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New England Seabirds

 Wilson's Storm-petrel  Dave Jones

Take a Trip

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Take a Pelagic Trip

What is a Pelagic Trip

Types of Pelagic Trips

Wandering Birders





Links To

Pelagic Birding Directory

Seabird Areas New England

The Continental Shelf Edge

Nor'easter Birding

What Is a Pelagic Trip?
When birders go out on a boat to find seabirds, they call it a “Pelagic Trip”. The tern “pelagic” actually refers to the deep part of the ocean beyond the continental shelf edge. Only a few of the trips listed here actually go past the shelf edge. Most trips are confined to the continental shelf an area around the continents that during the time of the glaciers was actually land.

Boats suitable for taking a group of people on the ocean are expensive and since most birders have to work during the week they can only  take a few trips a year. The owner of an expensive boat has to work that boat as much as possible so there are no boats available for pelagic birding trips exclusively. The boats used are usually party fishing boats or whale watching boats chartered especially for birding for up to  1-3 days.

Types of Pelagic Trips

Dedicated Birding Trips
An individual or a group charter a boat and the crew for a period of time usually 1 -3 days. The captain of the boat is in charge, but usually the leader has agreements with the captain about where the boat will go, how long it will stay out, and what activities will go on.

Part of the contract with the captain may include fishing by the crew from time to time. Fishing may be restricted to night time when most birders are asleep. If fishing is allowed during the birding hours, it may be a problem. It is hard to get a captain to move on to find birds when one of the crew has a tuna “Fish On”.  All fish caught belong to the captain unless there is another agreement.

The Birding Group Joins a Whale Watch, Party Fishing Boat, or a Research Ship.

Dedicated trips are expensive and a certain number of participants must sign up in order for the boat to be chartered. Some leaders will sponsor a trip on a whale watch or other type of boat. Birders pay their own fare and meet the leader on the boat. The leader has no say in where the boat goes or how long it stays in one place. Individual birders may also go solo and take a whale watch or other trip in order to see any birds they can.

Expect the captain to do what will earn the most money for the boat. If it is a whale watching boat and he finds a  group of whales that he knows will entertain the majority of his patrons he will stay on the whales even if there are no birds around. He certainly will not decide to burn more fuel searching for birds and making the majority of his customers angry. The same is true for party fishing or research boats.  You are their guest.  Try to act like one.

Wandering Birders- Pelagic Birding Directory

When a birder takes to traveling either on vacation with the family or on business, he or she take their binoculars. Birders are always birders.

To help you with your wandering this web site provides links to groups that organize pelagic trips. See the Pelagic Birding Directory .  Some of these sites are commercial sites meaning the sponsor or organizer is making a profit on the trip. The webmaster has been on some of these trips but not all. The most important factor is the trip birding leaders.  Usually if the same trip is made every year or even several times a year you will find it to be a good trip otherwise the leaders will not be able to persuade local birders to pay for the expensive trip.  Do your own research and if you take a trip, send the webmaster email describing how it worked out for you. Make reports to pelagic and state lists. Keep the birding network going.

Your wandering may not always coincide with scheduled sponsored trips. You may want to try a whale watch, party fishing boat or a ferry and take your chances on seeing some birds. If you are in the New England area there are whale watches from Provincetown and Barnstable on Cape Cod, Plymouth, MA, Boston, MA, Gloucester, MA, Newburyport, Ma, Rye, NH and Bar Harbor, Maine.

More Information to Help You Enjoy Seabirds in New England

Seabird Areas New England an essay by Emmalee Tarry addresses the question of why seabirds are not disbursed across all of the ocean, but rather concentrated in certain areas. What are upwellings and why is marine wildlife attracted to them.

What is the Continental Shelf Edge and how can you get there?

The Continental Shelf Edge essay by Mike Gooley describes a location south of Cape Cod where local boats can reach the Continental Shelf Edge.  Here canyons formed by rivers flowing into the ocean during the time that the glaciers covered much of the land provide a habit different from that found on the edge of the continent.  The depth of the ocean increases sharply attracting wildlife that prefer deeper water.

Try a Winter Sea Watch

Winter comes to New England and shuts down pelagic birding trips.  It is time for hardy birders to try sea watches from shore.  Seasonal storms known as Nor'easters have a huge impact on the activity of seabirds concentrating the birds closer to land.  Knowing when and where to go will help you get started with sea watching. See Chris Genets essay describing what a Nor'easter is and how it impacts the seabirds . Nor'easter Birding

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