I have to interrupt my regularly scheduled Attu update to write about my Atlantic pelagic this weekend.
I booked a Saturday pelagic with Brian Patteson a couple of months ago. I knew I needed to do it but with Attu and Alaska looming big in May, I didn’t give it much thought.
I went to Florida right after Attu to chase Tropical Mockingbird and Fork-tailed Flycatcher (a big nemesis bird). I arrived in Ft. Lauderdale with no sleep and in the middle of a monsoon. I was somehow able to get both birds after much discomfort. Who knows if the Tropical Mockingbird will even get accepted by the Records Committee but that’s birding! I had to try. This is my second provisional bird of 2017.
I had been trading emails with Kate Sutherland to see if there was still room on Friday’s pelagic so that I could have 2 days out in the Atlantic and increase my chances of seeing something good.
It was an ambitious goal. Thursday I was at Lake Apopka, FL looking for the Fork-tailed Flycatcher and I had to somehow get to Hatteras, NC and board the Stormy Petrel II by 5 a.m. on Friday. It was noon before I left the Orlando area. I could not get a flight.
As luck would have it, all lanes on I-95 were blocked due to an accident near Jacksonville. My tight schedule was now bordering on lunacy. I don’t even know how I was able to stay calm with a 15 hour drive (that’s what it turned into) before I made it to the Outer Banks!! The last hour I wasn’t even sure I could make it!!
I arrived in Hatteras at 4 a.m., changed clothes and went straight to the boat.
Winds were favorable and the crew was optimistic. We headed out to the gulfstream in choppy waters. After the Aleutian Islands, it felt like glass. We were lucky right away.
We started seeing groups of Shearwaters-Cory’s, Audubon’s, Great and Sooty. After a while, we saw Wilson’s and Band-Rumped Storm-Petrels and finally Black-capped Petrels.
During one of the lulls, I was so sleep-deprived I laid down on one of the benches. Suddenly I thought I heard someone scream Swinhoe’s!! Was I hallucinating? I jumped up with adrenaline running through my veins…it was not a dream.
A bird that I believe has not been seen in the U.S. since 2009 was now circling the boat! Kate was able to get some great shots and luckily, everyone got to see it. Luck definitely plays a part in a Big Year! This was a huge find.
Saturday was a gorgeous, calm day. Could our luck continue?
Keith McCullough and me were on both pelagics and we had a new arrival from Hungary, Istvan Katona. As you can see, my maiden name (Nagy) is Hungarian so we hit it off right away. Istvan is a Professor of Neuroscience and teaches a class on the Biology of Addiction.
Yup, it’s confirmed by a professional. I’m a total addict. All kidding aside, he does use “listers” as an example in his class.
We were seeing some great birds right away and by the end of the day, I would add South Polar Skua. We also saw some great marine life over the weekend. Groups of Pilot Whales, Spotted Dolphins and Offshore Bottlenose Dolphins.
A huge thank you to Brian Patteson, Kate Sutherland, Ed Brinkley, Sea, Sage and Chloe for their hard work and sharp eyes. Unforgettable!