Hawaiian Pelagic

When I found out that there would be a pelagic birding trip out of Kona on April 3, I signed up immediately! This was a chance to add lifers that I would not be able to see from the shore.

As a birder living on the coast it is an absolute privilege (tsunamis and global warming excepted) because it brings you in contact with species that spend the majority of life at sea. To encounter most of these species requires boarding a boat and heading off shore.

I’ve been on many pelagic birding trips from the ports of Bodega Bay, Pillar Point, and Monterey Harbor but I was really looking forward to heading out of Honokohau Harbor on a Hawaiian pelagic! This was entirely new pelagic birding territory.

Pelagic birding can be at once transcendent and deeply frustrating because of the amazing and the not so amazing views of birds. Picking a bird out between swells on a rocking substrate is a challenge and that’s if you are on the right side of the boat when the rare petrel or shearwater makes it’s all too brief appearance.

How do you prepare for such a birding challenge? It’s simple: uncap your pen and sketch.

My first sketch was a study of three tropicbirds. I had a chance of see one or all three while from shore (called a sea watch), on the pelagic, or at Volcanoes National Park. I’ve always wanted to see a tropicbird and sketching then helped me to understand them a little more.

In another spread I sketched six other target species that I hoped to pick up on the pelagic trip. And who knows what other unexpected bird might show.

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