Pelagic Trip – 12/29/11

When the Admiral of the Atlantic, Brian Patteson, tells you that there’s a pretty good chance of seeing a Great Skua you gotta believe.  But by 1:45 PM I was plenty worried, especially after we passed through a huge feeding flock of gannets and gulls without breaking in the target bird.  Kate Sutherland, the Deck Boss, had been hard at work since 8:00 AM continuously chumming with chopped up fish to keep the seabirds following the Stormy Petrel II.

Deck Boss, Kate Sutherland Chumming (Photo by John Vanderpoel)

This creates commotion that attracts more interesting seabirds to the stern.  We did have two Black-capped Petrels and three Great Shearwaters but not a sign of a Skua.

I figured we were cooked.  We had less than three hours left and it just wasn’t destined to happen today.  But instead of moping or relaxing, I decided to bear down and scan for the remaining two hours.  Not more than five minutes after I began scanning, everything got noisy over the intercom and Brian cut the boat speed.  Keith yelled look up and low and behold a Great Skua flew right over the boat going behind us.

Great Skua Seen on 12/29/11 (Photo by Nathan Gatto)

After about a ¼ mile it banked and attacked a Herring Gull.  It turns out that young Ali Iyoob, a sixteen year-old birder from North Carolina had spotted the Great Skua as it came out of the sun flying with purpose directly towards the boat. Great job, Ali!

A Happy Ali Iyoob (Photo by John Vanderpoel)

There was again joyous celebration.  This story deserves more but its late and I’ve got a 6:00 AM flight to Toronto tomorrow morning.


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24 Responses to Pelagic Trip – 12/29/11

  1. Sherman Wing says:

    John, you don’t know me; I’ve been following your Big Year on line and I’m so proud of your accomplishments. I hope you get the record….you’re already a winner.

  2. Congrats! Good luck with the duck and flycatcher!

  3. Terry Ryan says:


  4. Gloria Nikolai says:

    Excellent, good luck on the final two days!

  5. Luisa says:

    Awesome! Good luck!!!

  6. Lamarr Eddings says:

    This is how I want the year to end! Congrats on the skua, onward young man!

    Thanks for the mention on the last post but I prefer the term “loyal minion” to blog reader! Nice to meet you folks and safe travels.

  7. Dave says:

    Been following you all year and totally enjoying your adventures! I live in North Carolina and want to suggest one change to a photo caption above. The young man giving the thumb’s up is Ali Iyoob, a very well know younger birder among those active in the hobby. Good luck over the next two days!!

  8. Dave says:

    Follow up. I just noticed the slight misspelling of Ali’s last name in the body of the post as well.

  9. David Millican says:

    Hell yea John! You got it man!

  10. Peter Gent says:

    GO JOHN GO; now for the Smew and Nutting’s Flycatcher.

  11. Brad Sillasen says:

    Great news! Wonderful stuff.

  12. Dave van de laar says:

    If you are in the Toronto area you may want to drive down to St. Catharines. There is a greylag goose at the Port Dalhousie yacht club. I think I read you were still looking for one

  13. Deanna Campbell says:

    Congratulations! Home stretch! Here’s to toasting 745 (fingers crossed) on New Year’s Eve! And then you can sleep for a few weeks|months… Deanna

  14. John Vanderpoel says:

    Just wanted to thank everyone for their offers of help, words of advice and inspirational encouragement. I’m moving too fast and there are just too many comments to respond to each, but I’m reading them and taking advice. Thanks so much.


  15. John Groves says:

    John, don’t know if you have Rufous-backed Robin but there are several in the Tucson/Phoenix area. Just sayin’…….
    We’re pulling for you!

  16. Michael says:

    Good luck John!!!!

  17. TrapperDan says:

    We have seen the Dusky Thrush everyday this week. Same subdivision.
    Run til the clock stops…
    Anchorage, Alaska

  18. Nick says:

    Rumor is that the Arizona State Records Committee voted to accept Peach-faced Lovebird to the Arizona list. If you’re flying into Phoenix tomorrow, and haven’t seen this species yet it may work out as a last minute bird. The state decision opens the door for an ABA vote.

  19. Tina Jones says:

    I knew you would get the Skua. What a gorgeous picture you got of the bird. I am and everyone else is, wishing you more luck than you can believe. There will be good luck showers in the sky, all the way down the home stretch. I’m rooting for you bigtime. Go, go, to the very end, and remember rarities can show up ANY time, your time!

  20. Phil Jensen says:

    John, What a year! Good Luck on your last day. We are all pulling for you. Phil

  21. Rob says:

    Thanks for the inspirational big year!

  22. riley wyna says:

    Hell of a ride brother!
    Glad I found this and was able to follow it the last few months ..
    You have me inspired to bird again..

    We are climbers and birders and a few of us have been following you.
    We have a bird thread on the climber forum supertopo..
    An amazing little subculture inside a subculture

    Come check it out sometime and say hi
    Your year long adventure is to remarkable for the average dude to even imagine.
    Just awesome!
    Riley Wyna 538 ABA

  23. Lisa Miller says:

    I have spent the last few days reading your blog from start to end-well, hopefully this is not the end! Thank you so much for sharing your adventures! I look forward to future post(s) regardless of the final tally, but secretly am hoping that you come out of this with a record-breaker. Good luck John!

  24. Scoop says:

    Great accomplishment!!!! Enjoy the moment………………..

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