July 24, 2015 - This September, Jen Brumfield will once again escort a fortunate few to the Land o’ the Jaegers. I've been asked...

Goin' Rogue on Lake Erie

July 24, 2015 -

This September, Jen Brumfield will once again escort a fortunate few to the Land o’ the Jaegers. I've been asked what the trips are like. The following tale describes our experiences on the Lake Erie Pelagic trips as well as some information on the upcoming opportunities – Two of which are already sold out!!!

Jacob and Matt - by Liz McQuaid
There are two types of pelagic trips on Lake Erie. One is the type where the sun is shining, the water is glass, and the birds lazily fly by allowing for surefooted, dry-camera photography. Where breaks are taken to enjoy a light snack. Maybe pose for a photo with Jen or 2014’s Top eBird Lister in Ohio (and Rogue Birder), Jacob Roalef.

You can move from the warming sunshine on the bow to the cool shelter of the roof over the boat to reflect on your new Life Birds, or scan your LCD to see if you got enough shots of the Parasitic Jaegers to not have to worry about putting in a new memory card. Then cruise back to shore, have a celebratory drink and make your way home or to a nice dinner in Vermillion. This is how the September 27 trip was last year, and how most of them are.

I’ve heard those trips are nice. The September 21st, 2014 trip was the other type…

The weatherman had almost kept us all at home by forecasting 5-7 foot waves on the lake. By midday Saturday they had improved to a 3-5 foot prediction, and then late Saturday, 1-3. We were a "Go"!!

The Miss Cindy, like the Irish Drifter, but a girl
The Miss Cindy set out from Vermillion at promptly 8:00 AM. Spirits were high as a venerable who's who in Ohio birding made their way up the Vermillion River and out onto Lake Erie for a 7-hour tour. Some of these names may be familiar... Jen Brumfield, Gabe Leidy, Dan Gesualdo, Doreene Linzell, Dan Sanders, Andy Sewell, James Muller, Donna Kuhn... Plus Victor Fazio III, Chuck Slusarczyk Jr, Paul Hurtado, and Ben Warner. All people that I had met or heard about over the previous 9 months. Some of the best people to have at your side when, unbeknownst to you, you are heading for war!!
It would be weird to ask for autographs, right? - James Muller
Ben, the Gull Whisperer - by Danette Collins
Smooth-going out to the breakwall. A few oohs and ahhs as someone pointed out Ruddy Turnstones and Sanderlings amongst the Double-crested Cormorants and gulls on the rocks. We also spotted a Lesser Black-Backed Gull. Then we were off and chumming! Chuck, Gabe, and Ben at the rear, my wife and I were manning the starboard side. Paul, Jacob and Matt Kappler were on the port side (but they never stayed still for long). The chumming quickly brought in a large flock of gulls.

The first bird I noticed in the flock was our Lesser Black-backed Gull from the breakwall. The word had quickly spread that there was food to be had for those willing to chase the boat across the water. Soon the swirling gulls attracted one of the birds we had all come to see.
When I say, 'Hang on', you better be holding on to something! - Jen Brumfield
"Jaeger! Jaeger! Jaeger!", shouted Jen. The captain gunned the engines and we were on the chase for the one Lifer I was hoping for on this trip. I'm not sure if this video captured the first Parasitic Jaeger of the day or a later one, but this short clip from Scott Albaugh should give you a sense of the battle we were fighting that day.

As you can tell from the video, this was an epic journey. Paul Hurtado firing the cannon [sic] on the port side. A jaeger, the pirates of the sea, chasing a gull or tern to purloin its booty. Wind-whipping and water-spraying - you won't find this kind of ride at an amusement park! 

Parasitic Jaegers - by Chuck Slusarczyk Jr.
The birds were everywhere. More Parasitic Jaegers, some even buzzed the boat in a Tom Cruise-Top Gun fashion. With my one expected Lifer in the bag, I started trying to get better photos. Shooting birds in flight is challenging. Shooting birds that fly like fighter-pilots, is near-impossible, shooting Black Terns, Jaegers, and Sabine's Gulls while traveling at seemingly Mach 1 over high waves... I've often described that feat as trying to photograph flying birds while bouncing on a trampoline when you are drunk. But we did it! (Check out the gallery below)
It's like trying to photograph flying birds while bouncing on a trampoline when you are drunk. - Chris Collins
For an hour the boat was alive with excitement and laughter and joy! In only 56 minutes on the water we had seen multiple Parasitic Jaegers, a Little Gull, 4 Sabine's Gulls, and a Black Tern! At top-speed we chased down a second Lifer for me, Long-tailed Jaeger!! All of our target birds had been located. High-fives were cracking as loud as the waves. At this point we were all a little wet from the spray. I remember Chuck covering his camera equipment with his body as he held it below the rim of the chum bucket as the runoff from the roof of the boat drenched him pretty good. But we were smiling through it all. And then another jaeger - this one different from the others. A Pomarine Jaeger!!! (Thanks, Paul!) All Three Jaeger Species in One Hour!!!! 

Best hour of birding I had ever experienced! 

Long-tailed Jaeger - by Chris Collins
The waves started getting a little higher. And water was beginning to wash across the deck. Sea leg-equipped passengers were getting a little green. Some folks were sitting on the bench, eyes closed, perhaps even praying. Yet the chase continued. Ripping through flocks of Bonaparte's Gulls and Common Terns we pursued our quarry. Rarities were being called out at all positions of the clock. "Sabine's Gull at none o'clock", from Paul; "Black Tern at two o'clock", from Jacob; Jen yelling, "Parasitic Jaeger at noon! It's directly over us!"

Jen comes over to me and asks if I happened to get an IDable shot of the Long-tailed Jaeger. I look down at my LCD - big mistake... now I'm turning green... I find the shot I captured, I show it to Jen, and the rest is mostly a blur. Through it all, the unflappable Captain Tim kept the boat on course, and everyone safe.

After only two hours, when the chop started gaining height from increasing winds, the Captain decided that we should head back to shore just to be safe. When we arrived back at the dock, everyone looked relieved to be back on shore. I know I was. Seeing Matt sit down at the picnic table and start plowing through a Subway sandwich made me wish I was still a 15 year-old kid with a steel stomach. He looked like he was ready to head right back out. There had never been a Lake Erie pelagic trip like this one, nor will there likely be one like it again. 

We ended the trip with 20 jaegers, 11 Black Terns, 7 Sabine's Gulls, and a Little Gull - In only two hours on the lake! I think Jen summed it up nicely in her follow-up email to the group.
There has never been a more stunning pelagic trip In Ohio's record books till today. - Jen Brumfield
Parasitic Jaeger - 9/27/15
- by Chuck Slusarczyk Jr.
The following weekend, another group of lucky birders ventured out. They had the chance to experience the "normal" pelagic trip. The typical sunny day with a little mist from the lake. Birds just sitting on the water seemingly holding signs that say, "Take my picture".

I didn't make the 9/27 trip, but Jacob did. He told me later, "Bro, you should have been there! Point-blank looks at everything! We stood up on the bow and watched the birds fly right by our heads! But no Long-tailed or Pomarine Jaegers."

This is how the Lake Erie Pelagic trips usually play out. So, were we the unfortunate ones that had to deal with crazy weather and crazy waves? Or were WE the lucky ones? Perhaps our checklist can answer that:

Vermillion River Entrance, Erie County
Lake Erie Pelagic - Littoral, Erie County
Lake Erie Pelagic - Open Water, Erie County

Lake Erie Pelagic 2015
This September, you too can have an amazing adventure with Jen and Gabe as they head out to see what gems are hidden on Lake Erie. A few Rogue Birders will be there, also. Alex, Dan, Sarah, Jeremy, Jacob, and I will be on the first two trips (SOLD OUT), Jeremy and Jacob are planning to also be on the last two trips. I can't promise you that you will have the species that we had, or that the adventure will be as harrowing, but you will have a great time! Take your Dramamine and eat a good breakfast. We'll see you there in September.
Trip Dates:
  • Saturday, September 5, 2015
  • Sunday, September 13, 2015
  • Wednesday, September 16, 2015
  • Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Visit Jen's website Local Patch Birding Tours for more information.

Our Journey - September 21, 2015
 - by Jen Brumfield and James Muller

Parasitic Jaeger chasing Common Tern
- by Chris Collins

Pomarine Jager
- by Chris Collins

Lesser Black-backed Gull in the Fray
- by Paul Hurtado

Little Gull
- by Chris Collins

Sabine's Gull
- by Paul Hurtado

Where the Magic Happens
- by Chris Collins

Lesser Black-backed Gull
- by Chris Collins

Sanderling and Ruddy Turnstones
- by Chris Collins

Parasitic Jaeger - September 27, 2014
- by Jacob Roalef

You may also like

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.