Monday, July 23, 2018

Sunday July 22, 2018 - by Kate Sutherland

Today was our first birding trip here since July 7, and the past couple of days have been very unsettled and stormy.  It was a relief to wake to light breeze here in Hatteras with no rain on the radar!  We had a group from Mass Audubon that wanted to get out today so we added a trip to the schedule, and we made it over the bar at Hatteras Inlet and into the ocean just after 0600 this morning to head offshore and see what we could find!
There were a lot of terns on our way offshore, but shearwaters were in short supply with just 3 Cory's and an Audubon's inshore of the shelf break.  We did however, have a nice pod of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins that came in briefly to ride under the bow and surf in our wake!  The weather was forecast to change for the worse in the afternoon so we ran a bit past the shelf edge before we started chumming, and while it took some time, we soon had close passes by Black-capped Petrels!
Most of the birds we saw that were close enough to get a good look at were dark faced types, this intermediate looking bird above had underwings that indicated a dark faced individual as well.  We did have one white faced bird zip by close to the boat that was very fresh, it seemed to be a young bird, or perhaps a fresh adult, I was unable to get sufficient photos to tell which.  Wilson's Storm-Petrels began to gather in the chum slick and by the end of our time in deeper water we had some nice views of these birds.  Excitement was high when we finally had a Band-rumped Storm-Petrel join the flock!  It stayed with us for awhile giving everyone excellent views as it passed close by the stern. 
Audubon's Shearwaters were not as easy to see with the wind and sea, but we had a few glimpses of them, then we had an individual right next to the boat on our way back inshore.  As we approached the inlet in the afternoon there were once again terns as we approached the inlet, but we also saw a flight line of shearwaters moving ahead of some rain.  A few of these passed us close enough for some nice looks, and we added Great Shearwater to our species list for the day! 

Thank you to Mass Audubon for giving us the opportunity to add this date to the summer trip schedule!  A big thank you also to Ned Brinkely for coming down to help Brian & I lead the trip!  All photos today are by me, Kate Sutherland.

Species List for July 22, 2018
Black-capped Petrel  20-21
Cory's Shearwater  12
Great Shearwater  7
Audubon's Shearwater  10
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  25
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  1
Offshore Bottlenose Dolphins  6
Atlantic Spotted Dolphins  10-12

Another one of the dark faced Black-capped Petrels we saw.  There were at least two that showed this dusky nape.
The only Cory's type shearwater I photographed today...this bird looked slender when it flew by, but without knowing the limits of white in the underwing of the Atlantic Cory's, it is difficult to tell if it is a female Cory's or a male Scopoli's.  We know that the Scopoli's can have a limited amount of white in the underprimaries, but there is still a lot to learn about the separation of these two types!
We passed the Diamond Shoals buoy on our way back, this is where we are able to get a lot of information about the wind and wave height before, during, and after our trips.  While it is inshore of the shelf break, it can tell us if the current is running that far inshore!  The website where its observations can be found is here:
By the time we crossed the shelf in the early afternoon, the wind had picked up a bit offshore.  There were also some large swaths of sargassum and we did see quite a few flyingfish!  This little grasshopper, or Sargassum Midget as dubbed by Steve NG Howell, ended up on the deck of the boat and was already dead when I found it.  Now it will be added to my specimens at home!

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