Autumn Grand Manan Aug 28—Sep 03, 2017

Posted by Barry Zimmer

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Barry Zimmer

Barry Zimmer has been birding since the age of eight. His main areas of expertise lie in North and Central America, but his travels have taken him throughout much of the wo...

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We departed Seal Cove on an absolutely glorious morning for our all-day boat trip into the Bay of Fundy. The temperatures were mild, and there was no wind whatsoever. The ocean was literally like glass as we headed eastward, and anticipation was high among our group. I had built up this boat trip as one of the best pelagic adventures anywhere, and in 25 years, it had never disappointed me.

Great Shearwater

Great Shearwater— Photo: Barry Zimmer

 

Almost immediately out of the harbor, we began seeing Black Guillemots dotting the water’s surface, and within the first 30 minutes we had tallied more than a hundred individuals. Great Black-backed Gulls followed our boat looking for a handout, and several Common Loons were spotted nearby. We slowed down as we approached Black Rocks and found them covered with Great Cormorants. The light was good, and the birds did not flush, so we had superb views. Numerous Gray Seals with their odd horse-shaped heads were hauled out on the rocks below. Soon, we arrived in deeper water, and shearwaters began to appear around the boat. Our chumming operation began, and within minutes we had Great Shearwaters approaching closely in the wake. A Sooty Shearwater joined in the mix, followed quickly by some Wilson’s Storm-Petrels fluttering by in the distance. A couple of Northern Gannets sailed in to check things out, and a small flock of Red-necked Phalaropes went streaming past. Shearwater numbers started to increase rapidly, as we continued onward. Many cruised by nearly at arm’s-length with their stunning reflections showing in the mirrored waters of the dead-calm ocean. A Pomarine Jaeger was next to appear and was followed by our first Atlantic Puffin zipping past in the distance like a chubby bumblebee. Activity was so intense now that it was hard to know where to look. Literally dozens of Great Shearwaters and a couple of Sooty Shearwaters were in tow, and some were coming up to within a few feet of the stern. Phalarope numbers took a sharp increase, as hundreds now bobbed about on the ocean around us. Most were Red, but there were many Red-necked for direct comparison. In short time, a pair of Atlantic Puffins were spotted sitting on the water, and they allowed close approach. Storm-Petrel numbers were also increasing, going from scattered individuals to dozens in view at once. Many were flying up the wake, attracted to the fish oil we had put into the water. It wasn’t long before Durlan, the mate, spied a Leach’s in with the many Wilson’s. Its distinctive, erratic nighthawk-like flight distinguished it from the fluttery, swallow-like flight of the Wilson’s. As the day progressed, we would estimate nearly 10,000 Wilson’s Storm-Petrels seen (a staggering total) and 35 Leach’s.

Read Barry’s full report in his Field List.