Chum Chuminy Chum Chum Churry

Today was a triumph of the human spirit on many levels. First, I had to meet my field trip group at 3:30 am. That's not a typo folks, that is 3:30 in the am. I don't know how, but I managed to get my stuff together to meet the field trip.

When I met up with the group, I was reminded of a flock of blackbirds coming to roost. The hotel situation in Bangor, ME is a little wonky; we're spread out over three different hotels, and for some reason I'm at the hotel with all the field trip leaders and not participants/exhibitors, so I have to take a shuttle bus to meet the buses that take us on the field trips. When the shuttle bus arrived with all of us, there were about 250 birders waiting in that hotel parking lot. Our crowd joined them and we began milling about trying to figure how who was going on what bus.

Then, just like someone tossed out a peanut butter suet cake to a flock a starlings, someone opened up the breakfast boxes too early. The original plan was that we were to get our boxed breakfasts as we boarded our respective buses, but there appeared to be some sort of bus snafu going on. I'm not sure if someone in charge just left the breakfast boxes unattended and people started going for them or if someone in charge was worried the crowd was getting ugly and decided to throw food at us as a last means of defense.

Once we finally got on the road, things seemed to have calmed down. However, the adventure was just beginning. The sea was angry that day, my friends! I learned later on that our boat was the only one allowed on the water, the swells were six to eight feet and our tour group felt it. I would say that at least half the participants ended up barfing at some point from motion sickness. I don't know how I escaped it, I used a combination of Dramamine, ginger ale, oyster crackers, wristbands and focused on a fixed point on the horizon when I wasn't watching birds. I felt that I won the battle of the bilge. It wasn't easy, especially when they started chumming.

For those who don't know, chumming is tossing in smelly fish stuff to attract sea birds that have a terrific sense of smell. Our chum consisted of fish oil mixed with popcorn (the popcorn helps keep the oil at the surface of the water) and chunks of fish. Shearwaters and storm-petrels came right in.

The second floor of the boat was loaded with everyone who was feeling a tad queasy. I did find these two towards the end of the trip. They looked exhausted, happy about the birds they had seen and a tad in love...awwwwww.

I had a day I haven't had in ages! I got 13 life birds on one trip, I've never been on an eastern pelagic so it was easy to rack 'em up. So many birds were being seen in different directions, I didn't know which one to look at first. Behind me was a gannet, to the right of me was a shearwater and to the left was a razorbill. AAAAARGH! Sensory overload.

Needless to say that in high swells, getting photos of the birds is challenging to say the least. Okay, this isn't anything to write home about, but the above photos is a souvenier to remember puffins and razorbills.

Here are a couple of razorbills flying by. I really enjoyed those birds more than I thought I would. I was ready to go away from this trip with puffins being my favorite birds, but I couldn't take my binos off of the razors.

It was a great day of birding, well worth the early morning rising. One thing about ABA trips, you get your money's worth with birds. The trip leaders are generally top notch and often there are so many leaders on one trip, you can pick the personality you're most comfortable with and hang with them for the day. I chose Jim Danzenbaker, not only because he's a great birder, but because he had a whole Richard Dreyfuss look (from the Jaws movie era) going on. After returning from the trip at 3:30 pm (12 hours after we started) I headed to the vendor area that was opening up at 4pm to work the binocular booth until the banquet at 6pm. Am I bushed? You betcha. Was it a great day? Totally. Did it make up for the Legionnaire incident? So, so very much!