Sunday, April 12, 2009

April 3-5, 2009: Pacific pelagic proves productive.

1. Parkinson's Petrel (Procellaria parkinsoni). We saw 15 individuals (1 on Apr.3 and 14 on Apr.4). All birds showed pronounced flight feather molt. The species is endemic to New Zealand (as a breeder) laying eggs in November and December. It flies across the Pacific to pass the non-breeding season in waters off Cenntral and South America. The total world population is estimated at only 10,000 birds. Photo by Jim Wolfe.

2. Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius). This bird's bill color was changing from dark (non-breeding) to yellow (breeding.) Photo by Jim Wolfe.

3. Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus) carrying a prize. This immature bird dropped out of nowhere crashing into the water near the boat to catch this squid. As is typical, we saw only one individual of this species. Photo by Jim Wolfe.

4. An adult Pomarine Jaeger (Stercorarius pomarinus). This species has been the most common jaeger on almost all of our recent pelagic trips. We saw 79 birds over the course of three days including a raft of 16 birds settled on the water at dusk on April 4th. Photo by Jim Wolfe.

5. Long-tailed Jaeger (Stercorarius longicaudus). A bird in first summer plumage. The first we've seen after a number of voyages - a new addition to everyone's Costa Rica list. Notice how light-bodied and narrow-winged it is compared to the hulking Pomarine pictured above. Photo by Jim Wolfe.

6. Christmas Shearwater (Puffinus nativitatus) April 3, 2009, 51 km west of Cabo Blanco. This was one of our target species. It was first identified in Costa Rica by Bruce Mactavish in March-April, 2008 when he had several different sightings in this same general area. We saw two individuals of this species and managed to get some nice photos of one. Photo by Jim Wolfe.

7. Route of the Floating Bear 3-5 April, 2009. Map created by Bruce Young.

8. Christmas Shearwater (Puffinus nativitatus) with two light morph Wedge-tailed Shearwaters (Puffinus pacificus). Wedge-tailed and Christmas Shearwaters often share breeding sites on islands in the central Pacific. Photo by Bruce Young.

9. Masked Booby, adult (Sula dactylatra). These impressive, long-winged birds would invariably fly straight towards the boat and circle us one or two times before heading off in another direction. Photo by Bruce Young.

10. Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus). About 104 km west of Tamarindo on April 4 we came upon 3 of these amazing creatures, the largest animal that has ever lived on earth. We were able to get close to one as it made short dives (staying down 5 minutes or so) near the boat, close enough to hear it's lungs filling with air as it inhaled. Individuals can be identified by the shape of their tiny dorsal fin and the pattern of dark blotches on their back. We sent these photos to some whale researchers in California but they didn't recognize this individual. There is a resident population in the Pacific off the Central American coast but individuals from other populations may occur here as well. Photo by Bruce Young.

On April 3-5, 2009 Paul Murgatroyd, Bruce Young, Richard Garrigues, Jim Wolfe and Jim Zook went on a pelagic birding trip out of the Los SueƱos marina at Playa Heradura aboard the Floating Bear, a 52 foot Beneteau 500 sailboat, with captain Greivin Prado and deck hand Juan Lopez. Our goal was to get out to the southern end of a deep water canyon (the Middle American Trench) that runs parallel to the coast off the Nicoya Peninsula. In March and April of 2008 Bruce Mactavish compiled an impressive list of birds while working as a marine mammal observer aboard a siesmic vessel operating in this area off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. In three days we managed to see most of the species that Bruce picked up on his 28 day cruise (we missed Red-footed Booby, Sabine's Gull, Brown Noddy and White Tern).

High on our list of objectives was to find and hopefully photograph a Christmas Shearwater, a species that Bruce Mactavish found last year. His sightings were the first ever for Costa Rica. He took some photos of birds in flight that provided evidence. Luck was with us on the afternoon of our first day when we spotted an all dark, relatively small and short-winged shearwater flying off to one side that we recognized as something different. It was rapidly winging away from us, but we were able to get on it with a pair of 12x image-stabilizing binoculars, and just as it was disappearing over the waves way out in front we saw it plop down in the water among a compact little group of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. Trying desperately not to lose sight of the birds we cautiously moved past them at a distance and then came around so as to have the sun at our backs and approached slowly, managing to creep up to within about 25 m of them. It was nice to have the Wedge-tailed Shearwaters right there for comparison.

Here is the species list for the three days at sea:

15 - Parkinson's Petrel (Procellaria parkinsoni)
2 - Pink-footed Shearwater (Puffinus creatopus)
380 - Wedge-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus pacificus)
2 - Christmas Shearwater (Puffinus nativitatis)
19 - Audubon's (Galapagos) Shearwater (Puffinus lherminieri)
4 - Petrel/Shearwater sp.
63 - Leach's Storm-Petrel (dark-rump) (Oceanodroma leucorhoa)
4 - Wedge-rumped (Galapagos) Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma tethys)
107 - Black Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma melania)
1 - Least Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma microsoma)
1 - Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus)
11 - Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra)
3 - Nazca Booby (Sula granti)
463 - Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster)
11 - Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)
310 - Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens)
2 - White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)
2 - shorebird sp.
51 - Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)
11 - Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius)
1 - Swallow-tailed Gull (Creagrus furcatus)
4 - Franklin's Gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan)
2 - gull sp.
6 - Bridled Tern (Onychoprion anaethetus)
2 - Least Tern (Sternula antillarum)
413 - Black Tern (Chlidonias niger)
2 - Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)
45 - Royal Tern (Sterna maximus)
7 - Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis)
15 - tern sp.
79 - Pomarine Jaeger (Stercorarius pomarinus)
3 - Parasitic Jaeger (Stercorarius parasiticus)
1 - Long-tailed Jaeger (Stercorarius longicaudus)
24 - jaeger sp.


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