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Pelagic Birding

So Tina and I got up at the crack of godawful a few days ago and went on a boat off Cape Hatteras, and by "off" I mean "off the continental shelf." There are birds that only live over very deep water, nesting on tiny rocky islands and never coming to shore. To see them, you need a boat.

It was a very small boat. The channel out is heavily silted and dredging is becoming difficult, so you can only go in and out at high tide. Out we went, five birders, the captain, and the biologist, for a twelve-hour tour.

So, while I don't THINK I get seasick, I figured I should take a Dramamine as a preemptive measure, which would have been a great idea, except for the bit where it turns out that Dramamine puts me to sleep, so I dozed off repeatedly. I came to whenever the other birders yelled "GREAT SHEARWATER!" though, so I didn't miss any birds.

I confess to you now, O readers, that even I, who love birds more than is considered normal, am not entirely convinced that we were looking at different species of birds. The difference between a Wilson's Storm-Petrel and a Band-Rumped Storm Petrel is--I quote--"It holds its wings a little crooked and its flight is more assured." (Bear in mind this bird is going by you at a good clip, while a block of frozen chum is dragged behind the boat to bring in the birds for a free meal.) And the Leach's Storm-Petrel is wildly different, at "It's a little bit bigger and the tail is slightly forked on some of them."

Nevertheless, I shall trust in the experts and say that I acquired seven new bird species for the life list, and Tina got six, so it was a good trip. Also, when we ran out of birds (it was pretty slow, owing to the recent hurricane) the biologist hauled up some sargassum, the floating seaweed-like algae that's found out there. There was the teeniest little Sargassum Frogfish on it, no bigger than the tip of my pinkie, and he was very small and grumpy with perfectly wee little flippers. He will grow up to be a palm-sized voracious cannibal! It was adorable.

Then we drove back home--six hours!--and I fell down and became unconscious for a good number of hours.

Today, getting work done. I have not gotten work done for some days now and am beginning to feel adrift.

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I just looked up Sargassum frogfish. That is so cute!

except for the bit where it turns out that Dramamine puts me to sleep

Dramamine puts pretty much everyone to sleep. It's chemically closely related to Benadryl, which is used as a sleeping aid.

(Fun fact: any antihistamine capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier (as nearly all of them are) is inherently sedating. It's not a side effect; it's the primary effect. Histamine promotes itching when in the skin, running when in the nose, and wakefulness when in the brain. Over-the-counter antiemetics have an unfortunate tendency to also be antihistamines or closely related to them.)

Oh, that's interesting (the primary effect bit). I knew benedryl was considered one of the safest sleep aids because as a young-and-tiny-teen undergoing long medical processes on lots of drugs, that's what they gave me for insomnia (as the gentlest, least-likely-to-interact-or-have-side-effects option). I didn't know how primary the action was.

...and oddly enough, it didn't help. It's never really helped me get to sleep, unless I'm taking it to actually remove itching (which would keep me awake). It DOES help me STAY asleep, though -- I refer to the roughly five hours post getting out of bed and pre actual wakefulness as 'the benedryl coma.'

As I recall, the active ingredient in Benadryl is also the same as (or closely related to) that in Sominex, which is what I tried in the early days of my bout with insomnia. The thing about the active ingredient in both is that it can remain in your system for up to two weeks. This builds up a tolerance (in my case, after about 2 days, same as Ambien--yeah, it really sucks) and can lead to rebound insomnia, i.e. the damn stuff working in the exact opposite way as it's supposed to. Granted, I don't think you're supposed to take either over the long-term, but that may be why the Bendryl didn't help with the insomnia.

*high fives fellow insomniac*

Oh, I very thankfully don't deal with it anymore. *crosses fingers* It was situational insomnia related to intense surgical stuff, lots of pain, and general issues with being 13. :P Good to know about benedryl, tho!

Over-the-counter antiemetics have an unfortunate tendency to also be antihistamines or closely related to them.

For the reverse, however, I have had occasion to be pathetically grateful -- as in, about ready to cry with relief -- for the information that Benadryl itself was an antiemetic. And that it came in teeny tiny pills that I could actually swallow at the time. In contrast to the Inexplicably Large Tylenol issued by Student Health.

Oh man, that dramamine thing happened to my family once. We were on vacation and going to go deep-sea fishing, so we took preemptive dramamine. I don't remember a whole lot of that trip, because I kept nodding off... and so did my sister and my parents. I'm sure the guys running the trip were deeply amused by the silly tourists.

There are birds that only live over very deep water, nesting on tiny rocky islands and never coming to shore.

Slightly OT, but that could be a portentous masthead for a lot of things. Like, "If there are advanced space aliens, why haven't they colonized us?"

Waiting for adorably-grumpy Sargassum Frogfish art in 3...2...1...


Next time try the anti-nausea wristbands. They work, and they don't put you to sleep.

Oddly enough, what seasickness does to me is make me sleepy!

Or ginger! I get vertigo/motion sick in cars and busses, and ginger candy or ginger ale really helps. (I don't usually get it on water, I think partly because 'on water' usually goes hand in hand with 'in fresh moving air' for me).

I'm a big believer in evidence based medicine, so when I recommend sea-bands for motion sickness, it's based on my motion-sickness prone family's experience, not on whatever the box says about why it works. Still, no drugs and no nausea, it's worth it to me.

Ooh, I'd never heard of those, but I'm going to invest in a pair before I leave for Washington DC in a couple weeks. I get motion sick every time I ride the Metro.

I learned while traveling through Yellowstone that NOBODY carries non-drowsy dramamine, which has been my well-traveled lifeblood. Name a transport and I've been sick on it. I never run out of my non-drowsy, until this trip. It wasn't in the airports, or in any of the Yellowstone shops, which struck me as a terrible idea for a place you have to drive around so much.

I'd tell you non-drowsy dramamine is amazing and won't put you to sleep, but I also learned that the chewable, regular formula stuff doesn't slow me down at all.

...But I'd still recommend investing in the non-drowsy just in case.

The fact you need to go right out looking for them down there is sad. Leach's tend to just show up in my yard sometimes. They're delightfully mellow things!

Having googled Wilson's et al and looked at the images, I've come to the conclusion you are not the only one unable to distinguish either. They are rather similar birds - I wonder if a genetic test would confirm they are different, or that they are the same bird.

Interesting things, frogfish I hope he/she inspires some art.

Apparently they are genetically distinct and one has longer feet that stick out past the tail.

I believe the biologists, I'm just saying you can't prove it by me!

I may have squeed...out loud...about the Sargassum Frogfish.
Because my interests are clearly aligned with the biologists.

I feel this post really needs an epic re-write of the Gilligan's Island theme song, but that could be just me and the ridiculous amount of gin I've just consumed.

(It's not my fault, I swear, I saw the "twelve hour tour" line and had to siiiing)

just sit right back and you'll hear a tale
a tale of a birding trip
that started from this silty port aboard a tiny ship!

"GREAT SHEARWATER!" sounds like something a startled Robin would yell at Batman circa 1967. Or possibly something very specific clerics would yell when startled by something they'd just translated from ancient clerical runes.

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