The Marine Science Center is offering a new pelagic birding opportunity to explore the Gulf Stream in September. This is the first time that we have offered a trip at this very dynamic season.    I am especially excited about this trip because this season has some exceptional chances for pelagic birding.  Here is a narrative I wrote from a September trip in 2009.

Today, 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, because we were not even headed to the Gulf Stream. 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 unbelievable. 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.

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.

What a day! Absolutely the best pelagic day I have ever had in Florida.
As with all pelagic trips, there is no guarantee of incredible days like that. However, the potential is there! I need 35 people to be able to run the trip. We will leave at 4:00 a.m. and return at 7:00 p.m. Please email me regarding the cost.

The trip will head out from the New Smyrna side of the Inlet to “The Steeples” -- an area of sea mounts and upwellings on the western edge of the Gulf Stream. We will continue out to about 60 miles offshore. This trip holds the probability of encountering numerous pelagic species. Jaeger migration should be active. Black-capped Petrels should be on the move.  This trip is during the beginning of fall migration, when there are good chances at fall migrants such as Manx Shearwater, and the possibility of interesting rarities, including Sabine’s Gull and Long-tailed Jaeger.

Potential Species include (* = good probability):

Cory’s Shearwater *
Great Shearwater *
Sooty Shearwater
Audubon’s Shearwater *
Manx Shearwater *
Wilson’s Storm Petrel *
Leach’s Storm-Petrel *
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel *
Black-capped Petrel 
Brown Booby    
Masked Booby
Northern Gannet 
Red-billed Tropicbird  
White-tailed Tropicbird
Red Phalarope *
Red-necked Phalarope *
Pomarine Jaeger *
Parasitic Jaeger *
Long-tailed Jaeger  
Sooty Tern 
Bridled Tern *
Brown Noddy
Sabine’s Gull

The trip will be aboard “The Pastime Princess” a 100-foot, all-aluminum boat with excellent observation areas on the upper deck and bow and even a nice stern seating area. The cabin can also accommodate 30-40 in air-conditioned comfort.

The trip will depart at 4:00 a.m. from the dock beside the Dolphin View Restaurant on Riverside Drive near Canal Street in downtown New Smyrna Beach and return at 7:00 pm.  You must be on the boat 15 minutes prior to departure; the boat will not wait for anyone who is late.

Participants can bring their own food and beverages, but food service will also be available for breakfast and lunch at moderate prices. 

Be sure to bring rain gear, seasickness medicine, sunscreen and personal items.

Contact me for price details.

To sign up please contact:
Michael Brothers
Marine Science Center
100 Lighthouse Drive
Ponce Inlet, FL 32127
[log in to unmask] 

I hope that you will join us!

Michael Brothers
Marine Science Center
Ponce Inlet, FL

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