Birder's Guide

AUG 2013

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 49 of 67

" To me, nothing is more thrilling than the sight of thousands of storm-petrels skipping over the sea, or a Black-footed Albatross fying up the wake of your boat as you cross the edge of the Monterey Submarine Canyon... ...Or sorting through a fock of Blackcapped Petrels sitting on the water for that single Fea's Petrel in the Gulf Stream. Seabirding is full of never-ending surprises—witness the frst record of a Northern Gannet at California's Farallon Islands last year! Organized pelagic trips in North America have seemingly reached an apex, with more pelagic trips currently offered than ever before. Many entities now operate pelagic trips from both the East and West coasts. Local operators are your best resource for information, and many have websites. (Be sure to check the Pelagic Directory on p. 52 for details.) Ferry routes " can sometimes be productive, and some adventurous birders even lounge on cruise ships, looking for seabirds. Preparing for your trip can add immensely to the overall experience. Knowing how to dress, what to bring and what not to bring on the boat, and which season is best can help the seabirder get the most out of the trip. This is a concise guide on how to prepare for a typical pelagic trip, what to expect on board, and other tips. VESSELS • Nearly all one-day pelagic trips are conducted on fshing or whalewatching vessels, which in the U.S. are inspected and certifed by the Coast Guard. Most such vessels range from 45–75 feet and have a capacity of 25–55 persons, which is also regulated. Sometimes, the amount of time the skipper can be at the helm is also regulated, unless a second skipper is on board. Usually, there is a frst mate, or deckhand. A restroom, or "head", as it is called on a boat, is available. DRESSING FOR SEA • Layers are the key! Pelagic trips in May from North Carolina and from San Diego may be quite warm, even hot. But pelagic trips from Monterey Bay, Bodega Bay, or Half Moon Bay, California, can feel as cold as a day on Attu, even during summer. Being able to shed layers according to the weather is the best plan. Your outer layer should consist of a waterproof jacket and, sometimes, waterproof pants. It is always best to bring the pants. The operator will tell you at the dockside if you should put them on. Even if there is no ocean spray, this outer layer can shield you from the wind, providing an extra layer of warmth. In some instances, long underwear, heavy coats, and gloves are essential. Bring a hat that can be secured so that it does not blow away. Footwear should be comfortable, as you will likely be standing for most of the day. It can range from sandals on warm-weather trips to closed-toed shoes for cold days. (Note that some trips require closed-toed shoes; You may fnd yourself birding in the rain on a pelagic, so make sure you're prepared with proper waterproof gear. Photo © Michael L. P. Retter 48 Birder's Guide to Travel | August 2013

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