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Pelagics off Miami - Jaegers and Sperm Whales

Did a pelagic trip yesterday off Elliot Key. The west winds that started blowing since Thursday night had me worried, since that usually spells death for both fishing and pelagic birding off our coast. Local captains have a saying: Winds our of the west, stay home and rest. Scheduled to go out with me were Scott Simmons and Graham Williams from central Florida, our own Josh Friers, and Bruce (didn't catch the last name) form Nova Scotia. Bruce was heading back today and this was his first trip to Florida so yesterday was the day despite the horrible conditions. As we made our way out past the reef, I could quickly tell that if any birds were to be found, we were going to have to travel far offshore. The first 20 miles produced nothing but migrating land birds, but at 20 miles I spotted the blow from a whale in the distance. I suspected it was going to be a Sperm Whale migrating south, so I positioned the boat in its path. As it came closer, we noticed it was two Sperm Whales migrating together. They came farily close to the boat allowing everyone to get excellent looks and photos. We later spotted two more blows in the distance so there were at least 4 whales in that area. At 23 miles out we spotted a small feeding flock to the northeast. About 1/4 mile from the flock a dark, chunky bird with white wing tips cuased a scare as it sat on the water then took off, as we first thought we had a skua, but it turned out to be a Pomarine Jaeger. The small flock consisted of some Sooty Terns and a Brown Booby, and a Frigatebird overhead. It was clear from what we were seeing and the discussions on the radio by charter captains that the west winds had pushed any weedlines out beyond our range, so we decided to work our way back inshore. After running back a short distance, Bruce called out two birds flying parallel to the boat off our starboard side. We were being overtaken by two jaegers flying very fast to the south. The lead bird quickly stood out as a Long-tailed still in breeding plumage. We tried to keep up as much as we could but they soon out ran the boat. Some blurry photos later confirmed that it was indeed a Long-tailed. We didn't look at the second bird as much as we should, and it all happened so quickly that I only got a couple of distance shots of it, but I'm working on its ID to see if it's another Long-tailed or maybe a Parasitic. This will determined if we had a jaeger trifecta or just a double-header. Either way, the Long-tailed Jaeger was the real prize. The winds really made for slow birding, but if not for this we would never had run that far out and would not have seen the whales. Plus we got a Long-tailed Jaeger out of it as well. Never know what you'll find out on the ocean. I'll post some pics later when I've had the chance to download them.


Rangel Diaz
over 5 years ago

Great trip report - Long-tailed Jaeger would be a state bird for me and Sperm Whale would be a lifer!

Susan Daughtrey
over 5 years ago

Congratulations on the Long-tailed Jaeger!! What a great find. I was out on a pelagic Saturday from the west coast, and feel your pain on the difficulty of getting good photographs.

Scott Simmons
over 5 years ago

It was a great trip! Thanks so much for your expertise. We all had a very good time.

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