Thursday, August 25, 2016

Big Ship Pelagic

I just got back late last night from a cruise aboard the MS Rotterdam.  As I have gotten older, I have found I enjoy the cruising life style, so different from other kinds of travel.  Cruises offer an excellent (although albeit expensive) opportunity to observe seabirds for extended periods of time, and many birders on the West Coast take advantage of so-called repositioning cruises to look for birds between California and Alaska.  The cruise I was on took me to the North Atlantic: from Boston to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands, Ireland, and back.  We had thick fog some days, high winds most days, and experienced both calm and rough seas.  As one would expect, there was not a lot of species diversity over the deep water far from land.  Northern Fulmars accompanied us on most segments of the journey, and Northern Gannets were also quite common.  New seabirds for me were Atlantic Puffin, Iceland Gull and Great Skua (the latter two in Greenland and/or European waters only).  Other seabirds I got to enjoy were Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Leach's and Wilson's Storm-Petrels, and numerous gulls.  Marine mammals included fin, minke and humpback whales; Atlantic white-sided dolphins; harp, gray and ringed seals, and one sperm whale.  On land, I saw a long overdue Yellow-bellied Flycatcher for the ABA area, saw and photographed good numbers of Ringed Plover in Iceland (a species I had wanted to see in the field for a long time), a variety of eastern warblers, and reacquainted myself with Great and Blue Tits (the European chickadees).  I probably am not as conscientious a birder as many of you would be when I cruise, so am sure my lists could be bigger, but I still find birding on a cruise to be very satisfying.