Birder's Guide

MAR 2014

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 75 of 91

74 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2014 Pelagic Prep If your thalassophobia (fear of the sea) stems from being out of sight of land, consider a near-shore trip, such as Mon- terey Bay. Most trips off the Atlantic Coast must go farther offshore to reach the pe- lagic birding areas along the Gulf Stream. Binocular Use My husband, in his devilish younger days, contrived a trick whenever some- one aboard the boat got a bit out of hand. He'd pass them binoculars and ask them to check on a "problem" at the top of the mast. About two minutes of that and Mr. Overaggressive would take on a greenish cast and sit silently at the back rail for the rest of the ride. If you use your binoculars to watch an overhead White-tailed Tropicbird, rath- er than the top of the mast, you might experience the same queasiness on a moving boat. So, use your binoculars judiciously. If you wait, many seabirds will come in close and fy by or circle the boat, drawn by the engine's wake or the odors of chum. Plus, part of the joy of seabirding is seeing the birds in motion in their element, which you'll miss while fumbling with your binoculars. Studies in Gray and White When it comes to seabird feld marks, it pays to study ahead. Remember when you were a beginning birder, intimidated by all the experts on feld trips? For some birders, being a novice again in an unfa- miliar setting is another source of anxiety. On land, you may be able to tell a Nel- son's from a Saltmarsh sparrow. But at sea you may struggle to distinguish a North- ern Fulmar from a gull. And what about all those recent splits and renamings, such as Barolo Shearwater or Zino's Petrel? Seabird plumages are permutations of gray, white, and black. They are gen- erally light gray or white underneath, blending with the sky when viewed from below, with dark gray or black topsides to match the deep ocean when viewed from above. In other words, they look a lot alike. Fortunately, there are now several ex- cellent seabird resources. Realize, how- ever, that seabird taxonomy is in fux, so consider the edition and date. For a general feld guide, the newest edition of National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America is strong on pe- lagic species. Onley and Scofeld's Al- batrosses, Petrels and Shearwaters of the World (2007) is an excellent, compact feld guide to that family. For a mag- num opus of North American seabirds, refer to Howell's Petrels, Albatrosses, and Enjoying in-your-face views of a Black-footed Albatross. Photo © Michael L. P. Retter Pelagic Packing List •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• • Binoculars (large, heavier models work better at sea) • Camera equipment (no tripods or scopes) • Backpack or other soft gear bag • Small cooler for food and drink • Plain foods (low odor and low grease, such as crackers, pretzels, energy bars, or lunchbox-style sandwiches) • Drinks (low acid, such as water, clear juice, or sports drinks) • Field guide (optional; there are usually reference copies onboard and any reading should be avoided if you're predisposed to seasickness) • Smartphone or tablet (optional; feld guide apps work offshore, but it's best to avoid reading small type at sea, and cell coverage likely will be limited if available at all) • Cap or sunhat (ideally with leash) • Sunblock • Sunglasses (ideally polarized) • Rain gear (as suggested by the captain and/or weather) • Windbreaker jacket • Shoes with good traction (such as non-marking sneakers; special boat shoes are not necessary) • Clothing in layers (plan ahead for a wind chill 10–20 degrees below the forecasted land temperature) • Pre-packed pockets (include some tissues and cracker packs or energy bar) • Lens cloth (do not wipe salt spray off lenses or your glasses; always rinse with fresh water frst or you risk scratching the lens coating with salt crystals) • Tiny compass or smartphone com- pass app (only if phobic about dis- orientation out of sight of land) Continued from page 72 Continued on page 76 10-Pelagic Prep.indd 74 3/4/14 1:28 PM

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