Monday, April 16, 2012

Sea, No Evil

Pelagics are more popular than I thought, and I have been enjoying running a few over the past several months. A nice crew of folks came out on the boat yesterday, and despite what sounded initially like a less than favorable forecast, it was pretty darn nice!

One original participant had to bail at the last minute, apparently preferring to chuck dirty diapers as opposed to chucking stale bread at Gulls. A replacement was found and being new to the pelagic scene she was apprehensive about mal de mer. For those in a similar space, what I told her is worth repeating. First- don’t psyche yourself out. Focusing on getting sick is one sure way to actually end up sick, or at best expend a lot of mental energy on a place you would rather not be. Second- experience is the only sure way to know how your unique body will react to being tossed by wind waves and random boat motions. So rather than trying to guess, your best bet is to take a few trips and learn first hand how susceptible you are. Having said this, also understand that sea conditions are never the same, the combination of motions rather than the intensity can often be what ‘gets you’ and if in doubt, take the OTC meds.

Dramamine a brand of dimenhydrinate works as does the ‘less drowsy’ Bonine, a brand of meclazine. Having tried both, I can tell you they both work, and despite the claims both make me drowsy. In practice, if one can see or have access to very current info, then the amount used can be moderated. ie, if it does not look too bad, take a half pill. On more vigorous seas, I’ll take a whole pill. Dramamine is also available as a generic at numerous pharmacies for a fraction of the cost of the name brand, and a more costlier option available by prescription is the Transderm patch brand of scopolamine. For some people this is the only medication that works, but due to slow absorption should be placed on the skin at least the night before. It’s side effects are dry mouth and or dry eyes. It also has the benefit of staying on even when wet, so if taking an extended boat trip, ie several days, it will not be affected by showering, and it will medicate you for several days.

Important to note is that the medications must be in your system ~prior~ to departure so that they have time to take effect. Waiting until you are starting to turn green is usually too late, and almost always those who take a pill at the latter time will be pushed over the edge by the medication rather than helped by it. Oh well. Yes it can make you drowsy, and speaking from experience of  being laughed at for falling asleep particularly easily, all I can say is sleepy is FAR better than begging someone to mercy kill you. In short, if you have any doubt or apprehension, just take the pill. Sleep doesn’t have to washed out of your clothes...

Finally, avoid heavy greasy foods prior to departure or on the boat. Pepperoni or salami are definitely verboten. To calm a queasy stomach I find snacking on starchy items to be an effective way to absorb stomach fluids, and candied ginger has a calming effect on the stomach too. So stock up on doughnuts or pretzels and you should be good to go. Mary by the way did not fall prey to any ill effects of the sea.

We got a nice start at 7 am and headed out to find calmer conditions than forecast. Yay! On the way we had Boat-tailed Grackle. Black Skimmer. BC Night Heron, Laughing Gull, Oystercatcher and lingering Purple Sandpiper, the latter of which was a lifer for Captain Bob.
Gotta Love That  Bright Red Bill on an Oystercatcher
Two of Four Purple Sandpipers
Out in the ocean, we were greeted by loads of Northern Gannets. Benjamin Van Doren attempted to keep count but after a while it must have become too overwhelming. Inshore or out 20+ miles, the Gannets were everywhere. I cannot think of a time in the past where there have been so many, and distributed so far and wide about us. Speaking of Benjamin, he was charged with the responsibility of finding me a good sighting, and he did so in the form of Harbor Porpoises that we all got to enjoy.

DC Cormorants were numerous, but noticeably absent were the Great Cormorants, having attained breeding plumage weeks ago, and departed for their breeding locations. Loon numbers were down, but still in good numbers were the Common and Red-throated, but most impressive was the Common Loons in their distinguished breeding plumage.

Also noticeably way down in numbers from the last trip was Scoters, Oldsquaw, and Red-breasted Mergansers. All were confined to a few sightings, not like the 10s of thousands not too long ago.

Out at sea we saw numbers of migrating birds. Great Blue Herons were spotted on several occasions in lines of 5 or 6, and one such group appeared to ‘kettle’, or perhaps they were arguing about who should be the leader.

Also in evidence were migrating passerines, most notably swallows. We counted Barn, Tree, and Rough-winged when we were able to pick them out against the glare and clouds. On one occasion we spotted a lone swallow being mercilessly pursued by Great Black-backed Gulls. Captain Bob tried to close distance with the swallow and the hoard of 10-15 GBBs but the gulls and especially the swallow were flying at a pretty good clip, and the 18 knots of speed we tried was no match for them. I am happy to report that the swallows typical flight style was able to keep it away from the gulls, and eventually it broke away from the crowd and to a less harried flight. I have added it to my “I’ve never seen that before” list

Still few in numbers, but nice to see anyway were some Bonaparte Gulls. We had 3, one of which retained it’s non-breeding plumage while the other two had attained their nice black head not witnessed about here as often as the former.

Other not so pelagic birds seen were Kestrels, Merlin and Coopers Hawk and by Sandy Hook on the way back in we added TV and Black Vulture, and Sanderling on one of the Lighthouses in NY Harbor. No seals though around Swinburn Island though...

Finished the day with a quick trip to Jamaica Bay, where I got FOS Black-and-white Warbler, Glossy Ibis, Barn Own, Fosters Tern, and Marsh Wren.

My FOS B&W Warbler

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