North American Birds

VOLUME 69 NO3 2016

A Quarterly Journal of Ornithological Record Published by the American Birding Association. The mission of the journal is to provide a complete overview of the changing panorama of our continent’s birdlife.

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317 V O L U M E 6 9 ( 2 0 1 6 ) • N U M B E R S 3 / 4 P E L A G I C B I R D S F R O M C R U I S E S H I P S A LO N G T H E PA C I F I C C O A S T for only a very brief period of time—especial- ly some of the smaller alcids, which often fly off as the ship approaches. It is easy to miss many birds when birding from a cruise ship, so having a group of experienced observers aboard is very helpful. Most birding takes place from or close to the "Promenade Deck," which on the typical large cruise ship (Fig - ure 1) is covered and is some 12-15 m (35-45 ft.) above the ocean surface. Some ships have promenade decks that wrap around the bow (Figure 2) and provide for very good viewing and photography, whereas others lack such a forward-facing deck, requiring one to pick either the port or starboard side a short ways back from the bow. But overall, the stability of the ship, one's height above the surface, and the ability to use a scope if desired, result in good to excellent scanning conditions—in fact, better than when using only binoculars ington (Wahl 1975); and British Columbia (Kenyon et al. 2009); as well as in regional avian monographs (e.g., Campbell et al. 1990a/b, Gilligan et al. 1994, Lehman 1994, Roberson 2002, Marshall et al. 2003, Wahl et al. 2005, Herlyn and Contreras 2009). Pelagic birding from commercial cruise ships off the West Coast of the United States and Canada was initiated in the mid-1990s by Oregon birders Jeff Gilligan and Owen Schmidt. Looking for a steadier alternative to small charter boats for pelagic birding, they contacted a local travel agent for the possibility of booking passage on a mer- chant ship or similar. The agent suggested the then-little-known "repositioning cruise" on a cruise ship. Gilligan recalled scoping a cruise ship sailing by miles out from Cape Lookout, Oregon years earlier and had won- dered about birding from such a ship. At that time, it was not known whether cruise ships made good birding platforms. Gilligan and Schmidt booked a cruise south from Vancouver, British Columbia in September 1995. On the morning of the first full day of the cruise—off Tillamook County, Oregon— they observed a dark Pterodroma petrel. They continued taking approximately one cruise annually thereafter, but it was not until the latter 2000s that news of these trips spread more widely and their popularity among birders grew substantially. Seabirding from cruise ships provides a re- markably stable platform under most weather and ocean conditions, so steady that using a spotting scope is straightforward. Binoculars are often sufficient, as a good (though variable) number of birds are at fairly close to moderate distances from the ship. Many birds are also far away and difficult to see well or are in view Figure 2. The view from the wrap-around bow deck on several Princess cruise ships provides for very stable and excellent viewing and good photographic opportunities, some 14-15 meters above the ocean surface; here on the Grand Princess, May 2016. Photograph by Bruce Rideout.

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