cobalt waters, so did theseabirds. Cory's Shearwaters began
to appear in ones and twos until, at eleven we found a flock
of eight which sat cooperatively for close views of their
plumage including their straw-colored bilk with dusky tips.
It soon became evident that one of the flock was different,
a subadult Pomarine Jaeger. It gave frustratingly distant
views. Fortunately, about three hours later we encountered
another shearwater flock with an attendant jaeger (the same
bird?) with similar plumage characteristics. This bird put on
a fine show at close range in wonderful light, harassing the
As we approached the East Breaks, an underwater
"reef formation seventy-five miles east of port, we saw our
only small "puffinus" shearwater of the day. Although this
bird sat on the water for a time, we never got good enough
views of the bird's undersides to be certain it was an
Audubon's, not a Manx.
Around one p.m. .we followed the one hundred
fathom underwater contour for a half hour, then headed in.
Enroute we observed another aerial dogfight between a
Cory's Shearwater and a Pomarine Jaeger. As we passed
the shimp fleet encountered earlier, there were huge flocks
of gulls and terns put to flight by no less than four jaegers
most, if not all, of which we suspected were Parasitics
(identification of subadult jaegers, especially at great distance
is still, unfortunately, in its' infancy).
Final trip tally was 30 Cory's Shearwaters (my
personal best), one (probable) Audubon's Shearwater, four
Parasitic and two Pomarine Jaegers. We also encountered
many trans-Gulf migrants: a distant Peregrine Falcon, a
Chestnut-sided Warbler and a Yellow-breasted Chat (the
latter pursued by a Pomarine Jaeger), a Wood-Pewee, a
hummingbird, an Indigo Bunting and a Brown Thrasher.
There were also a smattering of herons and egrets
wandering around out there.
As usual, we also encountered other sea creatures
including Portugese Man O'War jellyfish, two species of
flying fish, mola (ocean -sunfish) and finally, a frisky pod of
Spotted Dolphins who "rode" the bow of the boat for several
minutes until the leader came to investigate.
The trip set several records: the first OG pelagic
trip to get out to the hundred fathom mark, the best weather
and sea conditions of any Gulf pelagic trip (flat, cool and
windless) and the only trip I've ever led which missed
All the participants should now know Cory's
Shearwater and Royal, Common and Black Terns by heart.
[Trip organizer and participant Dave Bradfordsubmitted the
following comments regarding this pelagic trip. Ed.]
"The seas were calm. I mean really calm. Like glass. Only
those who get-sick from the waves in their bathtub got sick
on this pelagic excursion. Our leader, Mike Austin, selected
a slightly different course from the last few trips and it paid
off...we tallied about 30 Cory's Shearwaters. And a black
speck called a Pomarine Jaeger. We watched it attack a
Cory's for awhile. Eventually it gave up on the pelagic birds
to pursue a Yellow-breasted Chat only a few meters from
our boat...On the return trip two Parasitic Jaegers treated
viewers on the bow of the boat to a water surface-hugging
fly-by. As we birders continue to explore the pelagic realm
of the Gulf of Mexico, I suspect some of the birds that are
thought to be rare will be seen more and more. Remember,
it was just a few years ago when notes were required on
Cory's Shearwaters. We now get reports of 20, 30 and even
more per trip. Let's keep exploring."
TO COUNT OR NOT TO COUNT!
TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE!
Which is the Question?
by Lynne Aldrich
Recent articles appearing in the American Birding
Association's (ABA') Birding and Winging It helped, I hope
in initiating (certainly stimulating) discussions amongst the
birding community on the use of tape recorders utilized for
the purpose of coaxing otherwise non-seeable birds into the
open for us birders to see (Point/Counterpoint; June, 1992
pp. 168-173) and on counting heard only birds (Winging It.
Volume 4, Number 3 - March, 1992 pp.-9-ll and Volume 4;-
Number 6 - June, 1992 pp. 6-7). These discussions were
followed with an article on birding ethics in general with a
questionnaire on "what you would do if..." (Volume 4,
Number 7 - July, 1992 pp. 6-8). What constitutes "ethical"
birding behavior and specifically whether tape recorders
should be used in the field for other than the recording of
the bird song itself have always been topics of some debate
and as pressures from expanding numbers of those birders
grows, this debate too grows.
The argument in Birring on the use of tapes ranged
from "no...with exceptional cases reserved for old people, the
wheelchair bound and those with less than one year to live" -
- to "yes, absolutely when used judiciously so that all
members of a group can see the bird with the least amount
of environmental impact." Within each of these arguments
lie much thoughtful discussion of the impact all aspects of
this increasingly popular sport has on the environment as a
whole. As one of the authors states, "...our very pursuit of
birds constitutes a disturbance of which there is a continuum
In the "old" days when birding was thought to be the
activity only of "little old ladies in tennis shoes," the
potential impact on the beauties of nature we were pursuing
were certainly much less than now. Shrinking habitat,
expanding numbers of birders and networks of "efficient