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Old Friday 9th July 2004, 10:07   #1
Edward
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Organising a pelagic - need tips!

Now that July is upon us, a few of us have decided to organise the first Icelandic pelagic. It's a bit of a disgrace that a a great seafaring nation like Iceland has never had a proper birding trip at sea with chum and all and we aim to rectify the situation in mid-August. We suspect the waters south of Iceland may have great potential, especially from the island chain Vestmannaeyjar which has the WP's largest Leach's Petrel colony (but this is still a bird which is almost never seen from land). The problem is that as we've never done it before we need some tips especially regarding stuff like chum. We know we need a boat (check), and the sea (check) but apart from that..... We aim to be out all day, or until we find that Audubon's Shearwater...

I've found a few recipes for chum on the net but how much of this stuff do people use? A bucket full, several buckets full, gallons and gallons?

DMS? Is it worthwhile? I've read that it's pretty noxious stuff so is it a good idea to be chucking it into the sea? How much do you use - a few drops in the chum or just pour it in?

What do you do with the chum? Drag it behind the boat in a mesh? Or stop the boat chuck it out and wait (I can foresee great bouts of seasickness already)?

Is it good to use popcorn to make the stuff float? Or bread?

All tips from pelagic veterans most gratefully received.

E
(in very sunny Reykjavk)
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Old Friday 9th July 2004, 10:32   #2
tom mckinney
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward
All tips from pelagic veterans most gratefully received.

E
(in very sunny Reykjavk)
Hi Edward,

I'm not exactly a veteran, but I've been on a few, and my only advice is to leave your sense of shame behind you at the dockside, as you will almost certainly spew your guts over board! On a pelagic off Scilly last year 100% of passengers and crew sucumbed to it!

However, if you eat the right things you just might attract that Wandering Albatross or Matsudaira's Storm Petrel. Try eating a mix of popcorn and mackerel before you go and wash it down with a few pints of Guiness and Whisky - just to make sure, you know!



Remember to have fun....

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Old Friday 9th July 2004, 11:20   #3
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Hi Edward,

Chum - chop up fresh oily fish (Mackerel are best), mix with rice krispies and cheap cooking oil to a thick slurry. Get about 10-20 litres of oil, 10 XL size packs rice krispies. The fresher the fish, the better - forget all the stuff about rotten being best, it isn't true; best of all, take a few rods & lines and catch as you go. Failing whole fresh fish, any fresh fish guts. Don't bother with cod skeletons (the most easily available fish waste), they are useless. Also don't use corn flakes, as they sink (rice krispies float)

Don't start chumming until you're far enough offshore to be well clear of the big gulls. Then put down a large slick of chum, and stay around it for 2-3 hours at least.

Dimethyl sulphide (DMS) is only toxic in concentration; in small amounts, it is harmless, and naturally occurring in plankton etc. If you have some, add about 1 ml per litre of chum.

Leach's Petrels don't come to chum, so don't expect to see them other than flying past (so keep scanning the middle distance constantly). Stormies do, so do Wilson's. Sooty Shears love chunky bits of Mackerel and come really close in (down to 1m or less from the boat). Manxies, like Leach's, won't come near. Keep checking the Kittiwakes, one of them will be a Sabine's flying over. Skuas: Great, Pom and Long-tailed all come in close, Arctic won't, they stay on the fringes of the flock if at all.

If you find any whales, stick close to them, as lots of seabirds also follow whales.

Good luck!

Michael
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Old Friday 9th July 2004, 12:07   #4
Darrell Clegg
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DMS is the most evil smelling substance in the world. Be very careful and don't actively sniff it!

I carried some in the car from Plymouth to Penzance for the Scillonian Pelagic. It came in a huge box well packed with polystyrene. Inside was a tiny phial - that's how noxious it can be.

Having said that, it really does work


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Old Friday 9th July 2004, 12:16   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darrell Clegg
DMS is the most evil smelling substance in the world. Be very careful and don't actively sniff it!
I once made some in chemistry at school . . . stank the place out.

Smells like rotten cabbage or decaying potatoes (not too surprising as they both produce DMS)

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Old Friday 9th July 2004, 13:10   #6
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On a couple of pelagics I did in North Carolina the crew used what I think was pure fish chum. They used a ladle to frequently drop small amounts overboard for extended periods. The idea was to create a long, very thin ribbon of oil that the birds would follow to its source. Another tactic was to apply larger amounts to create a more substantial slick and then circle around and revisit the slick. On a trip out of Monterey, California, they used popcorn with no fish at all. The theory was that gulls would follow the boat for the popcorn and procellarids would come to see what the gulls were getting. That also seemed to work pretty well. Good luck. Glen
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Old Friday 9th July 2004, 13:36   #7
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Thanks for the info chaps.

Tom you remind me of the time I went Blue Whale watching off the west coast of Iceland. I'd always considered myself a good sailor and never been seasick but when the boat stopped to look for the whales it was sheer hell. We saw two Blue Whales, one very close but I remember just thinking at one point "s*d these damn whales, get me onto land." As soon as we got going again it was fine. Mackerel, popcorn and Guinness makes me ill just thinking about it.

Good to hear that fresh fish works best in your experience Michael. I had envisaged three weeks' worth of rotting fish in the boot of my car. I'll handle the DMS with care, Darrell. Thanks for the tips on applying the chum Glen.

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Old Friday 9th July 2004, 13:50   #8
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Hi Edward... and then to Icelandic language...

ertu binn a f fna uppskrift af "chum". g ska eftir plssi um bor! a arf ntt'lega a sitja um sem allra best veur fyrir landkrabbana.
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Old Friday 9th July 2004, 13:58   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glen Tepke
The theory was that gulls would follow the boat for the popcorn and procellarids would come to see what the gulls were getting. That also seemed to work pretty well. Good luck. Glen
Hasn't been so successful here - on our pelagics, we suspect that petrels avoid large gulls, not too surprising when a petrel is an easy small snack for a Herring Gull. That's why we try to get away from most of them.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward
never been seasick but when the boat stopped
True, don't stop the boat. Keep moving very slowly in circles round the chum slick, that way you avoid the really bad rocking. Even just half a knot should be enough.

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Old Friday 9th July 2004, 15:56   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Frankis
Hasn't been so successful here - on our pelagics, we suspect that petrels avoid large gulls, not too surprising when a petrel is an easy small snack for a Herring Gull. That's why we try to get away from most of them.
On the California trip, the tubenoses that were attracted by the popcorn/gulls were larger species -- albatrosses, shearwaters and fulmar. We also saw storm-petrels (Ashy and Black) but those did not approach the boat -- we approached them when we spotted a flock. We didn't see any gadfly petrels on that trip -- none were expected -- so I don't know how the popcorn would have worked for them.

In North Carolina, storm-petrels (Wilson's and Band-rumped) and shearwaters (Greater, Sooty, Cory's, Audubon's) did seem to be attracted by the fish chum and would approach or follow the boat. Black-capped Petrel seemed indifferent. Glen
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Old Tuesday 20th July 2004, 08:35   #11
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Thumbs up Running Pelagics

Hi Edward.
I have recently satrted running pelagic trips out of Falmouth, Cornwall and i would like to let you know how I proceeced.
Everybody knows that you need chum of some discription to enable close views of pelagic sea birds, but we also know the smell can be a little off putting. I feel that i have over come this problem by bagging the chum. First i start off with a 80 letre black dust bin. Fill this to no more than 3/4 full, with fish (I have been using Pilchards and Macerel), Chop this up with a spade, the more chopping the better (i also mince some through a hand mincer). Then add fish oil and cooking oil about 20 litres will nearly fill the bin, and then give it a good stir, put the lid back on and leave for a couple days (this helps it to break down a little better). After a couple of days get some heavy duty plastic bags ( i use 5o Kg unused fertilizer bags) put a couple of boxes of rice crispies in the bottom and a couple loafs of bread broken up, then stir the chum 1 final time and pour using a bucket into the bags. I fill about 4 bags with 1 dustbin. Using cable ties goose neck the bags and tie them off. These bags are then ready to put over the side of the boat with rope, and then when required put small slits in the bags. This works well from my experience.
Working a 1 mile line of chum helps stop the sea sickness.

Hopes this helps

Chris
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Old Tuesday 20th July 2004, 08:53   #12
Edward
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Mason
Hi Edward.
I have recently satrted running pelagic trips out of Falmouth, Cornwall and i would like to let you know how I proceeced.
Everybody knows that you need chum of some discription to enable close views of pelagic sea birds, but we also know the smell can be a little off putting. I feel that i have over come this problem by bagging the chum. First i start off with a 80 letre black dust bin. Fill this to no more than 3/4 full, with fish (I have been using Pilchards and Macerel), Chop this up with a spade, the more chopping the better (i also mince some through a hand mincer). Then add fish oil and cooking oil about 20 litres will nearly fill the bin, and then give it a good stir, put the lid back on and leave for a couple days (this helps it to break down a little better). After a couple of days get some heavy duty plastic bags ( i use 5o Kg unused fertilizer bags) put a couple of boxes of rice crispies in the bottom and a couple loafs of bread broken up, then stir the chum 1 final time and pour using a bucket into the bags. I fill about 4 bags with 1 dustbin. Using cable ties goose neck the bags and tie them off. These bags are then ready to put over the side of the boat with rope, and then when required put small slits in the bags. This works well from my experience.
Working a 1 mile line of chum helps stop the sea sickness.

Hopes this helps

Chris

Many thanks Chris, excellent tips there.

Now we just have to find a volunteer to take the chum in the boot of his car and on to the ferry to the island (from where the pelagic boat goes from!)

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Old Tuesday 20th July 2004, 10:01   #13
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Where do I get hold of DMS?
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Old Tuesday 20th July 2004, 10:15   #14
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Hi Chris (M),


Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Mason
and leave for a couple days
Are you sure this is best? - my experience is very definitely the fresher, the better. The best response of all has been with Mackerel caught on the pelagic and cut up immediately. Think too of the huge flocks of birds that follow trawlers, which are also putting out very fresh stuff

----------

Hi Chris (W),


Quote:
Originally Posted by CJW
Where do I get hold of DMS?
Probably very difficult now, with modern health & safety regs. I made it at school by refluxing sodium sulphide with ethyl bromide, but getting those two is not going to be easy either (and I wouldn't recommend this anyway, as any ethyl bromide traces left in the product would be bad for birds). If you're on good terms with your local chemist, see if he can get some.

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Old Tuesday 20th July 2004, 10:33   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Frankis
Hi Chris (W),



Probably very difficult now, with modern health & safety regs. I made it at school by refluxing sodium sulphide with ethyl bromide, but getting those two is not going to be easy either (and I wouldn't recommend this anyway, as any ethyl bromide traces left in the product would be bad for birds). If you're on good terms with your local chemist, see if he can get some.

Michael
It's OK thanks, I've located a source.
Has anyone tried using it off the land rather than having to go out on a boat?
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Old Tuesday 20th July 2004, 10:42   #16
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Originally Posted by CJW
Has anyone tried using it off the land rather than having to go out on a boat?
No, but I can't see it working - I'd suspect that (a) it is already produced naturally as a component of tide wrack, and that (b) petrels' fear of the dangers of land-based predators would be enough to keep them away and over-ride any desire to investigate potential food. Maybe try at night with a few drops under a mist net, instead of tapes, and see if that works?

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Old Tuesday 20th July 2004, 15:33   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Frankis
Hi Chris (M),



Are you sure this is best? - my experience is very definitely the fresher, the better. The best response of all has been with Mackerel caught on the pelagic and cut up immediately. Think too of the huge flocks of birds that follow trawlers, which are also putting out very fresh stuff



Hi Chris (W),



Probably very difficult now, with modern health & safety regs. I made it at school by refluxing sodium sulphide with ethyl bromide, but getting those two is not going to be easy either (and I wouldn't recommend this anyway, as any ethyl bromide traces left in the product would be bad for birds). If you're on good terms with your local chemist, see if he can get some.

Michael
Hi Michael

I will be trying a fresh bag of chum on the next trip along with the older stuff. will post my results.

I also have found that you get same birds when you don't use DMS as when you do use it. Is there any need to be totally natural?

Thanks Chris Mason
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Old Tuesday 20th July 2004, 15:49   #18
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I'm having trouble getting DMS in Iceland. What kind of places can you get it from in the UK? Who is your dealer? And Michael F, I dropped chemistry in third year at school so refluxing whatchymecallit with thingybob is not an option ;-)

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Old Tuesday 20th July 2004, 16:21   #19
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Hi Edward,

Should be available from most chemicals suppliers - try a google search (hint: you may get better results with the American spelling Dimethyl sulfide)

Seems to be a very interesting compound, apparently marine production of it by plankton has a major influence on cloud formation and climatic stability generally

Has anyone thought of using DHMO in chum? More info on this very interesting substance here:
http://www.dhmo.org/dihydrogen-monoxide/

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Old Tuesday 20th July 2004, 16:56   #20
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Is this the stuff used in stink bombs?
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Old Tuesday 20th July 2004, 17:01   #21
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Ho ho ho - Di-Hydrogen - mono-oxide eh! Its well know as a bird attractant - in large enough quantities i beleive wildfowl find it irresistable!
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Old Tuesday 20th July 2004, 17:14   #22
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Ho ho ho - Di-Hydrogen - mono-oxide eh! Its well know as a bird attractant - in large enough quantities i beleive wildfowl find it irresistable!
So some say, but I've also come across birds killed by it. I once found a Redwing that had died as a result of prolonged exposure to solid DHMO, and a brood of Spotted Flycatcher chicks that died as a result of the nest becoming filled with liquid DHMO

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Old Wednesday 21st July 2004, 07:28   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Frankis
So some say, but I've also come across birds killed by it. I once found a Redwing that had died as a result of prolonged exposure to solid DHMO, and a brood of Spotted Flycatcher chicks that died as a result of the nest becoming filled with liquid DHMO

Michael
Hi

Why can we not just carry out bird watching without using chemicals in concentrations that we have no full understanding of how it effects the birds and the whole environment.
Fishing boats can attract the most numerous amounts of sea birds, do they have to use chemicals.

Just a thought

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Old Wednesday 21st July 2004, 08:58   #24
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Seems a very wise thought to me.
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Old Wednesday 21st July 2004, 09:30   #25
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I guess some of us are just selfish - whilst perhaps I shouldn`t because of the potential dangers it can bring, I myself always make sure I leave a small quantity of DHMO (Dihydrogen monoxide) in the vicinity of my bird feeders in the garden - particularly in the summer months (when the higher air tempretures cause rapid evaporation) it is succesful in attracting larger than expected numbers of birds and species to the garden.
Maybe I ought to rethink what i`m doing?
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