Day 123: Off The Shelf

A sunset pelagic trip yields some good birds.

May 3, 2015, Huatulco, Mexico — Eric called up a friend in Huatulco who owns a fishing boat and we went looking for pelagic (offshore) seabirds this evening. Pelagic birding in Oaxaca is a little more casual than North American birders may be used to: Here, the continental shelf is relatively close to shore, and the shearwaters, storm-petrels, jaegers, terns, and other deepwater-loving birds can be found just a couple miles from land (whereas, in my home state of Oregon, the continental shelf is more like 30 miles offshore and pelagic birding trips go out for 10-12 hours, usually in cold and rough conditions). I walked onto the boat in shorts, a T-shirt, and sunglasses, and we motored off at about 4:30 in the afternoon.

It was nice to be on the water with a breeze; Huatulco is forecasted to hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit every day this week with 60 percent humidity. For the first couple of hours, the birding was slow—the only real surprise was a Townsend’s Warbler (rare anywhere in Oaxaca, much less on the open ocean) which tried to land on the boat about six miles from shore.

Then, just before dusk, we hit a massive flock of birds feeding on baitfish. I estimated 80 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and 300 Black Terns with a scattering of other birds including a Galapagos Shearwater and Pomarine and Parasitic Jaegers—awesome! Nearby, several dolphins jackknifed out of the water, a manta ray slid beneath the surface, and two sea turtles stuck their heads up to breathe. As the sun went down in a fireball, we watched the flock disperse into silhouettes, and we ended up returning to shore under the cover of a rising blood moon.


Incidentally, I passed an interesting milestone this afternoon: I’ve now recorded more birds this year (since January 1st) than I had previously seen in the rest of my life. What better way to celebrate than with tacos and guacamole?

New birds today: 21

Year list: 2387

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