Prince William Sound by ferry
- Today I took the ferry (F/V Chenega) across Prince William Sound from Whittier to Valdez and then on to Cordova. Since I know a few folks will be taking the same course in the next week for the Cordova shorebird festival I thought Id report a few of the birds.
By far the most exciting birds of the trip were 3 PARAKEET AUKLETS that flew across in front of the ferry and plopped in the water a few hundred yards off the port side. This happened a bit north and west of Lone Island, approximately 50 minutes after leaving Whittier (if you take the F/V Aurora the travel time to Lone Island is much longer). There are very small numbers of Parakeet Auklets that breed on nearby Knight Island, and possibly Smith Island (?), but its a real hot one in the sound and Ive never before seen them from the ferry.
On the Whittier to Valdez leg, the most active stretch was from Lone Island to Glacier Island, just before you turn into Valdez Arm. In this area I saw 2 dark PARASITIC JAEGARS, TUFTED PUFFIN (4), and a PEREGRINE FALCON giving a BONAPARTES GULL a very hard time. Valdez Arm was pretty quiet, but there were many ARCTIC TERNS along the Valdez waterfront. I was kind of surprised that these were the only Jaegars I saw the whole trip.
On the Cordova to Valdez leg the most activity was at the entrance to Port Gravina, just past Knowles Head in Orca Bay. Often at this time of year there are often big rafts of Pacific Loons and murres in this area. Today there was a feeding flock of at least 4,000 gulls and conservatively 800 PACIFIC LOONS in one very tight concentration! It looked like there was a big school of fish near the surface that had them all in a tizzy. There were a few RED-THROATED LOONS and COMMON LOONS in this stretch too and good numbers of COMMON MURRES and LONG-TAILED DUCKS.
Saw about 500 geese (CANADA, WHITE-FRONTED and SNOW) migrating through at various times.
A very fun trip today with 35 species seen from the boat. Lots of Dall's Porpoise around today but saw no other species of whales.
It was not in operation today, but normally the Chenega has computer monitors around the boat showing a map of the Sound and the boat's location. All of the areas I mentioned are labeled on this map. Hopefully its up and running again soon.
Good luck to anyone birding on the ferry this week.
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