Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A Shearwater Spectacle!

May 6-Day 1 at Sea

Our first day at sea! We are traveling up the east coast of Japan on the way to the island of Hokkaido. At first light many of us we're on the deck starting to count all of the birds as we passed. With no seabird expert on board, it could be a little frustrating, especially with the light colored shearwaters and possible petrels. There’s a good chance that we will have to remove some of our reported birds from the checklists. We saw good numbers of dark shearwaters, most of them likely short-tails. Albatrosses started showing up--first Black-footed, then Laysan.
Laysan Albatross

Laysan Albatross

A few people saw a whale close to the ship, which was identified as a Sperm Whale. Occasionally, we saw fur seals and Dall’s Porpoises.

Things were going pretty well for the first part of morning. It started out slowly, but gradually picked up. Then something amazing happened! We hit a raft of shearwaters that seem to go on forever. In addition to the Sooty/Short-tailed mix, we got our fill of Streaked Shearwaters. In fact, perhaps more than our fill.  Some of the birds showed an "M" pattern on their backs, and were thought to be petrels, but on close examination of the photographs, we weren't able to confirm any of them.  They were probably all Streaked Shearwaters--a lifer for most of us. If anyone reading this finds some misidentifications, please speak up! There were many other birds in the group as well. By the time that we had passed through the raft, we estimated that we had seen at least 90,000. This was the biggest birding spectacle that most of us had ever seen. I found out later that it was also Michael's birthday. What a wonderful way to spend it! This may be the best day we will have for birds on the ship, and if it is, I think all of us would still be thrilled.
Short-tailed Shearwater
More shearwaters

Even more shearwaters!!

Confusing "M" pattern that had us thinking petrels

But from the underside turned out to be a Streaked Shearwater

A spectacle like this can be inspirational, and most of us spent the whole day on the deck, with brief forays inside for meals and other necessities. Some of the birds we saw will have to be identified later through photographs. That in itself will be a whole new challenge, because everyone was clicking like crazy! Several people thought that they had seen a bird that could have been a Providence Petrel. Thankfully, it showed up in one of Tracy's photos.

And as if that weren't enough, we saw 3 Short-tailed Albatrosses today as well. They appeared one at a time, two adults and one sub-adult. I think almost everyone got to see at least one.
Our first day of birding from the ship was spectacular! It's going to be hard to beat this.
Crummy picture of a great bird: Short-tailed Albatross!

1 comment:

  1. wow 3 STAL! so lucky to see an adult. ive only seen juvies would love to see a white adult! congrats on the amazing shearwater spectacle!! also huge congrats on the Providence Petrel and Streaked Shearwaters!