Monday, September 17, 2012

Finally out to the Hudson Canyon ...

I've been itching to get out to the Hudson Canyon all Summer.  New York isn't exactly one of natures natural pelagic birding states, in fact it's generally pretty awful compared to say Massachusetts or the Carolinas, but such as we have, tends to show up 90-miles offshore in the canyons.  So any trip out there is filled with the thrill of possibility and it was with great anticipation that I, and 39 other New York birders, boarded one of the Captain Lou boats at Freeport at Midnight on Saturday.

It's a long slog out out to the Canyon, so sleeping bags were spread out and folks crashed on the benches, or on the floor, as we cruised South for 6-hours through some fairly rough weather and a fairly tough (6-8 foot) swell.  As dawn approached, we all came to life in the semi-darkness.  Forty pairs of bins were put on, forty cameras came out of their bags, and fort pairs of bleary eyes sharpened to the coming light.

Hard to shoot at first light when your camera is set for bright light - but I think
this is an Audubon's Shearwater.
As the light came out, I guess as the result of the swell, we weren't as far off as we hoped to be, so we motored on for an hour to get to the center of the Hudson Canyon before laying a chum slick in 75-degree water.

Over the canyon we had a lot of Great Shearwaters, a couple of Audubon's Shearwater (NYS 2012 #339), a few Cory's Shearwaters, a brief Leach's Petrel (NYS 2012 #340), and a few Pomarine Jaegers.

Pomarine Jaeger
Although there were lots of birds around, the hoped for Band-rumped and White-faced Storm-Petrels failed to show, so we moved on and worked back down our slick.  That tactic didn't produce more petrels, but we did get some Red-necked Phalaropes, and later, checking the local draggers we added Parasitic Jaeger and three Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Red-necked Phalaropes
So not the best trip bird-wise and, as so often this Summer, the cetaceans were the highlight of the trip.   We had a number of Short-beaked Common Dolphins and Atlantic White-sided Dolphins over the canyon, and had a small group off Offshore Bottlenose Dolphins following the draggers.  We also had two or three Humpback Whales included a very acrobatic young animal that spent a lot of time airborne.  Unfortunately, that whale was way too close to get shots with my 400mm, but others (notably Richard Fried) have posted great shots on Facebook.

Juvenile Humpback Whale
So all too soon, at 10am, we had to head back to land and we steamed for 6-hours back to the dock (mostly through the bird-desert of the mid-shore zone).  I knew that we'd miss land birds given that so many of the locals were off-shore (Murphy's Law demands it) and, sure enough as we got back to cell-phone range, we heard about Western Kingbirds at Robert Moses SP and Jones Beach SP.  So within minutes of arriving at the dock, a convoy of birders headed out to look for them, but to no avail.  Can't see everything I guess, but there's plenty of time for WEKIs and I'm looking forward to getting back offshore again as soon as I can ....

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