Tuesday 27 August 2013

Birding on the Labrador Sea

Currently early in a month long stint on a seismic ship working in the Labrador Sea. It is nice to be in a place other than the usual Northern Grand Banks and Orphan Basin where most seismic exploration takes place, A peak at birds off s.e. Labrador reveals no surprises.  There are areas with good numbers of seabirds and areas with low numbers. Northern Fulmar is the everywhere bird.  Great Shearwater has been second most numerous overall. Among the more interesting seabirds from a Newfoundland birding point are moderate numbers of Pomarine Jaegers and a few Long-tailed Jaegers.   Red Phalaropes are locally common.
After seeing only South Polar Skuas on my five weeks seismic trip in June/July on the Orphan Basin/Flemish Cap area it was nice to see a few Great Skuas for a change. In fact have not seen a South Polar yet in Labrador waters though saw one near the Newfoundland/Labrador border in transit.
Adult Great Skuas are the easiest skua to identify at long range. The pale yellowish streaks in the upper wing coverts and back give the bird a golden look at long distances which would never appear on a South Polar. 
Photographing birds from a ship is a challenge because you are high above the water and the birds do not usually come as close as they will to a small boat.  The skua shot was a small image enlarged considerably. Using a 300f4 lens is inadequate at sea but bringing a large telephoto lens on an industrial work ship is risky for the lens. The following two shots are also big crops.
Pomarine Jaeger is the routine jaeger anywhere in Newfoundland and Labrador. Adult dark morphs are less routine.
Red Phalaropes are local numerous on the Labrador Shelf edge. 
Downloading pictures has proved difficult from this ship so just one last picture for this posting. 
Land birds regularly show up on vessels at sea during autumn migration. They can be difficult to identify unless they land on the boat like this immature Tennessee Warbler 200+ km ESE of Makkovik.  TEWA is a locally common breeder in Labrador.

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