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Chum (1 Viewer)

seawatcher

Well-known member
Just what is "chum"?? And anyone have a recipe - I take it it is not a popular brand of tinned dog food. Ands does it really work??
 

Katy Penland

Well-known member
May I just add, though, that there is such a thing as too-old chum. On pelagics out of Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, occasionally the deckhands would save a bucket of fish parts for us but it'd be a week or more old by the time the trip ran. When the lid came off, it not only made most of those on board ill if they got a whiff, we had fewer birds than if we used fresher fish and added a pint of cod liver oil to it to give it a nice fishy smell. P.U. ;)

And yes, it certainly does work but only in fairly calm sea conditions (Beaufort 1 or lower), meaning light breezes that'll carry the scent but not so rough that your oil slick gets dispersed too quickly before the birds get close enough for good looks and photos. Depending on time of year and where you are, you might have to wait 15-30 minutes before the first birds come flapping up the driftline -- fabulous when you see an albatross gliding in with the rest of 'em!!! And if it's really fresh chum, you might even get a blue shark or better coming in to check it out as well. Great stuff!

Can I also put in an anti-plug for the use of popcorn on pelagic birding trips? Seabirds sometimes fly miles to come over and investigate what all the activity is around your boat, and to provide them with only empty calories of popcorn -- that has been popped with hydrogenated oil and salt and fake butter added -- isn't very sporting, nor is it healthy for the birds. If you can't get fish parts free from the marina or the boat you're on, just ask the birders on board to chip in a couple bucks/pounds/Euros each to pay for a nice big bucket of fresh fish and a pint or two of cod liver oil.
 

Darrell Clegg

Well-known member
Katy is right. Chum is better if it is fresh. Birds, just like you and I prefer to eat fish that is not a couple of weeks old.

The practicalities of getting hold of decent quantities of chum inevitably means that is has to be collected over a period of days, leading to the misconception that it has to be old and smelly to be any good.

Darrell
 

Edward

Umimmak
We're still preparing for the inaugural Icelandic pelagic on Saturday and were wondering whether there isn't a risk of the birds getting "oiled-up" and so affecting their ability to fly, if a wake of several gallons of cod liver oil and the such like is spewed out the back of the boat?

E
 

Katy Penland

Well-known member
Edward said:
We're still preparing for the inaugural Icelandic pelagic on Saturday and were wondering whether there isn't a risk of the birds getting "oiled-up" and so affecting their ability to fly, if a wake of several gallons of cod liver oil and the such like is spewed out the back of the boat?

E

Several GALLONS of cod liver oil? We've never used more than a pint per trip, and that will give off enough "scent" for two or three slicks. I mentioned one or two pints because it varies with the length of the trip (days vs. hours, e.g.).

As for the chum itself, there's very little oil in it; in my experience, it's more blood than anything else, if that isn't getting too graphic.

The only time I've seen a bird unable to take off right away was a black-footed albatross who was content to float around the boat until enough wind came up so it could get airborne again. That was a tough birding day 100 miles offshore, getting long, close looks at such a beautiful bird! ;)

How exciting to be conducting your first pelagic! When I finally get to visit Iceland, it's great to know this kind of birding will be available. You should also get some pretty nifty marine mammals as well. Best wishes for your inaugural trip! You'll post a trip report, I hope?
 

Edward

Umimmak
Katy Penland said:
Several GALLONS of cod liver oil? We've never used more than a pint per trip, and that will give off enough "scent" for two or three slicks. I mentioned one or two pints because it varies with the length of the trip (days vs. hours, e.g.).

As for the chum itself, there's very little oil in it; in my experience, it's more blood than anything else, if that isn't getting too graphic.

The only time I've seen a bird unable to take off right away was a black-footed albatross who was content to float around the boat until enough wind came up so it could get airborne again. That was a tough birding day 100 miles offshore, getting long, close looks at such a beautiful bird! ;)

How exciting to be conducting your first pelagic! When I finally get to visit Iceland, it's great to know this kind of birding will be available. You should also get some pretty nifty marine mammals as well. Best wishes for your inaugural trip! You'll post a trip report, I hope?

Thanks Katy

One recipe for chum I have (from a good source!) talks of 20 litres of cod liver oil, let's hope that's not too much oil for the birds!

The area we are going from is a real hot spot for Killer Whales during the summer but they may have moved on so late in the summer. If there around I'm sure we'll see them. Let me know when you come here. Is Iceland due to host the IWC conference any time soon?
It's been a good year for Blue Whales in some areas but Sperm Whale would be top of my wish list for Saturday but I'm unsure of when they're around!

E
 

martin kitching

Obsessed seawatcher
Hi Edward

A good mix is ~3 litres of cod-liver oil in 20 litres of vegetable oil with as much well-chopped fresh fish as you can manage (mackerel is very good) and then a reasonable quantity of popcorn or some sort of floating cereal. Only other requirement is someone who doesn't mind immersing their hand/arm/elbow in the bucket. Good birding on Saturday.

martin
 

Darrell Clegg

Well-known member
martin kitching said:
Hi Edward

Only other requirement is someone who doesn't mind immersing their hand/arm/elbow in the bucket. Good birding on Saturday.

martin

Use a 1ltr plastic measuring jug to scoop the chum out of the bucket/ bin. Some people like to use a pan but I find that the handle gets slippery with "gunk"

A pair of rubber gloves are handy, as is some sort of tarpaulin to drape over the rails of the boat. The boat owner won't thank you for a couple of bins of fish offal sploshed down the side of his boat.

Darrell
 

Katy Penland

Well-known member
Can I ask why so much oil -- and vegetable oil at that! -- is being used? Seabirds don't slurp down quantities of this stuff, they go after the fish. The cod liver oil is used only for its scent, not as a major component of the chum.

I would think vegetable oil would be absolutely anathema to feathers. Commercial veg oil turns to a plastic-like substance eventually if not removed immediately. And it has no scent. Why use it at all? If it's just to save money by using that instead of the much more expensive cod liver oil (NOT the pharmaceutical grade stuff at the chemist's that has been deodorized), I don't see how this benefits either the birds or the birdwatching. In all the years I've taken pelagics out of California, vegetable oil has never been used. Just a big bucket of fish/fish parts with the pint or less of cod liver oil mixed in.

And oh yeah, most definitely you wear Wellies and rubber gloves, and as Darrell said, a cut-down plastic jug of any size is used to toss the stew over the side. It's a messy, smelly job. Never needed a tarp over the railing, though, as a deckhand with a hose was always at hand to clear the deck and sides once the slick was laid. Plus, unless you can lash the tarp down, you don't want to risk it going over the side. But I'm sure the boat and its owner/captain/crew will tell you what they want done.
 

Gashead

Well-known member
We used shark livers off New Zealand and the albatrosses flocked in. Odd really coz as a diver I'm totally against shark feeding but I bet we pulled in a few interested Bronze Whalers with it..........but hey.........do as I say, not as I do eh?
 

Katy Penland

Well-known member
Edward said:
Let me know when you come here. Is Iceland due to host the IWC conference any time soon?
E
Not for the next two years anyway (Korea and then one of the Caribbeans). Wonder if I took the Great Circle Route the OPPOSITE direction to Korea, I could do an extended layover in Iceland? ;) I wouldn't imagine July is a very good month though for birding, or is it?
 

Edward

Umimmak
Thanks for all the tips Katy, Martin, Darrell and (the delightfully named) Gashead. We'll just have to find the right mix of cod liver oil/fish parts ourselves. One thing we are missing is DMS, a minute quantity of which we ordered from the UK 4 weeks ago but we're still waiting. Anyone would think we live in the back of beyond. Wait a minute we do....
As for birding in Iceland in July, Katy, then it's actually when most of the tour companies come here on birding trips although late May-early June is much better. The problem with July is that all the ducks are in eclipse plumage and not very attractive but all the breeding waders and seabirds are very visible, especially earlier in the month, the weather may be half-decent, daylight hours are long so you could do a lot worse. It's better than December anyway.

E
 

Katy Penland

Well-known member
Thanks for that info, Edward. Sounds like June would be better for plumages *and* to avoid the tour companies. :) Iceland is one of those countries that has long fascinated me for its stark beauty and, since joining BF, for the birdlife -- thanks mostly to you, E, and your and your friends' photos and reports.
 

seawatcher

Well-known member
Thanks everybody for the response. I now know that i shouldn't throw my fish scraps out into the fjord for the gulls, but heave them in a bucket and throw them over the side of the boat when seawatching conditions are good. as for the popcorn - would rather eat it myself.
Good (sea) birding!!
 
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