BBC Extreme Pelagic: Hyannis, MA to Atlantis Canyon; 28 June 2008.

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Richard Heil

Jun 29, 2008, 7:49:31 PM6/29/08
ATLANTIS CANYON (0400-2215 hrs.)
Weather: Variably sunny and cloudy, periods of haze and fog (mostly
over cooler shallow waters), S-SSW winds 5-12 mph, 64-72 F.
Water Temperature: 60-72 F (warmest over portions of Atlantis Canyon).
Seas: 3-6 feet.
Visibility: Down to zero in dense fog over cooler shallow water
(including Nantucket Shoals) but mostly unlimited (although hazy) in
warmer shelf and canyon waters.

Roughly 75 participants plus organizer Ida Giriunas and leaders Rick
Heil, Steve Mirick, Blair Nikula, and Peter Trimble joined Capt. Joe
Huckemeyer and the crew of the 100' 'Helen H' for an 18+ hour
Brookline Bird Club 'Extreme Pelagic' to Atlantis Canyon and the
Continental Shelf about 100-110 miles south of Muskeget Island. We
departed Hyannis at 0400 and via Muskeget Channel proceeded on route
to Atlantis Canyon where we had learned in advance we would find the
warmest water reachable. I ran a Menhaden Oil drip for the entire
cruise. We sailed to the deepest portion at the mouth of the canyon
where we entered some 7000 foot deep water and chummed at several
stops. The return route was across Nantucket Shoals to the east of
Nantucket (but alas dense fog shrouded the shoals waters). The
largest concentrations of birds on the way out were near and well
north of the entrance to Atlantis. On the return we encountered an
extraordinary and amazing feeding frenzy of dolphins, whales and
seabirds in the shipping lane south of Nantucket Shoals. We found no
rarities on THIS trip, but witnessed the acrobatics of tremendously
large, curious, and friendly pods of Common (Saddleback) Dolphins,
and enjoyed very high counts of shearwaters (most notably Cory's) and
storm-petrels (most notably Leach's).

Cory's Shearwater (225): All individuals seen well were Atlantic
C.d.borealis except for one possible C.d.diomedea or 'Scopoli's'
Shearwater of the Mediterranean, seen early. Off New England Cory's
are most common in the warmer waters south of Cape Cod and the
islands, although numbers seem to fluctuate greatly from year to year.
Greater Shearwater (1170): Some showing wing molt, missing both
primaries and coverts.
Sooty Shearwater (28)
Manx Shearwater (15): Including several in deep water near and along
the shelf edge, well seen and carefully identified.
Wilson's Storm-Petrel (4500): Overwhelming majority (95%+) adults in
very heavy wing molt, remainder fresh crisp first-year birds.
Leach's Storm-Petrel (30): Good numbers; all in deeper waters.
Northern Gannet (1-2nd yr.)
Herring Gull (1 ad.)
Great Black-backed Gull (5 ads.)
Pomarine Jaeger (1-1st-summer): Well photographed.
jaeger sp. (1): briefly in the fog.
Fin Whale (2-3)
Minke Whale (3+)
Humpback Whale (2-3)
Balaenoptera sp. (3+)
Long-finned Pilot Whale (12)
Grampus (Risso's Dolphin) (5)
'beaked' whale, Mesoplodon sp. (2): Two individuals very likely of
this genus surface briefly in deep water over Atlantis Canyon.
Common (Saddleback) Dolphin (1100+): Staggering number! Including
two disparate pods of 400+ that turned and charged the boat to come
see us and ride the bow waves and wake. Many young dolphins were in
the group. The second of the two largest groups was engaged in a
feeding frenzy (along with hundreds of shearwaters) somewhat south of
Nantucket Shoals.
dolphin sp. (3): Three shy small appearing dolphins in deep canyon
water eluded identification.
Leatherback Sea Turtle (1): Seen briefly and somewhat distantly at the surface.
Blue Shark (6)
flying fish, Cheilopogon sp. (6+): Seen in flight.
Dolphin, Mahi mahi (2)-jumped.
tuna sp. (1)-jumped.
Ocean Sunfish, Mola mola (9)
Blue Dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis (1)
Black Saddlebags, Tramea lacerata (1) : Both dragonflies at Atlantis Canyon.
Thanks to Ida Giriunas without whose organizing efforts, these trips
would not exist. We still have some space left on our July 19th trip
to the canyons and shelf edge, when waters should warm further. We
also have plenty more to learn, and exciting discoveries to
find. Contact Ida at 781-944-5135 or
<> to join us.

Richard S. Heil
S. Peabody, MA

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