Sunday, November 24, 2013

Bon Portage pt. 2: Seawatch

One of the main things I was excited about this fall was being able to seawatch on an actual ocean! Yes, Bon Portage Island is a great place for rarities in Nova Scotia, but seeing as I am not too concerned with my Nova Scotia list (yet), I was more interested in the possibilities for adding ABA and Canada lifers - and these mostly came in the form of seabirds. The island isn't the greatest place for a seawatch, as it doesn't really stick out into a migratory pathway but seeing as it's just about the furthest South point of land in Nova Scotia it isn't the worst place either! The lighthouse at the southern tip of the island provided an almost ideal windbreak and thus is where I spent most of my seawatching time. We also found a comfy chair washed up on the beach one day and set it up above the high tide line to act as a comfortable (albeit windy) seawatching spot. Most of the seabirds were too far out for photos - we figured out that some of the gannets we were ID'ing were 13-15km out! - but once in a while something came in close enough for a photo!

My lifer Atlantic Puffin on the first morning on BP! The views were much nicer than this - this is taken with my phone through my scope

The 'seawatch chair'

We went fishing one day - didn't catch anything but got to see quite a few Northern Gannets up close

The only shearwater that came close enough for a photo - this is a Manx about 300-400m out (most shearwaters were between 1.5-10km out)

Distant line of Gannets

We hitched a (very rough) ride over to Seal Island one day, on the way back it flattened out enough for photos and we also found one Red-necked and 15 Red Phalaropes

A couple gannets spent about an hour one day fishing fairly close to shore - I took advantage of this to get some shots of them diving - this composite is a bit distant for my liking but I think it turned out ok!

I don't know exactly how much time I put in seawatching this fall, but as my volunteers can attest to, it was quite a bit! It was well worth the effort though as I had quite a few highlights! My season totals are below, I've included other waterbirds as well but left out the non-sea ducks. The seaduck totals are a bit low as I was usually banding in the mornings when their main flights were happening, also the island plays host to quite a few duck hunters...

Brant - 2
Greater Scaup - 29
Common Eider - 1502
Surf Scoter - 202
White-winged Scoter - 28
Black Scoter - 147
Long-tailed Duck - 10
Bufflehead - 1
Hooded Merganser - 17
Common Merganser - 1
Red-breasted Merganser - 14
Red-throated Loon - 42
Common Loon - 622
Horned Grebe - 6
Red-necked Grebe - 44
Northern Fulmar - 1
Cory's Shearwater - 1
Great Shearwater - 655
Sooty Shearwater - 228
Manx Shearwater - 52
Leach's Storm-Petrel - 7 on seawatch, however they breed on the island and I had well over 1000 total for the season, including 100+ in the hand!
Northern Gannet - 5350
Double-crested Cormorant - 7230
Great Cormorant - 207
Red Phalarope - 9
South Polar Skua - 1
Pomarine Jaeger - 9
Parasitic Jaeger - 3
jaeger sp. - 2
Common Murre - 2
Razorbill - 1
Black Guillemot - 1586
Atlantic Puffin - 6
Black-legged Kittiwake - 34
Bonaparte's Gull - 5
Caspian Tern - 6
Roseate Tern - 1
Common Tern - 155
Arctic Tern - 9 (plus 4 probables)

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