A Travellerspoint blog


The Atlantic Ocean

semi-overcast 47 °F


After being awoken to a raucous double alarm at 3:26am due to my overly-OCD alarm paranoia, I was out the door in less than ten minutes as it doesn’t take anything more than the prospect of a winter pelagic to get me out of bed in no time!

Target lifers including Northen Fulmar, Atlantic Puffin, and if were VERY lucky — Great Skua. Other fun ones to pick up would be Dovekie, Razorbill, and Iceland Gull among others. Our vessel for the next twelve hours:

After a long few early morning hours on the American Princess, the sun began to rise which was just spectacular.

One of our first birds of the day was this semi-distant NORTHERN GANNET silhouetted against the morning light. Year bird!

We had a number of SCOTER flybys, including BLACK:


And soon enough, or first Alcids flew by too (puffins, murres, etc) — RAZORBILLS! Awesome— another highly-anticipated year bird:

LONG-TAILED DUCKS against the morning light, too!

The Gannets put on a great show in the morning:

They were mixing primarily with a mixed flock of mainly HERRING & GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS behind our boat as we were chumming, hoping for attack uncommon species like Fulmar or Kittiwake.


A single Razorbill was also attracted to the chum slick behind the boat.

The bright white adult Gannet surely sticks out among other birds in the slick.

Then, somebody shouted DOVEKIE and within seconds I had my photographed lifer Dovekie. I had seen this bird briefly once before from the Block Island Ferry; however, at that time I didn’t have the skills or opportunity to take better/more photos. I think it was just a very crappy doc shot back then. As you can see though, I did a progressively-better photography job throughout the day today as my hand got steadier even with the five-foot swells, which made the trip a *little* rough for many. (glad I wore my anti-seasick medication patch)

They are wonderfully-tiny, cute seabirds barely the size of a baseball and they got more common as the day went on. Absolutely wild to think that by the end of the day, their novelty had worn off on many of us — we counted more than FOUR HUNDRED!!!

It was fantastic, though, to observe an adult Kumlien’s ICELAND GULL throughout the afternoon which mixed with the Black-backed and Herring Gull mixed flock. Note the nearly-complete white our trail feathers, giving it a pale, frosted look.

The epitome of cute: a DOVEKIE sitting in the water:

Then, somebody shouted PUFFIN! And, highly-anticipating this lifer, I ran to the other side of the deck. Somebody pointed out exactly where it was in relation to the nearby gulls and I briefly
locked eyes on the bird, snapped this absolutely atrocious doc shot, and the bird was nowhere to be found then.

Was hoping for better views/photos. But ATLANTIC PUFFIN was still a life bird, and beggars can’t be choosers!
Anyway, it had bumped me up to 1145 on my life List!

And this also happened at around our deepest/furthest point on the route today.

Birders watching the gull slick and braving out the tough waves from the second level. Some people today really succumbed to nature, though with my ear patch and practice in the Antarctica protected me from ever feeling too baldly.

Then, our next dose of excitement after a bit of an afternoon siesta was when a NORTHERN FULMAR was reported to be associating loosely with the gulls in the slick. Fulmars are “pole petrels” — the Southern Fulmar, for example, I got SOUTH of the Falkland Icelands for the first time on Jan 1 2020. LIFE BIRD 1146!!!!!

So it was awesome to see its more northern counterpoint. WOW! It has a different flying pattern, too, with wings held steady like other Petrels, not like a Gull’s loafing flight style. Fulmar is really only a morphological coincidence in that it superficially resembles gulls.

And before we knew it, it banked away and disappeared! Despite the open nature of a marine environment, pelagic species have a way of disappearing behind the troughs and waves that, from a rocking ship, makes photography exceedingly difficult.

And speaking of the rocky ship — I was lucky to have applied by Scopalpamine patch under my ear which did the trick and kept me from feeling queasy the entire day, even while about half the participants were offering constant gifts back to the sea throughout the day. Ever since, Antarctica and the Drake Passage, I have sworn by the efficacy of these patches, though the side effects from the patch are strong; however, for me I always get slightly blurred vision, extreme dry mouth, and sluggishness — so bear that in mind before using such a patch.

Somebody called out Puffin again but I missed it this time altogether so that frustrated me. But the pelagic must go one for I just had to settle for a consiliatory COMMOM LOON:


Then, for a third time, just as I was dozing off, I faintly heard somebody scream “Atlantic Puffin! Puffin! Here at 3 o’clock! And sure enough there it was (though I wanted it to turn around):

And that it did!!! Their plumage is a bit uglier in the winter but still unmistakeable Puffin, my 1146th. Hah! ATLANTIC PUFFIN!!!!! Glad to finally get a half decent photo. One of my most hoped-for NY birds (not even accounting for the fact it’s an all-around lifer! This will be my bird-of-the-day today.

Here it is to contrast size with a gull:

Then fourth alcid species of the day, a COMMON MURRE, was spotted by me and confirmed by others, though nobody managed photos unfortunately. That makes today my first ever four ALCIDAE!!!!
(Alcidae is the family name for Puffins, Murres, and Auks)

An absolutely incredible pelagic to launch 2023 in a downright victorious way. With this pelagic, I have very few “regular” birds left to get in New York State — my list will be pretty clean by the time I graduate this May!

Happy birding,
World Life List: 1146 Species (2 life birds: ATLANTIC PUFFIN & NORTHERN FULMAR)

Posted by skwclar 04:01 Archived in USA

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