Tuesday, August 11, 2020

August 7 & 8, 2020 - by Peter Flood

We ran back to back trips on Friday, August 7 and Saturday, August 8 and sailed under delightful weather conditions on both days.  Winds were rather light out of the southwest for the set which kept airborne shearwaters and petrels to a minimum with many lounging around on the sea waiting for some wind. (On the way out Saturday morning by Kate Sutherland) 

Most of our activity on Friday and Saturday seemed to be in the shelf waters as we came up on several Skipjack Tuna feeding frenzies with attendant Sooty Terns plus Cory's, Scopoli's and Audubon's Shearwaters. On Friday we tailed an impressive 150+ Sooty Terns mostly on shelf waters and suspect that many of these terns were perhaps returning south after being displaced to the north by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Isaias earlier in the week.  (Sooty Tern by Kate Sutherland) 

Friday was also "Myth Busting Friday" aboard the Stormy Petrel II as we were able to photographically document four Sooty Terns sitting on the water preening! Not something you see every day and has only been documented off Hatteras on a couple of other occasions.  Curiously, we have yet to document a Bridled Tern sitting on the water off Hatteras.  (Sooty Terns on the water by Peter Flood) 

And speaking of Bridled Terns we had a very cooperative first summer Bridled Tern on Friday doing what Bridled Terns do best - sitting on pieces of flotsam in and around some Sargassum seaweed lines.  (photo by Kate Sutherland) 

On Saturday, a new tropical tern for the year in the form of a Brown Noddy was hanging tight with a foraging group of Sooty Terns and was enjoyed by all.  (photo by Peter Flood) 

We were able to pull out a few Scopoli's Shearwaters on both days that were in and among some of the lounging Cory's Shearwaters. (photo - Chris Sloan) 

Chumming was not particularly successful on Friday with near windless conditions at times.  Saturday fared a little better with some light breezes that dispersed the scent of our chumming efforts more effectively and attracted some moderate numbers of Wilson's Storm-Petrels as well as a few Band-rumped Storm-Petrels. Saturday's Band-rumps made some really nice, close passes by the boat which allowed everyone on board to see them well.  (photo by Chris Sloan) 

Like the shearwaters, most of the Black-capped Petrels were sitting around on the water on both days and did not offer great looks. Their tolerance for approaching boats is far less than for shearwaters and they often take flight significantly sooner on approach. There was at least one Black-capped Petrel however that made a very close pass off the bow that appeared quite fresh and uniform and was perhaps a juvenile. (Photo by Peter Flood) 

Risso's Dolphins are not very common off Hatteras and showed well on both days as did a few pods of Offshore Bottlenose Dolphins.  (Risso's dolphin by Kate Sutherland) 

Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies) were also well represented on both days with unprecedented numbers of Wandering Gliders flirting with the boat with many found well offshore. 

Thanks to everyone who joined us on Friday and Saturday.  Thank you to our leaders Chris Sloan and Peter Flood for helping Brian and I on both days and sharing photos and to Peter for writing the blog.  We have space on the rest of our August trips!    

Trip Lists August 7 / 8

Black-capped Petrel 52 / 34 to 36
Cory's Shearwater (Atlantic) 18 / 14
Scopoli's Shearwater 6 / 8
Cory's type 36 / 29
Great Shearwater 2 / 4
Audubon's Shearwater 32 / 11
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 35 / 54
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel 4 / 6 to 8
Red-necked Phalarope 2 / 31
Brown Noddy 0 / 1
Sooty Tern 151 / 46
Bridled Tern 2 / 1
Common Tern 0 / 16
Black Tern 0 / 7
Least Tern 3 / 0
Pomarine Jaeger 0 / 1
Barn Swallow 2 / 0
Northern Waterthrush 0 / 2

Risso's Dolphin 30+ / 25 to 30
Bottlenose Dolphin (offshore) 32+ / 0

Wandering Glider 7 / hundreds! there was no way to keep count!

Black-capped Petrels were found in larger numbers on Friday but we had better views of them on Saturday because they were flying a bit more!  (Chris Sloan)
Cory's and Scopoli's Shearwaters taking off (Chris Sloan)
A Cory's type eating some food not provided by us!  Looks like a nice squid!  (Chris Sloan)
Audubon's Shearwaters were incredibly cooperative each day since the seas were so calm! 
Feeding and with a small fish from the sargassum (Kate Sutherland)

In flight (Chris Sloan)
We also found some incredibly cooperative Red-necked Phalaropes on some of the sargassum lines we encountered!  You can see the streaked back and fine bill in this photo (Peter Flood)
In flight (Chris Sloan)
A couple more Sooty Tern images - with the moon (Peter Flood) and in a flock (Chris Sloan)
Common Terns taking off from the water in the Gulf Stream (Chris Sloan)
Risso's dolphins showing the diagnostic dorsal fin shape and blunt head (Kate Sutherland)
An Atlantic Patchwing (Kate Sutherland)
One of the Wandering Gliders that landed on the boat!  I can't ever remember seeing so many offshore here!  (Kate Sutherland)

Monday, July 27, 2020

July 24 & 25, 2020 - by Kate Sutherland

Summer in the Gulf Stream can be hot, and at times we get weather patterns that perpetuate a lot of the same weather day after day.  This is what we had leading up to our trips this past weekend - a Bermuda high with persistent southwesterly winds.  The Gulf Stream water is pushed inshore in the summer, giving us a blend of warm to hot water with varying amounts of current up on the shelf.  The forecast had some thunderstorms and rain in it before Friday's trip, but those didn't pan out for us, and one line of storms moved offshore before we even got out there on Saturday.  Needless to say, some days it can be like a desert out there!  And the desert produced some low seabird numbers this past weekend.  We still had some awesome views of our expected species and if you joined us for both trips, that included nine pelagic species!  Both days found some nice, blue Gulf Stream waters with scattered sargassum, but we didn't really find a nice condition to concentrate birds.  And while some were hungry on Friday and came in well to the chum, like the Black-capped Petrels and Band-rumped Storm-Petrels, Saturday we didn't have as much luck with our scented offerings!

While we saw Sooty Terns each day, Saturday we had better luck with Bridled Terns - two approached the boat quite closely!  Cory's Shearwaters were out there both days, but we only had good views of Scopoli's on Friday.  Audubon's Shearwaters and Wilson's Storm-petrels were cooperative on both trips.  And we had some excellent views of Band-rumpeds on Friday.  So while our counts may not have been high, and we didn't find the tropicbird we were hoping for out in the deep, we still had excellent encounters with our usual suspects, and some days that is just enough!  Any day you see a Black-capped Petrel is a good one!

Thanks to Kyle Kittelberger and Sage Church for helping us to lead the trips this weekend and thanks to everyone who joined us out there!  Next trips are August 7 and 8, and while the 7th is currently full at our current reduced capacity, we have some space on the 8th.  We also will be running August 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, and 29th - space is available on all!

Photos today are all by Kate Sutherland with the exception of the sailfish!  It was taken by participant Brad Sale of SC!

Species List for July 24 / 25 
Black-capped Petrel 24 to 26 / 13
Cory's Shearwater (Atlantic) 20 / 1
Scopoli's Shearwater 2 / 0
Cory's type 8 / 3
Great Shearwater 4 / 4
Audubon's Shearwater 16 / 34
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 46 / 25
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel 2 to 3 / 0
Leach's / Band-rumped 0 / 1
Sooty Tern 4 / 3
Bridled Tern 0 / 3
Common Tern 2 / 0
tropical tern sp (Sooty/Bridled) 1 / 3
small jaeger sp 0 / 1
offshore bottlenose dolphins 4 / 0
sailfish 0 / 1

A dark faced Black-capped Petrel - this bird is partway through primary molt
A more intermediate Black-capped Petrel showing a molt pattern closer to that of a white-faced bird.  This is the same individual pictured in the text, so looking at the underwing pattern, it looks intermediate.
A Cory's Shearwater sitting on the sea, you can see what a large, thick bill this species has!
One of the Scopoli's Shearwaters from Friday's trip, dorsal and ventral.  Note the more slender bill compared to the Cory's above.
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - compare its short, paddle shaped wings to the Band-rumped Storm-Petrel below.
Another angle on the Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (same individual as above) showing just how long their wings are!  
We had two Bridled Terns make nice passes on Saturday!
Brad Sale captured this image of our sailfish Saturday!
And to finish, an Atlantic patchwing!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

June 26 & 27, 2020 - by Kate Sutherland

Our first trips of the summer turned out as well as we had hoped!  Winds were southwest leading up to Friday's trip, but then they shifted to the west early that morning so we headed offshore feeling like a lot of birds may have been pushed out with the offshore wind...but there were some Cory's and Great Shearwaters as we headed toward the shelf break - phew!  Once we got there and slowed down we had Black-capped Petrels right off the bat! (Kate Sutherland)
Plus Cory's, Great, and Audubon's Shearwaters with some Wilson's Storm-Petrels fluttering around in the slick.  The first Band-rumped Storm-Petrel flew in before 0900!  As we worked offshore, we added Bridled Tern to the day's list and also found our first Scopoli's Shearwater of the summer.  Late morning the wind shifted a bit more to the north and it seemed our chum was more attractive to our tubenosed friends.  Black-capped Petrels worked their way up the slick circling by the stern on their close approach.  Our inshore tack was really productive for watching Scopoli's with Great Shearwaters and we had good views of Band-rumpeds and Wilson's as well.  It was an excellent study, though the light was not perfect for photographs.  A second Bridled Tern was spotted perching on a plastic bottle right around noontime, and it allowed a close approach! (Kyle Kittelberger)
On our way back to the inlet a playful pod of Atlantic spotted dolphins came it to the bow and put on a good show for us!

Saturday we didn't have as much wind in the morning, but it was southwest and the forecast had it increasing over the course of the day - we were looking forward to it!  We had all of our shearwaters again before 0900 with a couple of Bridled Terns in the distance.  Wilson's Storm-Petrels were as numerous as they were on Friday, but we had a few behind us for most of the day.  We had at least one Leach's Storm-Petrel make an appearance when the wind starting picking up and it flew right by the boat so we could easily see the forked tail and large rump patch - not to mention the startlingly buffy carpal bars!  Band-rumped Storm-Petrels were following in the slick with up to four at a time back there, and while most that we saw on these trips were presumed "Grant's" type, we had at least one "little" Band-rump on Saturday! (Ed Corey)
Jaegers were also out there on Saturday, with one young Pom in the morning and a gorgeous first summer Long-tailed Jaeger in the afternoon. (Kate Sutherland)
The latter stayed with us for over an hour feeding in the slick alongside the Scopoli's and Great Shearwaters and in spite of some harassment from the Black-caps!  Offshore bottlenose dolphins were out there today and we had a few encounters with them right under the bow.  In the morning Kyle Kittelberger spotted some whales breaching over a mile away - they looked to be some type of beaked whales!  Their size suggested perhaps they were Cuvier's beaked whales, but it was hard to tell.  Overall it was a good start to the summer and we hope to add more species to the season's list in late July and August!

Thank you to everyone who joined us this weekend for the trips and thank you to Kyle Kittelberger and Ed Corey for helping Brian and I lead the trip and for contributing photos for this post!  

Species List for June 26 / 27
Black-capped Petrel 18 / 18 to 19
Cory's Shearwater 23 / 9
Scopoli's Shearwater 13 / 5
Cory's type 5 / 6
Great Shearwater 17 / 27
Audubon's Shearwater 9 / 12
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 40 / 25
Leach's Storm-Petrel 0 / 1 to 2
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel 6 / 9
Bridled Tern 2 / 2
Bridled/Sooty Tern 0 / 1
Royal Tern 0 / 1
Pomarine Jaeger 0 / 1
Long-tailed Jaeger 0 / 1
Pomarine/Parasitic 0 / 1

beaked whale 0 / 2
Atlantic spotted dolphin 15 / 0
Offshore bottlenose dolphin 0 / 40 to 42

Scopoli's Shearwaters dorsal view (Kate Sutherland) ventral view showing extensive white in the underprimaries, especially p10 (Kyle Kittelberger)
A Cory's type feeding in the slick - this bird had white in the underprimaries, but not an extensive amount in p10.  We usually leave birds that do not show all of the characteristics of Scopoli's as Cory's/Scopoli's (Kate Sutherland)
Great Shearwaters were present most of the day each day!  On Saturday we got to do a "chum dump" at the end of the day and watch the Great's bicker over this floating treasure!  (Kate Sutherland)
Leach's Storm-Petrel - dorsal view showing the long bill and buffy carpal bars (Kate Sutherland) and a ventral view showing the forked tail (Ed Corey)
A couple more images of the "little" Band-rumped on Saturday (Kate Sutherland)
Our young Pomarine Jaeger that visited the slick on Saturday (Ed Corey)
And another photo of the Long-tailed Jaeger (Kyle Kittelberger)
And finally, our spotted dolphins from Friday (Kate Sutherland) and our offshore bottlenose dolphins from Saturday (Ed Corey)!