Pelagic Outings May 2014

This month we had two pelagic outings, the first on May 3rd, and the second on May 17th.

Both outings were record breaking, but not with the best kind of records.  On May 3rd we got off to a good start with fine weather in a rather shipping laden Singapore harbor.

Sunrise May 3

Usually nothing much until we pass the Singapore skyline.

Morning May 3

We were really looking for migrating sea birds, in particular Bridled Terns and Swinhoe’s Storm Petrels, plus any other rarity we could find.  We got our first Bridled Tern at about 7:30 am, but it would turn out that we would get only a handful of Bridled Terns all day.  We made good time out to the buoy were usually a number of crested terns would be perching, but only one was there to greet us.  Otherwise it was almost entirely birdless.  Close to 9am we came across a group of 5 petrels floating on the water, at last one of our important targets.  But we quickly lost track of them and this was to be the only group of petrels we’d see all day.

We were now past Batam and opposite Bintam and it was still before Noon, and we weren’t seeing anything.  Since a few of the participants were also doing a Big Year, we decided to head back to Singapore waters and take a side trip to a couple of off shore islands.  We had already set one record, the fewest number of pelagic birds on any of our roughly 25 outings I think.  Less than you could count on both hands and feet, and you probably wouldn’t need to take off your shoes.

We did see any number of interesting boats.

Car Carrier May 3

Then we set our second record of the day.  It took ICA one hour and twenty minutes to clear our vessel at the Sisters Islands.  Since we are paying over $100 per hour to rent the boat, that’s a lot of money sitting around and waiting.  But finally that was over and off we went to Pulau Hantu and within a short while after arrival we had ticked the resident Mangrove Whistler.

Pulau Hantu

And then off to Pulau Salu and sure enough a few Pied Imperial Pigeons were right were they were supposed to be.  For both of these island specialties, the birds were in the same spots as my last trip in 2006.

Pulau Salu

Then we passed a bunkering tanker.

Hai Yin 1

And an offshore chain handler.

Bibby Spring

And the Shell refinery at Pulau Bukom.

Pulau Bukom

We finally got back to Sentosa Cove at 4 pm.

May 3rd Group

Our second outing on May 17th started off with one of our participants having overslept and missing the boat!  The second stroke of bad luck was ICA apparently changed a procedure and we had to come back to port and get some more paperwork.  We wouldn’t clear immigration until 9 am and get underway.  There were some scattered showers, but we missed them.  Yet it was choppier and more overcast than our outing two weeks earlier.

Sunrise at Sisters

Finally leaving Sisters Islands, we found a Malaysian Water Monitor Lizard a bit out of his normal depth, swimming in the ocean.

Water Monitor Lizard

A lone fishermen.

Traditional Fisherman

We got our first Bridled Tern at 10:30 am, and we started seeing ones and twos of petrels, but far away.  Catching our imagination was a pair of terns on piece of Styrofoam, a favorite spot for Aleutian terns, but unfortunately it turned out to be just a pair of Bridled Terns.

Bridled Terns

Finally at 11:45 am we were rewarded with a single petrel that allowed our boat to approach within 30 meters and observe him for a few minutes before he flew off.  The bird was in nice fresh plumage.

Swinhoe's Storm Petrel

Just ten minutes later the biggest reward of the day came with a sighting of three Short-tailed Shearwaters that stayed in sight long enough for everyone to get views and photos, but at quite some distance.  Only my second time to even try for a record shot of this species, but even still clearly identifiable.

Short-tailed Shearwater

We headed further out into the straits, seeing very few other species, a few Black-naped Terns, a lone Common Tern, but no or almost no crested terns.  And none of the hoped for Aleutian Terns.  But we did see a few more petrels and started to see a number of Bridled Terns.  Altogether we saw perhaps 10 petrels, perhaps a couple hundred Bridled Terns, a better haul to be sure than our early May trip.

As always we saw a number of interesting vessels.

Drilling Rig ?

Here’s another car carrier.

Car Carrier

Here’s the Deepwater Construction Vessel Aegir, named after a Norse sea god. Capable of working to depths of 3500 meters.

Construction Rig

And a local fishing boat.

Fishing Boat

We were back in port by 4 pm.

May 17th Group

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One Response to “Pelagic Outings May 2014”

  1. H.&J.Beste says:

    Hi Con,

    Just had a look at your pelagic trip report.Looks like you have turned into a marine vessel photographer !(only kidding).Trust you had a couple of good trips,but if you want to see lots of sea birds-nothing better than coming “down under” to Oz or NZ.Trust you are in good health and enjoying life to the fullest.We both miss your part of the world,not having been there for a couple of years now.

    Your friends,as always,


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