On 17th February 2019, we a team of 30 enthusiastic birders started off from Chavakkad coast for the first ever pelagic to be conducted on a GBBC day (thanks Suhel Quader for pointing out!). The day was sunny and sea was mostly calm with slight breeze at times. February being off-season for pelagic birds, we didn’t have high hopes seeing many pelagic birds. Boat crew suggested a different game plan to check whatever birds are remaining in the sea. Hence we decided to cast fishing nets with the hope of birds getting attracted to fish remains when net is pulled in.
And it worked!
There were a few Skuas, large numbers of Black, Brown headed and Heuglin’s Gulls, Common, Whiskered and Crested terns – all started following our boat, rather than we chasing them! The sight of Common terns plunging into the water with their heads down and wings closed reminded me of the BBC video of Gannets of Atlantic sea!.
The Arctic Skua we saw showed its true colours – constantly chasing out a poor Common tern until it was forced to regurgitate the small fish it had caught, and the Skua happily catching it while in wings. Also saw a few Slender billed Gulls – they rather chose not joining the frenzy.
There were many dolphins, (humpback probably) and a few turtles. On a sad note, we saw at least 3 dead Olive Ridley Turtle and its carcasses floating, while our boat crew caught one in their nets. (which we promptly put back into the sea).
All together it was a good pelagic trip with good close up views of many pelagic birds, (which we otherwise get to see only fleeting glimpses) and most importantly, the lesson learned -cast nets into the sea in future pelagic surveys. It’s worth to spend an hour or so for the whole process, casting nets and pulling it up. Let’s try this during the next season.
We wish to thank all the participants and especially Kerala Forest Department who supported us whole heartedly for organising this survey.