Lady Frances getting an early start for Tautog and Cod
My Father-in-Law (left) sharing a few fishing stories
Red-breasted Mergansers (2 pair)
As the Gail passed through the opening in the sea walls, the predicted flat waves covered the ocean like a plush woven carpet, a very inviting sight for December. As we steamed towards the southeast, Capt. Richie announced that he was going to “check out a few new locations” which included Coxes Ledge since he hadn’t been out to the ledge in some time. As a big smile crossed my face, the sky was alive with Gannets, Scoters, Eiders, and Loons of both species.
drake Common Eider
Common Scoters (above), Common Eiders (below)
Common Scoters (above), White-winged Scoters with 2 Common Scoters (below right)
Red-throated Loon (below)
White-winged Scoter pair (above), Surf Scoter pair (below)
Common Scoters (below)
The morning was gorgeous under the dome of a glowing sky, gentle winds and waves small enough to make harbor ripples jealous. I sensed that this was going to be a great day for a pelagic trip. I wanted to be the first person to greet the sea by getting as close to it as I could. This brought me to my favorite spot on the vessel; the tip of the pulpit. About fifteen minutes of sailing, a single Common Loon emerged from under the sea only twenty yards in front of the bow of the Gail. The bird appeared stunned to see the vessel heading in its direction, and it casually swam out of the way of the Gail. The Loon swam under the pulpit so close I wasn’t able to capture the whole bird in the lens of my camera.
When the diesels slowed, I spotted the first pair of my “bird de jour” about a hundred yards out heading directly away. The two Dovekies flew to the horizon, offering only a few seconds of a parting glimpse before quickly vanishing.
White-winged Scoters (above), Common Loon (below)
Common Murre (below)
Interesting! This adult Gannet decided to preen its mantle while it was flying!
The Captain announced it was time to “reel em’ up” its time to head out to Coxes, about ten miles east. When the Gail came about and steamed east, the first Fulmar of the day appeared from the north at two hundred yards and paralleled the Gail for half a mile.
After a couple of miles a distant Kittiwake appeared, but faded into the horizon.
When the Gail reached the fishing grounds, the lines were again cast over and the cod began to bite. More and more Dovekies appeared on the sea, and small groups were flying across the Ledge some stopping and other kept on their way.
(below) Razorbill (left) and Common Murre (right)
(below) Common Murre
(below) mixed flock of Razorbills and Common Murres
(from l to r)- imm. Razorbill, Common Murre, imm. Razorbill, Common Murre, Common Murre (behind) and Common Murre
immature Razorbills (below)
two Common Murres (below)
The alcids stopped flying in the early afternoon. After six hours of continual birds from every direction, the sea was suddenly quiet. The only birds being a distant Gannet, Loon or Gull including this single Bonaparte’s Gull flying over the outer reaches of Coxes.
I secured my chum pail to the rail, and offered the first spoonful to the Gull. It worked perfectly. With a loud cry, the excited gull announced to the whole ocean that it was feeding time! The second Gull appeared, and from out of nowhere, here came the Herring Gulls. Within two minutes and three spoonfuls of suet, there were over a dozen Gulls feeding along the floating suet which had now drifted away from the Gail with the tide.
With the loud commotion from the screaming Gulls came the first Fulmar. It circled the vessel twice, located the floating chum and landed on the water gorging itself with the suet.
Then the second Kittiwake of the day came from the east. It also circled the Gale and landed in the chum line……..
four Kittiwake (above) three (below)
This is the first immature Kittiwake I have seen this winter. The black wing "M" is very clear in the last photo in this series.
six Kittiwake (below)
A few "close-ups" of this wonderful sea bird. Good view of the "nares tube" and short but strong bill including its large maxillary "unguis" or "nail of this classic "tube nosed" pelagic bird
tail area showing grey upper tail coverts
close-ups of the whte outer wing "flags"- a common field mark for this bird
As the vessel passed by northeast of distant Block Island, the pre-sundown colors illuminated the late afternoon sky with brilliant values of orange and pink, just as it had from the east nearly eight and a half hours earlier.
drake Surf Scoter (below)
Bonaparte's Gulls (below)
Surf Scoters (below)
Surf Scoters with three Ruddy Ducks (below left) in the image
A trawler heading out to sea was enveloped in the rich brilliance of sundown.
Passing through the "Narrows" a Red-throated Loon surfaced a few feet fore of the port bow, ironically just as the Common Loon did that morning. It skittered across the water to a safer distance from the Gail.
Passing the North dock, a Harbor Seal and a single hen Common Eider welcomed us back.
As Capt. Richie tucked the Gail into its slip, the sun closed its eyes over Matunuck, ending a spectacular day. With a cooler full of Cod and Sea Bass, we drove for home, with the memory of this great day tucked in our smiles.
The chart images below indicate the general locations of the birds (not an exact GPS plotted chart). BHG= Black-headed Gull, CM= Common Murre, Rz= Razorbill, Dv= Dovekie, F= Fulmar, K= Kittiwake, BonG= Bonapartes Gull. L1-L2 return trip location.
Just as in my last pelagic/codfishing report, I have included fishing images below the highlights.
*51 Dovekie (most were swimming within fifty yards from the bow of the
vessel, and some flying and swimming a short distance away) There may
have been more, but I was concentrating on the birds closest to me.
*1 Atlantic Puffin- (flew by as a single in the area between the Sand Bank rip (east
of Block) and steaming to Coxes. The bird was a good distance from the
vessel, and flew through the sun)
75+/- large Alcids- (after reviewing my images) at least 17 Common Murre
and 23 Razorbills (positively identified) the balance were a bit too far to call.
200 +/- Gannets
36 +/- Common Loons
*17 Red-throated Loons
50+ Black-legged Kittiwake.
*16 Bonaparte's Gulls (including 1 seen on Coxes Ledge)
*1 Black-headed Gull
*46 Red-breasted Mergansers
A very large Common Eel nearly three and a half feet long (above), Dad with another Sea Bass for the cooler (below)
Larger Codfish (below)
Atlantic Pollock (below)
Red Hake (below)
two more large Codfish