Monday, June 1, 2020

Monday June 1, 2020 by Ed Corey

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The morning greeted us with a beautiful sky as we left the dock at Hatteras for another Gulf Stream excursion. Cape Point provided a natural buffer to the Northeast winds, and our trip over the breakers and into the deep was relatively uneventful, compared to previous days. As we cleared the Point, the seas began to build, the winds gained strength, and we started seeing our first birds of the day. Cory’s Shearwaters were moving north, giving short but distinctive views.
 
We made it to the shelf break just before 0800, and began to form our slick. In short order, a procession of tubenoses had appeared, including Great Shearwaters, Wilson’s Storm-Petrels, and Black-capped Petrels.  Less than an hour later, the call of Fea’s Petrel rang out from the stern, and folks scrambled to get a glimpse at this sporty Pterodroma! This bird gave excellent views, allowing all on board to study its smaller physique and dark underwings. (Kate Sutherland) 
 
As we continued along, more and more birds piled into the slick. Our storm-petrel flock intensified, and we caught our first glimpse of Leach’s Storm-Petrel for the day! Brian and Kate decided to deploy a floating chum block, to allow the flock to gather in one spot. The block performed beyond expectations, gathering dozens of birds around it, and even attracting a young Tiger Shark!
 
Just after 10, Kate spotted a dark bird powering into the slick: a dark morph Trindade Petrel! (Kate Sutherland)
This gadfly petrel soared around for a bit, before heading away into the blue desert. Shortly before 11, a dark shape again appeared in the flock, and again the yell of Trindade. However, this was a different bird; an intermediate morph, the second of a whopping FOUR for the day!
 
Birds were chewing at the stern as the attending flock grew, with several energetic Sooty Shearwaters increasing the pulse rate for those watching the slick. However, everyone was able to study the differences between this cold-water species and the superficially similar Trindade Petrel.  Providing further study for the passengers were various Band-rumped Storm-Petrels, which zipped and glided circles around the Wilson’s.

-Ed Corey

Thanks to everyone who joined us out there today!  A big thank you also to Ed Corey and Justin Bosler for helping us to lead the trip!

Species List June 1, 2020
Fea's Petrel - 1
Trindade Petrel - 4 to 5
Black-capped Petrel - 29 to 30
Cory's Shearwater - 55
Scopoli's Shearwater - 2
Cory's type - 4
Great Shearwater - 33
Sooty Shearwater - 18
Audubon's Shearwater - 9 to 12
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 235
Leach's Storm-Petrel - 3
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - 8
Leach's / Band-rumped - 1
Offshore Bottlenose Dolphin - 21
Tiger Shark - 1
Portuguese Man-of-War - 1

The second encounter with an intermediate bird which could have been the same individual we saw earlier in the day! (Ed Corey)
Black-capped Petrels showed well! (Kate Sutherland)
It was really nice to see some Scopoli's finally in the slick with the Great Shearwaters! (Kate Sutherland)
Great Shearwaters were finally around in good numbers! (Ed Corey)
Sooty Shearwaters also came in well to the chum and at least a couple were with us all day! (Kate Sutherland)
We had another Common Tern visit us offshore today. (Ed Corey)
The offshore bottlenose dolphins were awesome to watch as they surfed in the waves! (Ed Corey)

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Sunday May 31, 2020 by Kate Sutherland

"Looking for a Birding Adventure?" Our three fold brochure says this on the front and today we had a birding adventure!  Winds were northerly when we left the inlet this morning and picked up over the course of the day.  I myself prefer large seas and windy conditions, it seems that most seabirds agree with me - and they were out there flying today!  Less than an hour and a half after we reached the shelf break a dark Trindade Petrel flew right in to the slick!  Wow!  I mean close, and made enough passes for everyone to get excellent views if not excellent photos!  (Kate Sutherland) 
Black-capped Petrels were in their element and feeding behind the boat with even more Wilson's than we had yesterday!  It was awesome out there, and while we had no rain today we still got a little wet, but I also will take a bath in the ocean any day if it means I can experience the habitat of our seabirds - that would be wind and waves!  We're out there again tomorrow, so stay tuned and perhaps we will turn up another species for the Blitz!

Thank you to our participants!  We couldn't do it without you!  And thank you Kyle Kittelberger and Ed Corey - your photos today are much appreciated and your hard work helped make the day successful!

Species List for May 31, 2020
Trindade Petrel - 1 dark morph
Black-capped Petrel - 37
Cory's Shearwater - 28 
Cory's type - 2
Great Shearwater - 3
Sooty Shearwater - 14
Audubon's Shearwater - 21
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 215
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - 3
Leach's/Band-rumped - 3
Common Tern - 2
Laughing Gull - 1
Portuguese Man of War - 1

The seas were adventurous for gadfly petrels - Trindade top, Black-capped below (Kate Sutherland)
Trindade Petrel dorsal (Ed Corey) & ventral (Kyle Kittelberger)
Black-capped Petrel (Ed Corey) intermediate, tending towards dark faced bird.
We had a couple of Cory's types that had some white in the underprimaries but none, or very little, in p10.  I would lean toward Scopoli's, but for now we will just leave as is!  (Kate Sutherland)
We just had a few Great Shearwaters (Ed Corey)
And more Sooty Shearwaters, they were moving in the afternoon inshore of the shelf break (Kyle Kittelberger)
We had two Common Terns visit us out there today - the first looked slight and delicate enough for us to mistake it for an Arctic Tern at first glance. (Kyle Kittelberger)
Ed Corey captured this image of our Man of War!

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Saturday May 30, 2020 by Kate Sutherland

Our entrance to the ocean was a bit smoother this morning, though the skies were still overcast and rain was again in the forecast.  We had rain on our way to the shelf break and rain when we arrived and set out with the chum, but showers today were quick moving and conditions were totally different from 24 hours ago.  At the shelf break there was sargassum, and Audubon's Shearwaters - lots of Audubon's!  After only encountering one on our trip yesterday we were super excited to see small rafts of them scattered around as we worked our way offshore. (Kate Sutherland) 
Down current in the Gulf Stream made conditions different than if we had the wind with the current, and it was an interesting habitat to find - a little meander of Gulf Stream water.  Birds were more attentive to the chum and Black-capped Petrels came in to the slick especially well.  Storm-petrels were another plus, we easily doubled our count of Wilson's from previous trips this spring.  Two summer Band-rumpeds, what Brian and I call "little band-rumps" were a treat to see, the second was right on the shelf break where we sometimes find them. (Ed Corey) 
At least one Scopoli's Shearwater came to the slick late morning, the first of the spring for us!
Two Gervais' beaked whales popped up beside us around 1100 and conditions were calm enough to observe them surfacing before sounding.  (Kate Sutherland) 
The conditions continued to improve and by the time we were back on the shelf break the sun was shining!  Not much was flying on our way back to Hatteras Inlet, but we didn't mind trading that for a nice ride in!
Thanks to everyone who joined us today!  Thanks also to Kyle Kittelberger and Ed Corey for helping us lead the trip!  We'll see what the next two days bring, and will have a chance to write more when this little stretch of trips has ended!

Species List for May 30, 2020
Black-capped Petrel - 34
Cory's Shearwater - 49
Scopoli's Shearwater - 1
Cory's type - 2
Great Shearwater - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 1
Audubon's Shearwater - 307
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 200
Leach's Storm-Petrel - 3
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - 9
"little" Band-rumped - 2
Common Tern - 1
Cattle Egret - 1
Barn Swallow - 1
Gervais' beaked whale - 2
Offshore bottlenose dolphin - 38
Portuguese man-o-war - 3

An intermediate looking Black-capped Petrel (Kate Sutherland)
Most of the Cory's we saw today were Atlantic Cory's (borealis) (Kate Sutherland top), but we did have at least one Scopoli's Shearwater! (Ed Corey)
Audubon's Shearwaters were a highlight today! (Kate Sutherland)
Wilson's Storm-Petel (Kate Sutherland)
Most of the Band-rumps today were molting, presumed Grant's type (Kate Sutherland)
The Common Tern we had with us looked like a second summer and was content to feed with the storm-petrels in the slick! (Kate Sutherland)
An image showing the dorsal fin of one of the Gervas' beaked whales (aka Mesoplodon europaeus) (Kate Sutherland)
And Ed Corey captured this awesome shot of the offshore bottlenose dolphins!

Friday, May 29, 2020

Friday May 29, 2020 - by Kate Sutherland

Thursday's trip was weathered out, but there was a silver lining...or maybe just a white lining!  Some of our participants went up to Cape Point in the morning and found a gorgeous White-winged Tern!  The second record for North Carolina, but the first to be photographically documented - so being stuck on land for a day didn't totally suck!

This morning we still had some testy seas offshore, but it seemed to be a bit more organized and the line of storms that was visible on the radar in the morning looked like it could be inshore of where we wanted to end up - so off we went!  And it rained a bit on the way out, and it rained a bit when we reached the shelf break and put out our chum - well, okay, it rained a lot!  But one of these rain storms caused a shift in the wind, it began blowing against the Gulf Stream current, making the waves stand up a little more...but also attracting more birds to our slick!  We had Black-capped Petrels and Cory's Shearwaters buzzing around with Wilson's Storm-Petrels pattering along behind us.  A little before 1000 I stepped out of the cabin and glanced up to see a bird hovering above - a White-tailed Tropicbird!!!!  Everyone got on the bird and we had almost twenty minutes to observe and photograph it!  (Kate Sutherland)
A short time later we had another visit from a tropicbird - another White-tailed - but a different individual!!  This same bird came back for a second visit, giving us three encounters with another species that has "white" in its common name.  So what might we see tomorrow?  White-chinned Petrel?  White-bellied Storm-Petrel?  Perhaps a White-faced Black-capped Petrel is more likely!

Thanks to everyone who joined us today and to Ed Corey & Kyle Kittelberger for helping Brian and I lead the trip - and for contributing photos!  We'll see what we turn up tomorrow!

Species List May 29, 2020
Black-capped Petrel - 25
Cory's Shearwater - 56
Sooty Shearwater - 4
Audubon's Shearwater - 1
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 100
Leach's Storm-Petrel - 5
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - 3
White-tailed Tropicbird - 2
tropical tern species - 4 likely Sooty Terns, but not seen well enough to confirm
Parasitic Jaeger - 1 dark individual
jaeger sp - 1 dark individual POJA/PAJA
Common Loon - 3
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin - 30

Black-capped Petrels were really flying today with the wind!  I didn't see any white-faced birds, but we did find both intermediate (top - K. Sutherland) and dark faced birds (Ed Corey).
Sooty Shearwaters also gave us a few nice views in the slick! (Ed Corey)
The larger stormies didn't come as close today as they did on Wednesday, but I was able to capture at least one Leach's! (Kate Sutherland)
A few more images of the first tropicbird!  Top Ed Corey, middle by Kyle Kittelberger, bottom (view of the tail) by Kate Sutherland
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin - always a treat to see!  (Kate Sutherland)

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Wednesday May 27, 2020 - Kate Sutherland

And finally!!!  We begin the Spring Blitz...with some adjustments...but regardless, it was so nice to get offshore today!  Our schedule has been quite reduced by the current pandemic but we're full (a lighter full than before...) for the rest of this spring - thank you to everyone who is able to join us!

Departure was before dawn this morning and we went out via Ocracoke Inlet to the south.  Sunrise came just as we approached Ocracoke and the channel to the ocean!  (Kate Sutherland)
We worked our way offshore to the shelf break about where we would normally start from Hatteras, and though our time in the deeper water was limited, once we dropped the chum in the water we had birds!  Our first encounter with a Trindade Petrel was just before 1000 and was a dark morph (record shot by Kyle Kittelberger). 
And just as a rain squall took over our boat after 1100 a second individual flew in and arced up high a couple of times checking out our slick (Kate Sutherland)!  You can see the rain in the dorsal view.  This bird looked more like an intermediate type of Trindade Petrel.  
A third individual, a light morph, was observed by Kyle Kittelberger and Jeremy Dominguez but no one captured an image.  In addition to these incredible encounters, we had a number of awesome sightings over the course of the day!  Of note were a number of Leach's Storm-Petrels and two South Polar Skuas.  Since morning will be coming very early for me, I am going to leave you with the species list and some more photos until tomorrow (hopefully the weather is cooperative!!!)!

Thank you to everyone who joined us out there today!  And thank you also to Kyle Kittelberger and Ed Corey for helping Brian and I lead the trips!  -Kate Sutherland

May 27, 2020 Species List

Trindade Petrel - 3
Black-capped Petrel - 14
Cory's Shearwater - 68
Great Shearwater - 5
Sooty Shearwater - 10
Audubon's Shearwater - 15
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 90 to 100
Leach's Storm-Petrel - 25
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - 9
Common Tern - 2
Common/Arctic Tern (not seen well) - 1
South Polar Skua - 2
Pomarine Jaeger - 2
jaeger species - 1 dark individual

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin - 3
Portuguese man-of-war - 1

Black-capped Petrels were also out there in the deeper water today and all were either white-faced birds like the one below, or intermediate birds (Kate Sutherland).
All of the Cory's Shearwaters we saw were from the Atlantic population, no "Cory's Types" today and no Scopoli's (Kate Sutherland)
It was nice to see some Sooty Shearwaters still moving by out there! (Kyle Kittleberger)
The Leach's were incredibly cooperative over the course of the day! (Kate Sutherland) here you can see the messy, large rump patch and forked tail.  The buffy carpal bars and large bill are also obvious.
Band-rumped Storm-Petrels also were in the slick for most of the day.  While most were molting individuals, presumably Grant's type (top), I was able to capture images of one non-molting individual that was feeding in the chum.  (Kate Sutherland)
The first South Polar Skua we saw first thing in the morning just outside of Ocracoke Inlet and it flew directly away!  The second, however, was sitting on the water and when it flew it was much more cooperative!  (Kyle Kittelberger)