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Today, 9/27, I went offshore fishing with Bob Wallace, Mitchell Harris
and Bob Singleton. We were focusing on fishing and only planned to go
out about 25 miles, well short of the Gulf Stream. The fishing was slow,
but the birding was the most spectacular pelagic birding I have ever had
in Florida.

We never expected to see but a handful of pelagics on this trip. It
started in an ordinary way with a few Cory's Shearwaters scattered as we
got over 10 miles out and later 2 Red-necked Phalaropes appeared at 21
miles out. But soon, we found blue water, complete with flying fish at
only 22 miles out in 100 feet of water. Then the birds started to appear
-- 5, 10, 15 Cory's, Then, groups of Sooty Terns. (We usually have to
cross the Gulf Stream to find the Sooty Tern flocks.) As we trolled
baits from 22 - 28 miles out we kept finding more and more birds -- 100,
200, 500 Cory's Shearwaters. Soon we were losing count. Greater
Shearwaters started to appear, and large flocks of Sooty Terns. Then, a
Brown Booby, then 2 Boobies, then a Parasitic Jaeger and another. The
birds were everywhere and stretched for mile after mile. Next, we found
a Masked Booby and a Brown Booby sitting together on the water. It was
unbelieveable. The birds continued for the entire several hours we were
out there. We very conservatively estimated 1,000 - 1,200 Cory's
Shearwaters; 75 Greater Shearwaters; 300+ Sooty Terns; 3 Brown Boobies;
1 Masked Booby; 4 Parasitic Jaegers; 2 Pomarine Jaegers; and a probable
Noddy Tern.

As we began to make our way back, Bob raced back between some big
thinderstorms, All the way back we kept finding more birds, including
some Bridled Terns. As we approached about 10 miles out we found several
more flocks of terns, including a flock of Black Terns and Common Terns
and later a group of Bridled Terns with two very white terns mixed in,
we motored closer to these and we determined that they were two Roseate
Terns - very elongated bodies, very long tails, exceptionally white all
over including the upper wing surface. They had black bills, and molting
black caps. The flight was distinctly different than Common or Forster's
Tern and we remarked how it was similar to a Least Tern flight.

Earlier we had found 4 similar terns at about 28 miles out, but we could
get close enough to be sure that they were Roseate Terns. In shore in
the Inlet we found Caspian and Forster's Terns and Black Skimmers. That
made a total of and astounding 11 tern species (if you include the
Skimmers).

Our totals for the day:
Roseate Tern...2 and probably 4 more
Common Tern.....75+
Sooty Tern ...300 +
Bridled...15+
Royal
Caspian
Sandwich
Black
Forster's
Brown Noddy...1 fairly sure
Black Skimmer
    11 Tern species!!!

Cory's Shearwater...1000 – 1200 + conservative est.
Greater Shearwater...75+
Masked Booby...1
Brown Booby...3 
Red-necked Phalarope...4
Pomarine Jaeger...2 
Parasitic 3 or 4 

What a day! Absolutely the best pelagic day I have ever had in Florida.
A great prelude to the pelagic to the Gulf Stream I am scheduling for
Sunday, Nov. 15. Contact me if you are interested in going.

Thanks Bob for taking us out. 

Michael

Michael Brothers
Marine Science Center
Ponce Inlet

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