Pelagic Trip – Sep 20, 2015: Sperm Whales migrating south!
We headed offshore with very unfavorable conditions: 3 days of westerly winds pushed the gulfstream, the weedlines, and the birds far offshore. Despite this, I decided to make it a go since you never know what you’ll find. Joining me were Scott Simmons and Graham Williams from central Florida, our own Josh Friers, and Bruce (didn’t catch the last name) form Nova Scotia. Bruce was heading back today and this was his first trip to Florida so yesterday was the day despite the horrible conditions. As we made our way out past the reef, I could quickly tell that if any birds were to be found, we were going to have to travel far offshore. The first 20 miles produced nothing but migrating land birds, but at 20 miles I spotted the blow from a whale in the distance. I suspected it was going to be a Sperm Whale migrating south, so I positioned the boat in its path. As it came closer, we noticed it was two Sperm Whales migrating together. They came fairly close to the boat allowing everyone to get excellent looks and photos. We later spotted two more blows in the distance so there were at least 4 whales in that area.
At 23 miles out we spotted a small feeding flock to the northeast. About 1/4 mile from the flock a dark, chunky bird with white wing tips caused a scare as it sat on the water then took off, as we first thought we had a skua, but it turned out to be a Pomarine Jaeger. The small flock consisted of some Sooty Terns and a Brown Booby, and a Frigatebird overhead. It was clear from what we were seeing and the discussions on the radio by charter captains that the west winds had pushed any weedlines out beyond our range, so we decided to work our way back inshore. After running back a short distance, Bruce called out two birds flying parallel to the boat off our starboard side. We were being overtaken by two jaegers flying very fast to the south. The lead bird quickly stood out as a possible Long-tailed still in breeding plumage. We tried to keep up as much as we could but they soon out ran the boat. There is a blurry photo below. We didn’t look at the second bird as much as we should, and it all happened so quickly that I only got a couple of distance shots of it. I’m not too sure about the second bird either, but I’m leaning towards Parasitic. Sometimes these birds don’t give you a chance to get a definite ID.
Lead bird: Possible Long-tailed Jaeger (Thanks Scott for the photo)
Trailing bird: Probable ParasiticJaeger
Our list for the day:
Brown Booby 3
Magnificent Frigatebird 2
Long-tailed Jaeger (possible)
Parasitic Jaeger (probable)
Sooty Tern 6
Black Tern ~35
Sperm Whale 4