Friday, August 30, 2013

Gifts From The Gulf Stream: White-tailed Tropicbird, Bridled Tern, Manx Shearwater

I'm still reeling from my North Carolinian bird blitz. We just really cleaned up. A bird that I did not expect to see at all was White-tailed Tropicbird, a bird I've previously only seen at Midway Atoll and Kona. It's a crippler. The bird did not stick around for very long, but I'm pretty sure the entire boat got on it. Not exactly unforgettable lighting, but someone who has recently seen a tropicbird of any sort has no right to complain.

Despite the reddish bill (a lighting artifact), the back pattern did confirm it's identity. What a sweet bonus bird. Brian (Patteson) said this was the only tropicbird they've seen since the spring boats, so talk about being in the right place at the right time. The bird was first spotted by the birder known as "Stilt"; despite her modesty about calling out the bird, she still earned 26.5 points on the Global Birder Ranking System.

Manx Shearwater was one of the few birds we saw better on Sunday than Saturday. I haven't seen a MASH in about ten years (how embarrassing), and this time I was rewarded with the best looks of my life.

Manx were easy to tell from Aubudon's by their larger size, stiffer wingbeats, dusky head and neck, short tail and white undertail coverts. Easy.

Of course the trick now is picking out these birds on the west coast this fall. In fact, when this post goes up I'll be on a pelagic trip out of Bodega Bay, attempting this very task. Manx are not difficult to pick out when there are no Black-vented Shearwaters around (a similar and variably-patterned bird as well), but plucking one out of a Black-vented flock is not always a walk in the park.

Bridled Tern. Life bird. I love it.

Bridled Terns were a bit more obliging on the Sunday boat as well, with a number of birds seen well close up. They lived up to their reputation of perching on debris and detritus on the water. This is a first summer bird (same as the above).

Here is a nice adult bird. I expected the back/upperwing color of the adults to be more of a similar shade to Gray-backed Tern, but Bridled is noticeably darker. We did see one Sooty Tern over the weekend.

This is an adorable little juvenile that kept flying around the boat making begging calls. Unfortunately for the bird, I could do nothing to assuage its plaintive cries. The only thing I could do was crush it hella hard.

Last but not least, I offer you a shitty photo of a dark juvenile Long-tailed Jaeger. This is not a crush; it is literally a shot in the dark. Good bird though, especially for the east coast.


  1. I keep forgetting to put a bib on when viewing your pelagic birds, my tank top is soaked with spittle now, hope you are happy!

    Great birds & great views

  2. Sweetness! I'm so jealous of that tropicbird! Looks like you had a great time.