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FLORIDABIRDS-L  June 2006, Week 3

FLORIDABIRDS-L June 2006, Week 3

Subject:

Skua, long-tailed jaeger, "mystery" bird

From:

Roger Clark <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Roger Clark <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 19 Jun 2006 23:31:03 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (72 lines)

Hey Everyone,

After 3 days of strong winds I couldn't stand it and found myself on a
fishing boat out of Mayport, Florida (Jacksonville) this morning at
0700. The winds had calmed down some but were still east southeast.
Today was one of those days when the pelagic powers that be were in a
good mood.

The boat was going manatee zone slow and still way short of the
jetties at the mouth of the St. Johns, when I was absolutely stunned
to see an adult Long-tailed Jaeger swimming in the river while being
attacked by a horde of laughing gulls. It eventually flew showing off
the beautiful long streamers in the tail. Yes I had my camera, no I
didn't have it ready yet. Another very painful lesson.

Well I figured that this spectacular absurdity would be the highlight
of a long day at sea and that I would have plenty of time to figure
out if I was dreaming or not. I was wrong!

About 10 miles out I started to observe large numbers of Greater
Shearwaters. There were numerous flocks of 8-12 birds. I was looking
off of port and when I turned around to look off starboard there was
an adult intermediate morph South Polar Skua right along side the
boat! This time my camera was ready and I got several shots. Very
nice!

Normally I don't expect to see anything in the "dead" zone, the area
from about 10 miles to around 22 miles out. This was not the case
today. There were Greater Shearwaters seemingly everywhere. I
estimated over 100 in this stretch.

At 26 miles out the captain stopped to fish and obligingly right near
a large flock of shearwaters. Many of the shearwaters came right up to
the boat and ate copious amounts of squid supplied by the anglers.
Good photo ops.

It was about this time that the first of 7-8 Pomarine Jaegers made
their appearance. I was very happy to be snapping off pic after pic of
stunning point blank range adult jaegers.

Also at 26 miles I started to see more and more Cory's Shearwaters. We
moved out to 28 miles and suddenly there were lots of Cory's. In fact
there were 130 in one group alone.

I was busy scanning for other stuff when I noticed a lone shearwater
sitting in the water by itself. What struck me immediately was its
smaller size. It was pretty far away but luckily the ocean current was
bringing it ever closer. It eventually got closer for a good look.

This bird looked like a smaller version of a Cory's, maybe 2/3 the
size. It seemed to have a darker mantle than a Cory's. It had a
slender smallish dark bill and the wings seemed more slender than a
Cory's. When it flew it had faster wing beats than a Cory's. In my
haste to take a picture I managed to drop my camera on the deck.
Luckily nothing seemed too messed up and I managed to take 5 shots as
it started to fly away. I am not ready to make a leap of
identification, but because of its size and the field marks described
above I am entertaining the possibility that it could be a Cape Verde
Shearwater. If anyone has any experience with this bird let me know. I
took good notes at the time. The pics are rather poor at best but I
have sent them off to a couple of experts.

Roger Clark
Fort George Island, Florida

____________________________________________________________________________
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