Typically when we run this October trip we have winds that are northwesterly or westerly, so having south / southeasterly winds for our trip Saturday was such a treat! Skies were overcast as we headed offshore and we were hopeful that conditions would be favorable to find some seabirds offshore. Cory's, Great, and Audubon's Shearwaters were around as we headed toward the shelf break and we even had some curious Atlantic Spotted Dolphins come in to ride the bow for a few minutes! Just after 0900 we had a Black-capped Petrel zip by, then a second one! (photo Peter Flood)
Just before 1000 we reached the shelf break and had a distant high flier that turned out to be a skua! We watched it flying up high, saw it harassing a shearwater, and could tell from photos that it was a skua, not a jaeger. Looking at the pictures on a computer, it was probably a South Polar Skua - the nape was pale and the color dull, not warm like we would expect on a Great Skua. Black-cappeds and all three shearwaters were attentive in the slick as we worked offshore and we even turned up a Wilson's Storm-Petrel that stayed with us in the slick for awhile, not a species that is really very common here in the fall like they are earlier in the year, so a good find for October!
Fishermen were chatting about all of the birds they were seeing, so we generally worked that way, a bit to the south and offshore, and finally found some shearwater flocks a little before 1. The first flock we found was incredible!! There were more Audubon's Shearwaters than Cory's and Great combined! (photo Brian Patteson)
Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible by joining us in the fall! And thank you to Peter Flood and Ed Corey for helping Brian and I lead the trip. All four of us contributed photos for this post! At this time we just have one space on our next trip - October 24 (25) - and four spaces on our November 14 (15) trip. We're super excited to get out there twice more this fall!
Species List for October 10, 2020
Black-capped Petrel - 53 to 56
Cory's Shearwater (Atlantic) - 54 (verified by photo)
Scopoli's Shearwater - 2 (verified by photo)
Cory's type - 244 to 245 (not verified by photo to one species or the other)
Great Shearwater - 101 to 111
Audubon's Shearwater - 508 to 563
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 1 to 2
Pomarine Jaeger - 1
skua sp. (prob South Polar) - 1
Common Tern - 3
False Killer Whale - 4 to 6
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin - 6
Our Black-capped Petrels were quite cooperative for photos!
A number were dark-faced birds (Peter Flood - top - and Ed Corey - bottom)
We had at least three or four individuals that were white faced types (Peter Flood)
One more image with a darker individual's underwing (Kate Sutherland)
As I sorted through photos I did uncover at least two Scopoli's Shearwaters, here is a record shot of one (Kate Sutherland)
Zoomed in a bit by Peter Flood