Date: Sun, 22 Jun 2003 21:57:07 -0400
Reply-To: Russ Wigh <rdwigh@BELLSOUTH.NET>
Sender: Georgia Birders Online <GABO-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
From: Russ Wigh <rdwigh@BELLSOUTH.NET>
Subject: Part 2 of Gray's Reef
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I set out to finish this trip report last week, and after working on a too
long email, I managed with one deft keystroke to erase the entire thing.
The last two days have been spent actually writing a draft of a report for
NOAA and The Oriole. The whole thing - 3000 words is available on the web
if you are so inclined. It also contains some clarification of where we
were, what this trip was all about, and a definition of the sea we were in
and where we should go from here.
If you choose to read it, please be aware that the report is adorned with
phooey, fourteen dollar words and some rudimentary technospeak. Such is the
nature of these things.
We arrived back on Gray's Reef about 12:30 A. M. on Saturday morning to the
deafening clatter of the anchor chain hurling 60 feet down through the
ocean. So much for a night's sleep.
The morning of 14 June brought the usual early arrival of royal Terns and a
single Cory's Shearwater. On the 15th with a full moon I was up by 4:15 to
test the theory that some of the pelagic species forage at night. One of
the crew spotted a bird flying low to the waves and described what was
COSH at about 4:30. About 7:00 we had two more of this species, and by
mid-day we left for the R2 naval tower.
R2 was completely empty, but ROYT began coming in about 5:00. It was clear
to us by this time these guys were foraging over 40 miles at sea and
returning to land each night. Nothing roosted on the tower at night.
The nest day we did pick up Wilson's Storm-Petrel and possible Greater
Shearwater while at the tower site, and then headed for the J Reef.
This artificial reef was alive with baitfish and along with the early/late
ROYT we picked up COSH and WISP again on the morning of June 17. We were
about 20 miles offshore, with no weather to bring these pelagics in. They
were just there.
There is some interesting work regarding how pelagic birds find prey, and I
summarized some in my report.
I have been encouraged by NOAA that they want to continue to invite birders
out to these various locations. They will not knock your socks off. You
will find more birds at the Gulf Stream on a good day, but the birds are in
close and have been over the reefs without our knowing it. The caveat for
all pelagic birding seems to be that they are more active early and late,
the most unlikely times for us to be out there, and obviously, they are
moved around by heavy weather.
Finally on the trip back we picked up a land bird that had familiar
plumages, but yet was larger and brighter and foraged on the deck and I was
POSITIVE we had a tropical stowaway. I sent the images to one of our
resident experts, and now, along with egg on my face, we have a new late
date in Georgia of 17 June for Blackpoll Warbler.
Here is the trip list.
Royal Tern - 171
Black Tern - 40
Cory's Shearwater - 5
Laughing Gull - 4
Great Egret - 3
Bridled Tern - 1
Sandwich Tern - 1
Caspian Tern (?) - 2
Greater shearwater (?) - 1
Least Tern (?) - 1
tern species - 21
tubenose species - 1
Blackpoll Warbler - 1
Not a lot of birds, but a whole lot of discovery for me, and I would do it
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