The Ball Park, Gulf of Maine

The Ball Park is an area off the coast of Bar Harbor, Maine where cold-water upwellings bring nutrients close to the surface. This cold food-rich environment attracts whales and other marine mammals, which in turn attract lots of tourists on whale watching trips. But this is also one of the best spots along the east coast for pelagic birding. Pelagic trips off the coast of Oregon have spoiled me a little, as the numbers and diversity of birds are so much greater than in the east, but it was still nice to see a few species that I don’t get to see in the west.

Wilson’s Storm-Petrels are the most common seabirds on these trips.

Great Shearwaters often fly along the boat, or rest on the water is large groups.

A few Sooty Shearwaters flew by.

Of course, most people on the boat were looking for whales. A Minke Whale made a brief appearance to give me a life mammal, but this Humpback was much more cooperative. Researchers identify individual Humpbacks by the markings on their flukes. This is Gavel, who was first recorded in 2006.

We got to smell Gavel’s breath at one point, an awesome, if rather gross, experience.

After chasing Gavel around for a while, the boat headed for Petit Manan Lighthouse, part of Petit Manan NWR. This island serves as a nesting colony for gulls, terns, and alcids. Only researchers are allowed on the island, and the boat does not get close enough to see the nesting areas, but the waters surrounding the island held a lot of birds.

Here is a flock of Razorbills, with two Common Murres on the lower right.

Atlantic Puffins win the prize for cutest seabird on the trip.