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Pelagic off Chatham


August 13, 2016

Seth Kellogg

Only a handful of people showed any interest in the weekend Cape Cod trip due to the overnight cost and the expected crowds.  Instead, we offered interested birders a five hour offshore trip for pelagic species a few miles off Chatham.  We were accompanied in the small fishing boat by veteran pelagic expert and spotter Peter Flood.  Before boarding for the afternoon we had time to visit Morris Island beach, where many hundreds of mostly gulls, terns and Cormorants were roosting on offshore sandbars at high tide.  We walked the shoreline to find some shorebirds and a preening White-winged Scoter.  The tide was falling as we waited to board at the Fish Pier, so we scanned the island in the bay for Red Knots, Oystercatchers, Turnstones, Greater Yellowlegs, Semi and Black-bellied Plovers, Least and Semi Sandpipers, and Piping Plovers.  At first the captain warned us there was fog off shore, but we had come too far to let that deter us.  The fog soon faded away, revealing a gently rolling sea with many close birds sitting on the water and in flight.  Within a short time we had close looks at Great, Corey’s, Sooty, and Manx Shearwaters. Wilson’s Petrels were also numerous in most areas.  Roseate and Common Terns were flying over chattering most of the time and several small flocks were on the water.  We saw a Black Tern fly past, disappearing in the distance, and a group of seven Red-necked Phalaropes flew low past the boat.  We headed north toward some whale activity getting good looks at 2-3 pods of 2-5 animals each.  We spotted two single Parasitic Jaegers and one group of four.  We stopped to chum for a while with fish parts thrown out by the captain.  Hundreds of gulls came to feed with a bedlam of chatter, and with them were some incredibly close shearwaters.  We returned in time to have a take-out meal at the fish pier before heading back to Western Mass.