Sep 04 2009


Published by at 7:15 am under Travel,Water and Shore

Northern Gannet diving for fish (photo by Kim Steininger)

The cool thing about going to Maine is that I get to see birds I would never see at home.  This northern gannet is a perfect example.  There's no way this huge sea bird with a six and a half foot wingspan would be found taking a nose dive in the Monongahela River.  He needs deep saltwater for his livelihood.

I've seen northern gannets from the shores of Virginia and Florida in the winter but they're far away and look like tiny arrowheads.  To get a closeup like this and to see a host of birds who never come near shore, I have to travel far off the coast on a pelagic tour.

Maine Audubon has an annual pelagic tour in October that goes 40 miles off the coast of Bar Harbor, but I'll be in Pittsburgh then.  What to do?  A Maine birder gave me a tip:  You can see pelagic birds on the Whale Watch.  The goals of these two boat trips are different but the whale watch looks for whales up to 20 miles offshore and pelagic birds are often in the vicinity of whales because both are looking for food-filled patches of ocean.  He also said that if you can pick any day to make the trip, go when the wind is light - otherwise the wave action hides the loafing birds. 

So I went on the whale watch Wednesday morning when the waves were less than a foot high.  The weather was great and I met another birder, Andy Block, who leads birding tours to Costa Rica for Tico Tours.  For a landlubber like me sea birds are often confusing so I was really glad Andy was there to tell me what they were: 

I do enjoy these trips!  And now you see why I was thinking about waves this week.

p.s.  I nearly forgot to mention we did see a whale - one finback - plus harbor seals and harbor porpoises.

(photo by Kim Steininger.  Click on the photo to read Kim's blog describing how she captured it.)

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Pelagic”

  1. Deb in INon 04 Sep 2009 at 2:14 pm

    I am thoroughly mesmerized by the photo..beautiful..AND thoroughly jealous of your sightings. I am a very new birder–I am still fascinated by the variety of sparrows at my backyard feeders and could watch the Kingfisher at my mom’s lake for hours! I can’t wait to see your site each day. Thank you!

  2. Kim Steiningeron 04 Sep 2009 at 9:13 pm

    I’m very envious of you getting to see gannets!!! As you probably know, they’re one of my favorite birds. Deb, I have more pictures of gannets on my blog:

  3. Davidon 06 Sep 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Some of Ms. Steininger’s photos are truly stunning, as is this one of the Northern Gannet diving. A testimony to her skill, and patience!!

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