Rockin’ and a Rollin’


This week’s photo, taken September 5, 2015 about 30 miles off shore from Westport, WA, features a SABINE’S GULL, a bird that spends most of its life at sea. When it’s not sitting on the salt water in search of small fish, this gorgeous gull is gracefully flapping moth-like above the swells.

Imagine yourself pointing a camera with a telephoto lens at a bird that’s bobbing up and down on a rather large body of water called the Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, someone stands behind you, grabs your shoulders and aggressively pushes you forward, then abruptly pulls you back, then bends you to one side and then the other, and that rough treatment continues, without any let up, for hours and hours. That’s what it’s like trying to photograph birds from the deck of a boat on the ocean. It’s just fun, fun, fun, all day long. It’s tough enough to stay upright; it’s harder still to capture a bird in focus. I got countless photos of water or sky, with no bird in sight. From the hundreds of photos I took, very few were keepers.

Last Saturday, I experienced my first Washington state pelagic bird trip (bird-watching at sea), seeking some of the birds rarely found near land. The 10-hour boat trip produced at least 9 life birds for me, and at the same time it was one of the craziest photographic challenges of my life.

My lifers:

Northern Fulmar

Black-footed Albatross

Sabine’s Gull

Pink-footed Shearwater

Sooty Shearwater

Buller’s Shearwater

South Polar Skua

Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel

Glaucous Gull

Bird Cards/Prints:


About Joe Sweeney

I photograph birds to share the beauty and wonder I find in nature.
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6 Responses to Rockin’ and a Rollin’

  1. Chris says:

    One of my birding friends who has been on several pelagics, including a couple multi-day trips, told me that on these trips, the saying is, What is the best cure for seasickness? A life bird seen up on deck.

  2. Judy Zeckhauser says:

    I am impressed Joe. As always! Judy Z


  3. Jere says:

    I just saw shearwaters on PBS big blue program. Amazing migration
    Thanks for giving us a glimpse of you adventure at sea

  4. Deborah says:

    9 life birds is very exciting – congratulations, Joe!

  5. Andrea Billhardt says:

    Glad you caught the Sabine’s gull. It’s quite a picture. Sounds like the frustration of this type of bird watching was worth it in terms of your life list. And at least you didn’t lose your lunch —— did you?

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