the coolest wedding possible!

Tomorrow CS and I will do a short spruce forest hike in the AM and a very highly anticipated Kenai Fjords boat tour in the afternoon, all before our red eye flight back to the east coast.

- NB

Saturday, May 19, 2012

AK - Kittlitz's Murrelet

Today's birding included a 3-hr boat trip from the Homer spit. Best bird? Easily the Kittlitz's Murrelets.

-NB

Friday, May 18, 2012

AK - Bristle-thighed Curlews near Homer

First day in Alaska was spent driving from Anchorage to Homer with many birding/scenic stops along the way.

The best bird highlight came late in the day when we reached Anchor Pt and were able to relocate two of the recently found Bristle-thighed Curlews. Tom Johnson and Melissa Roach also located one, which was either a third bird or one of the two seen earlier up the beach together. After sunset two birds were again seen simultaneously, each roosting with small flocks of Whimbrel.

Non-avian highlights were certainly Dall Sheep, Mountain Goats, and River Otters. Oh yeah, and the many roadside moose were cool too.

- NB

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Off to Alaska!

Currently sitting in the Minneapolis airport with the lovely and talented Carolyn Sedgwick on our journey to Alaska.

Not a birding trip per se, we'll be in and around Homer for a wedding this weekend. The bride and groom, and likely many of the guests, are birders themselves so birding is very much in the cards.

It's the first trip to AK for the both of us so life birds are guaranteed. At the top of the wish list? Aleutian Tern, Kittlitz's Murrelet, Fork-tailed Storm-petrel, Steller's Eider, Rock Sandpiper and a few more. Some are more likely than others. Perhaps an Asian vagrant will present itself. Just the scenery itself is sure to be awe inspiring.

Will check in here if cell coverage or Internet availability allows.

- NB

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Last day in FL - SMOOTH-BILLED ANI on May 12

May as well put that one in CAPS. I thought I may have missed my chance at SBAN in the ABA area. But after several searches near the Fort Lauderdale airport, we finally turned one up at 800 Old Griffin Road. The bird called as we got out of the car at 9am but I stupidly chalked it up to one of the numerous singing Mockingbirds. Thanks to Greg, who split up from the group and spotted it teed up in an Australian Pine. We got on it briefly as it flew to the powerline cut and out of sight.

Great way to end a very successful trip to south Florida. Our only miss was Flamingo, which has given most people the slip over the past few weeks. There will be more.

More highlights and photos at a later date.

-NB

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Flamingo dip

Chartered a 24 ft fishing boat out of Islamorada today to try for the increasingly dwindling and elusive Flamingo flock. No dice at Lake Ingraham or Snake Bight. Highlight was awesome look at a couple American Crocodiles.

Tomorrow into the glades for Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow and Shiny Cowbird. Then, the rest of our visit is up in the air! Home Sunday.

Perhaps another West Indies vagrant will appear somewhere.

- NB

Florida RED-FOOTED BOOBY and BLACK NODDIES

Another killer day in Florida for the gang (so was yesterday, when we had possibly the best looks at Mangrove Cuckoo one could ask for)...today was our boat trip to the Dry Tortugas. Only the highlights below.

We ended up with a four Sulid day, in order of appearance: Northern Gannet, Brown Booby, Masked Booby, and RED-FOOTED BOOBY.

But the day started out with a BLACK NODDY scoped from atop Fort Jefferson. Amazingly, right where John Puschock described in his recent ABARare blog post. After we soaked that one up, I began to scan the rest of Bush Key and was quite surprised to find a second Black Noddy. These two birds would be visible for much of the next hour, though they did not associate with one another. Both were digiscoped. Awesome. We were prepared for a needle-in-haystack vigil but ended up with an instant payoff.



 Black Noddy #1 (between 11am and Noon)

 Black Noddy #2 at right (between 11am and Noon)

 one of the two Black Noddies still visible at 2:20pm

Fast forward...

At the very end of the day, while scoping with Frank from the very same spot, he suggested that we give one last look at offshore boobies. I picked up on a partially obscured light-to-mid brown bird roosting in a distant tree with frigatebirds on Long Key. At this point we had to board the ferry and were worried we would not get a definitive look at this interesting bird, which we could only ID as a dark booby and perhaps a good one. While we were on the boat a few of the frigatebirds flew off the tree, allowing for unobstructed scope views of what would be a RED-FOOTED BOOBY. Perfect way to end the day. We were very happy to chase the Thick-billed Vireo and Black Noddy but it's always nicer to find your own rarities. Apologies for the awful photos, so dark and noisy that the details visible in the field blend together and make it appear darker, unlike warm/tan tinge that was apparent in the field, especially as compared to the several nearby Brown Boobies. I believe this is a subadult, especially given the whitish tail.





Red-footed Booby

- NB

Monday, May 7, 2012

Florida THICK-BILLED VIREO

Our first full day in FL was a great success. After dipping again on Smooth-billed Ani we headed north of Ft Lauderdale to easily score on nesting Spot-breasted Orioles, thanks entirely to Russ Titus. Of course we were thrilled when Russ texted us, while we were looking at the orioles, that he had just found a THICK-BILLED VIREO at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, no more than 15 minutes away.

After nearly five hours of vigil things were looking bleak, until the bird appeared seemingly out of nowhere over my head. We all ended up enjoying some nice, albeit brief, views of the mega. Here is one photo. More to come, plus a voice recording, in a post when I get home.

Thick-billed Vireo

We followed it up with a couple of easy exotic ticks: White-winged Parakeet and Red-whiskered Bulbul.

Heading south tomorrow. A Bahama Mockingbird was reported from Key West today. If still there tomorrow, we'll make the drive all the way out.

Thanks Russ!

 - NB

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Florida trip begins

I arrived in Fort Lauderdale this afternoon with Greg H, Frank M, and Phil R. We used the last 3 hours of daylight to search unsuccessfully for Smooth-billed Ani. I'm the only one of the group who needs it, and this may be my last decent chance as they're nearly extirpated.

Tomorrow we'll try again for the Ani, followed by Spot-breasted Oriole and then south to Miami for a couple more exotics. The recently seen La Sagra's and Bahama Mocker have apparently departed.

Speaking of exotics, we had a few speckly Muscovy Ducks today. They are on the FL state list. Can anyone tell me if they are ABA countable? I fear that they are but hope that they're not...

- NB