“Wings Over the Waves” featured in the April 2011 issue of Florida Sportsman, written by Editor Jeff Weakley.

The annual Christmas Bird Count, or SeaBC, kicks off in December, and this year organizers are eager for special contributions from Florida anglers and boaters.

Pelagic seabirds are something of a final frontier of the animal kingdom—difficult to study.

Who better to help scientists understand these creatures than offshore fishermen? Our sport, well, it’s basically bird-watching—we’re looking for frigate birds, migratory terns, gannets, all sorts of feathered fish-hunters.

The first CBC at Sea event, nicknamed the “SeaBC,” will take place in December. It’s organized by long-distance mariners from around the world, and led by author Diana Doyle. You can submit observations from any salty body of water—Atlantic coast of Florida, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, you name it.

“If you’re on the water and interested in nature, then you can help,” said Doyle. “The cruising community is a huge untapped resource for citizen science. We’re tuned in to the environment, interested in the marine world, and explore less-traveled areas.”

The strategy is, select a date or period of days in December. Count the number of birds of you see at least one mile offshore, and preferably more than three miles out. Make notes on the tally sheet provided by SeaBC organizers (it reads like a fishing log—cloud cover, wind conditions, etc.). Organizers suggest taking digital photos of birds not easily identified.

Submit the observations to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird web portal (ebird.org), and there you have it—another great excuse to fire up the engines and escape Saturday chores: You’re contributing to science!
Reports from the SeaBC event will be posted on www.BirdingAboard.com. The page has all sorts of interesting seabird observations, and the tally sheet may be downloaded here.

–Jeff Weakley, Editor

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