UrsulaV (ursulav) wrote,

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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