I did my first pelagic trip of the year yesterday; it was run by Paul Guris of See Life Paulagics (www.paulagics.com) Pelagic birds are birds that spend almost all of their life over water. They live on the ocean and come to land only to breed, often in some remote spot in the Arctic or on a desolate island somewhere. The best (and sometimes the only) way to see these birds is to get on a boat and cruise offshore.
The trip left from Freeport, Long Island at 6:15am, and there was a sizeable group of people that were willing to get up that early and stand outside on a boat in February. The day was about as perfect as it could be for the time of year -- almost glassy smooth seas and warm (-ish) weather, or at least temperatures that made it bearable to stand outside with a parka on.
We cruised out of Jones Beach inlet as the sun rose, and many of us were out there birding as soon as we could make out shapes on the water. Like in many forms of birding, the more eyes you have looking for birds the better, and it's especially true when you're scanning the vast ocean for a tiny dark bird. Within half an hour of leaving the dock we spotted our first pelagic birds, a small group of Razorbills. From there we periodically found Atlantic Puffin, Common Murre, more Razorbill, Northern Fulmar and Kittiwake. Once out a little further, we started chumming off the back of the boat (note to self: roll up sleeve before reaching in chum bucket to toss stinky fish to gulls), and got a fair sized group of gulls following the boat. Among the normal Herring and Greater Black Backed we also had a couple of Glaucous and Iceland Gulls, as well as Lesser Black Backed. We also had some marine mammals -- great views of Fin Whale (the second largest whale, after the Blue), and various dolphins. In addition to these photos, I've posted more here.
Overall it was about as good a day as I could expected. The boat was great (even a galley!), we saw lots of great birds, and it wasn't sleeting. By the time we pulled back into port at 6pm I was ready to go lie down on the sofa and pass out (missed the Superbowl...sounded like a great game). When I woke up this morning, I could have easily gone back out on the water...I can see why people love these trips!