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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Chatham (MA) Mini-Pelagic

The following account was submitted by guest blogger, Kristen Johnson.

On Sunday, July 24, the “Kittiwake” left the Chatham Fish Pier at 7 AM for a 4-hour mini-pelagic with seven passengers aboard.  The boat sped quickly away from Chatham to a location about 7.5 miles from shore.  There we slowed down and began to look for birds.  Shortly thereafter, a Cory’s Shearwater was spotted.  This species proved to be the most numerous shearwater during the trip.  
Cory's Shearwater

Cory's Shearwater

Cory's Shearwater

Great Shearwater
As we drifted around we found a Great Shearwater, and eventually a Sooty Shearwater flew by.  Then we went by two Manx Shearwaters sitting on the water.  We had then easily picked up all four expected species of shearwaters.  Wilson’s Storm Petrels were also common in these waters.  At one point a jaeger flew by but was too fast for photos and a positive ID, although it was most likely a Pomarine.
Two Manx Shearwaters

 We watched the shearwaters for a bit and then started chumming to bring them in closer.  At this time, there were few gulls in sight, but once they smelled the fish, they appeared.  About 20 gulls circled the boat.  The storm petrels and the gulls really liked the chum.   Some Sooty Shearwaters also came in, but the Cory’s did not.
Sooty Shearwater

Wilson's Storm-Petrel
Wilson's Storm-Petrels
Wilson's Storm-Petrels

The captain and the trip leader saw two Humpback Whales in the distance and decided to move closer.  The whales were bubble-feeding and attracting a large group of gulls.  At times, a gull even sat on a whale!  The whales put on a great show, coming quite close to the boat.  At this time we were estimated to be about 10 miles offshore.  We watched the whales and shearwaters and then slowly traveled away, still watching for shearwaters.
Humpback Whale showing baleen

Humpback Whale Bubble Feeding
Whale diving approximately 100 ft from the boat

Whale diving into the depths

Whale Tail
Some of the sandbars off Chatham, close to the dock, were piled with Gray Seals.  They were swimming in the waters around the fish pier as well.

The estimated numbers of each species were:
White-winged Scoter  2 
Cory’s Shearwater  450
Great Shearwater  12
Sooty Shearwater  20
Manx Shearwater  8
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel  800
Double-crested Cormorant  7
Jaeger sp.  1
Laughing Gull  35
Herring Gull  400
Lesser Black-backed Gull  1
Great Black-backed Gull  300
Common Tern  125

If you are interested in taking a trip like this, see    for more information.  To check recent sightings, the ebird hotspot for these trips is named “East of Chatham.”

1 comment:

  1. Nice photos Kristen! Love the whale pix and the storm-petrels dancing on the water!


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