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BRI Coastal Birdwatching Cruise
BRI Coastal Birdwatching Cruise

Up Close: Seabirds and Other Marine Life

A group of ten hardy souls set out from the Rockland, Maine harbor on a cloudy Saturday afternoon in late August for BRI's first coastal birdwatching cruise. Before we even left port, binoculars were up and birders were calling out "Sighting!" Enthusiasm spread quickly and before the three-day sail was over we had logged 35 species of birds, five species of marine mammals, and many sightings of the uniquely shaped ocean sunfish!

Living on the Wind

Living on the Wind

Seabirds spend most of their lives on open water, seeking land only to breed. Few people understand the lives these birds lead or the physical hardships they endure. Many seabirds are at risk due to habitat loss, climate change, and contaminants, among other factors. BRI hosted this cruise to increase awareness of the need for conservation for these birds.

Sailing at the end of August, we saw birds migrating south from far northern regions (such as the Northern Gannet and Arctic Tern) and those species leaving their Maine nesting colonies (such as Black Guillemots and Puffins). When asked where these birds go, BRI's seabird expert Dr. Iain Stenhouse simply said, "Out to sea." 

Aboard the Harvey Gamage

Aboard the Harvey Gamage

We sailed on the Harvey Gamage, a 131-foot gaff-rigged topsail schooner, around some of the coastal islands of Downeast Maine. 

After sailing through a mixed flock of foraging Arctic and Common Terns, we spent our first night anchored in a cove near Isle au Haut. Those on night watch were treated to a spectacular star-studded vista in a cloudless black sky. It was so worth getting up in the middle of the night to see the stars blaze so brightly. 

Gulls Galore

Gulls Galore

Laughing Gulls really do sound like they are laughing. These black-hooded beauties were one of five species of gulls we sighted that also included Bonaparte's Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, and Great Black-backed Gull. Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls are the most common in Maine.
Participants of the birdwatching program helped hoist the sails.
Participants of the birdwatching program helped hoist the sails.
 

More than a Hobby

Birdwatching is serious business. The BRI staff on board were thrilled to see so much enthusiasm for the birds we love!
Birdwatching is serious business. The BRI staff on board were thrilled to see so much enthusiasm for the birds we love!
 

Enjoying the Moment

Some participants spent time writing or sketching in their journals when they weren't birdwatching. Others enjoyed quiet moments enjoying the beauty all around.
Some participants spent time writing or sketching in their journals when they weren't birdwatching. Others enjoyed quiet moments enjoying the beauty all around.
Some participants spent time writing or sketching in their journals when they weren't birdwatching. Others enjoyed quiet moments enjoying the beauty all around.
Listen for the Goblins

Listen for the Goblins

A highlight for many was hearing the Leach's Storm-Petrels as they called to each other around Matinicus Rock, where we anchored on our second night.

Enveloped by the night sky, those on deck listened to the eerie sounds of these tiny seabirds; and as promised by Iain, they did indeed sound like goblins (if there were such things as goblins).

Listen here.

 
Everyone on board seemed to enjoy the trip. Looking forward to the next one!
Everyone on board seemed to enjoy the trip. Looking forward to the next one!
Sightings

Sightings

Birds

  • Common Eider
  • White-winged Scoter
  • Common Loon
  • Greater Shearwater
  • Sooty Shearwater
  • Manx Shearwater
  • Wilson's Storm-Petrel
  • Leach's Storm-Petrel
  • Northern Gannet
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Great Cormorant
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Osprey
  • Bald Eagle
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • Ruddy Turnstone
  • Short-billed Dowitcher
  • Red-necked Phalarope
  • Laughing Gull
  • Bonaparte's Gull
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Herring Gull
  • Great Black-backed Gull
  • Common Tern
  • Arctic Tern
  • Razorbill
  • Black Guillemot
  • Atlantic Puffin
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Mourning Dove
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  • American Crow
  • Common Raven


Marine Mammals and Fish

  • Harbor and Gray Seals
  • Harbor Porpoise
  • Atlantic White-sided Dolphin
  • Minke Whale
  • Ocean Sunfish

 

 

 
Photo Credits: Header: Birdwatching just off Matinicus Rock by Deb McKew; Northern Gannet by Jonathan Fiely; on deck Harvey Gamage by Ken Brown; Laughing Gull by Daniel Poleschook; Hoisting sails, and participants by Deb McKew; Leach's Storm-Petrel by jacksnipe1990.
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