I was in my studio painting and putting a few finishing touches on a few carved birds, I began to think about where Jen and I would go birding on Saturday. I thought about the three Sabines Gulls that have been seen recently on
Sleeping Great Blue Heron on the breakwater
One of the five Great Cormorants
Within a few minutes, it was raining harder. At that point it was best to continue looking from inside the truck. While Jen and I continued searching, the evening roost of Cormorants began to leave the breakwater in a long steady procession heading out to the fishing grounds. Within a few minutes the breakwater was nearly cleared of Cormorants, and we never found the Brown Booby. Maybe it was there and had escaped with the mass exodus of cormorants before we could find it, or maybe it just wasn’t there!?
When we arrived at
I knew that this frenzy would bring the Jaegers…..and come they did! Jaeger after Jaeger appeared and joined into the frenzy. The Jaegers would assert their dominance and take over the chase, and of course the Terns would relinquish their fish to the Jaegers which proudly took the prize!
The first Jaeger (Parasitic) of the day zeroes in on a Common Tern
While we sat there, the Parasitic Jaegers would come at one minute intervals in singles and pairs. They would single out a Tern and engage the chase (which only lasted a few seconds). Most of this action took place within a hundred yards from our truck, and much of it I was able to capture with my camera. The Jaeger/Tern interaction happened for at least a half an hour until most of the Terns moved farther offshore. But the incredible interaction displayed between the Jaegers and Terns was augmented by other fascinating events. After the Jaegers successfully stole the fish from the Terns, the Laughing Gulls entered the picture.
A single Laughing Gull joins the chase.........
........and matches every move of the Jaegers.........
More and more Laughing Gulls would appear and join the chase. When success came to the Jaeger, the Laughing Gulls would then gang up on the Jaegers and would chase them relentlessly. Often the Jaegers would out-maneuver the Gulls and escape with the stolen fish, but many times the Gulls would win, and the Jaegers would release the fish causing the hordes of Laughing Gulls to get caught up in a frenzied mass of squabbling Gulls. Several times Jen and I watched a Parasitic Jaeger close in on a Tern within a few inches then suddenly give up realizing it was being closely followed by a dozen hungry Laughing Gulls.
..........a second Gull appears.........
..................the Jaeger sharpens it attack..............
...................the second Gull gets closer...........
...............the Jaeger has figured out the Tern..........
.....................the Gull frenzy overwhelms the Jaeger, it retreats............
.........the Tern relents, the lead Gull has the prize, or does it?...........
.......the Tern decides to get the heck out of there!!
We did see more Jaegers off shore, but for the most part, the Jaeger/Tern/Gull show had moved North, offshore of Race Point. Jen and I had seen over three dozen Jaegers in a short period of time. All the birds were Parasitic Jaegers.
A small section of the Tern roost (maybe a Little Gull or Sabines Gulls)??-digiscoped
Part of the huge swarm of Terns (who knows what else)- digiscoped
The huge swarm of birds were Terns, several thousand of them! The rain began to pick up to a steady rain, so Jen and I got back into our truck. As I was putting the scope in the back seat, I looked up and saw a single bird flying across the dunes behind us, it was a beautiful adult Parasitic Jaeger. I raised my camera and took a few quick shots. This bird was flying across the dunes following Province Lands Road most likely coming from P’town Harbor or maybe
Close-up of the Parasitic Jaeger flying over the parking lot
After a quick run over to the Race Point Beach and a few minutes of sea watch we drove back to the Provincetown pier.
A sign posted at Race Point Beach. I am glad that I am not a "summer" person!
Jen and I had planned to include a whale watch trip that day, and the most successful bird/whale trip we have taken has been on the Dolphin Fleet in P’town harbor. Since the fleet passes directly by Long Point on its way to Stellwagen Bank and then passing closely by the “birding rich” stretch of beaches from Race Point, to
An eclipse drake Common Eider enjoys his fresh water shower
The nice lady at the ticket booth was looking at the current weather forecast for Provincetown on her Blackberry, and she showed me with a little smile on her face; sunny and warm today!! We both looked at each other and stated almost simultaneously; “you know
hen Common Eider also enjoys the pouring fresh water rain
But just as it happens so often in New England (especially on
Looking down from the upper deck, a drake Common Eider pries barnacles and periwhinkles from the pilings under the pier
The wind shifted to the east, and I heard the Captain comment about the fog that had started to roll in off the bay. Suddenly our smiles were tempered by the realization that maybe we won’t be going out, or if we did, could we even see anything, let alone flying birds? But the fog was at a higher altitude, and soon blew out to sea…..our smiles returned! :^)
Higher altitude fogbank rolls in covering the top of the Pilgrim Tower
You can have it!
The first Gannets of the day appeared and were abundant in the area. Many were adults, but the majority of the Gannets were juveniles through third year birds.
One of the naturalists from the wheelhouse noticed that I paying attention to the birds and he asked me if I was a birder. I said yes, and he introduced himself as the birding naturalist on the vessel. His name was John Conlon and he was a very passionate birder. John and I chatted for a little while and he asked if I had seen the Brown Booby. I told him that we didn’t and he told me that he had seen it quite a few times plunge-diving along the beach from Wood End Point to Long Point. We also talked about birding on the Dolphin Fleet and he wondered why more birders didn’t take advantage of that unbelievable opportunity; something I thought about as well?! The opportunity of birding on whale watch vessels are a wonderful gift, but birding on a whale watch vessel off
Occasionally a few Gannets would show up flying along the water (and often swimming) meeting the Greater Shearwaters as they “skimmed” across the surface of the sea.
Several times, Greater Shearwaters would appear from a dive close to the vessel. Startled by the boat, they would take off from the water pattering along the tops of the waves offering great close views. In the distance a few hundred yards out, a pair of Fulmars paralleled the vessel.
The trip was beginning to wind down; our time on the “Bank” was drawing to a close. We would have to head back for the 1:30 trip. The Captain said that “we would have to start heading back; we were just out of time”. As if on cue, a call from
As I was taking rapid shots of the surfacing whales, my camera quit. Looking into the settings window, my camera indicated “FULL CF”; I needed to change my flash card. Just as I inserted a new card, another Fulmar appeared very close and just off the port bow. It lifted up and crossed just in front of the bow. I ran to the starboard side and managed a few shots as the bird turned away and flew ahead of the vessel. John saw it also and he met me there on the starboard side walkway with the bird in his binoculars.
After ten minutes, Jen spotted a few birds sitting on the water. Most of them were Gannets, and one was a Fulmar; the fifth one of the day. It was apparently feeding on some sort of surface food item which it eventually swallowed.
A hundred yards from the Fulmar were three small rafts of swimming Greater Shearwaters with a few Herring and Greater black-Backed Gulls. The three groups of rafted Shearwaters contained approx. one hundred birds.
Within a few minutes, the
Outside Race Point, a cluster of fishing boats were lined up along the shoals in the distance. The boats were surrounded by a cloud of Terns which indicated to the fisherman that schools of bait were present. Seeing the distant swarm of Terns indicted to me that I should search the skies for Jaegers. Within a minute, the first Jaeger appeared off the bow heading for the large concentration of Terns in the distance.
One of the handful of Cory's Shearwaters swimming just outside the beach
Steaming around Long Point, three Black terns flew by the bow of the vessel heading directly for the school of fish and the flocks of feeding Common Terns, Cormorants, Gannets and of course the “Klepto”parasitic Jaegers!
Approaching the breakwater, Jen and I began to look through all the Cormorants (just as we did on the way out of port) searching for the Brown Booby, which we didn’t find.
I was still anxious to find the Brown Booby. Jen and I decided to give it one more try. We again drove down to the end of the pier. I set up our scope and began searching the hordes of Cormorants whose numbers have built since returning from the mornings fishing. I began at the eastern end of the breakwater and Jen started at the western end. About the time I reached the middle of the breakwater the concentration of Cormorants had thinned. As I continued looking, a voice from behind me said “it was there earlier”; I turned around to find the Harbormaster. He was a friendly man who showed interest in the bird. We chatted for a few minutes and he told me that the bird was seen by a few birders earlier in the morning, but he wasn’t sure if it was still there. I thanked him and began looking again. I began to think that the bird wasn’t there and I wouldn’t see it. As I continued scanning the birds by pivoting the scope, suddenly there it was!
I told Jen and she came over and had a great look at the bird in the scope. The bird was standing quite relaxed among a few Cormorants, (probably enjoyed not being cramped). I took a few distant images with my regular camera, and then wanted to try and take a few digiscoped images.
Since I was still learning to digiscope, and I am still not satisfied with the long range results, any images of this bird would be better than not having any at all. Jen and I watched the bird for fifteen minutes, and while we were there the bird was quite comfortable on its breakwater stone roost. The Booby preened quite a bit, especially addressing it long wings a typical maintenance activity of this species.
Saying good-bye to the Brown Booby and
Flock of Greater Yellowlegs with five Short-billed Dowitchers
The flocks settled for a higher area just below where Jen and I were standing near the parking lot. We counted one hundred and thirty-six Yellowlegs, seven Short-billed Dowitchers, and four Black-bellied Plovers.
Short-billed Dowitchers with the Greater Yellowlegs
Three Short-billed Dowitchers
As we were leaving, a small flock of Wild Turkeys walked out of the scrub and fed along the road.
Since Jen never had a chance to see the five Avocets in
Jen and I will be supporting and helping Tom who is leading a birding trip to