Monday, May 23, 2022

Audubon's 23 May 2022 by Kate Sutherland

The morning began in the rain, our pre-departure briefing was given under an overhang but by the time it was over, the heaviest of the rain had moved on.  There were a few more showers as we headed offshore, but the seas were a bit calmer than the past three days so overall our ride out was quite nice.  A Pomarine Jaeger even came to check us out as we were running before moving off to the east.  There weren’t many birds around the shelf break so we kept running out to 100 fathoms (600 feet) and when we reached it we found a beautiful condition with light Gulf Stream current and scattered Sargassum.  The first bird of the day was a Black-capped Petrel, but then they were scarce until the latter part of the day (photo Kate Sutherland).
We started seeing Audubon’s Shearwaters right about there as well, on the water feeding in and around the Sargassum…likely eating some of the creatures we just viewed yesterday when we dipped some of this floating brown algae.  Little did we know they would be a feature today with over 100 tallied!  It was awesome to see so many of these small black and white shearwaters, they haven’t been around so far this spring so this was the first push we've seen up here (photo Kate Sutherland).
In the afternoon the wind shifted to the north and picked up to about 18 knots, with this the birding picked up as well.  Our slick’s customers grew in number and we were treated to the acrobatic flight of Black-cappeds, Atlantic Cory’s, Audubon’s, Wilson’s and Band-rumpeds as they came to check out the slick, then the boat, and wheeled away.  Just before reaching the shelf break we were treated to a new species for the Blitz: a gorgeous Sooty Shearwater came right up the slick and circled the boat before heading away (photo Kate Sutherland).
Tonight the winds will shift to the northeast and that is what’s forecast for tomorrow.  We’ll see if we can add some more species to the list then!

Thanks so much to everyone who joined us out there today!  And thank you to Peter Flood and Jason Denesevich for helping us lead the trip.  Today was Jason’s last trip with us, so another big thank you to him for his help over the past four days.

Species List for May 23, 2022
Red-necked Phalarope - 8
Pomarine Jaeger - 3
Common Tern - 1
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel - 182 to 183
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - 7 to 9
Black-capped Petrel - 28 to 32
Atlantic Cory’s Shearwater - 10
Cory’s / Scopoli’s - 11
Sooty Shearwater - 1
Audubon’s Shearwater - 104 to 112
Barn Swallow - 1

Pilot Whales (likely Short-finned) - 8 to 10
Blackfish species - 5 to 7
Bottlenose Dolphins (offshore population) - 5 to 6
Portuguese Man of War - 1

A nice white-faced Black-capped Petrel (Kate Sutherland)
Black-capped Petrel and Cory's Shearwater (Kate Sutherland)
Audubon's Shearwaters on the water (Peter Flood)
Audubon's in flight (Peter Flood)
Atlantic Cory's (Peter Flood)
Atlantic Cory's with some very abraded outer primaries - perhaps this is a first year bird (Kate Sutherland)
Our offshore adult Pomarine Jaeger (Kate Sutherland)
And first year individual (Kate Sutherland)
One of the Pilot Whales we saw out there (Peter Flood)
Portuguese Man of War (Peter Flood)

Sunday, May 22, 2022

22 May 2022 by Kate Sutherland

The day began with more of the same wind we've been having, south west, blowing a little bit more than it was yesterday morning...maybe 16 or 17 mph.  So it was a little choppy on our ride to the shelf break.  However, we crossed two nice current edges with the second a bit harder than the first with some smoother water offshore of it.  This was where we found our only Audubon's Shearwaters of the day, plus one flyby Red-necked Phalarope.  It took some time for the Wilson's Storm-Petrels to gather in the slick and the first larger tubenose of the morning was a nice Atlantic Cory's Shearwater! (photo Peter Flood) 
We had some excellent views of them today.  Not long after that we began to see some Black-capped Petrels.  They kept their distance today except for when they were expressing displeasure (yes, I know, anthropomorphizing!) at seeing Pomarine Jaegers in the slick! (photo Peter Flood) 
We had our first Pom in the 0930 period and then had two more visit us, the third following us for close to three hours.  The first Band-rumped Storm-Petrel appeared just after 1000 and we had excellent views of them for the rest of the day in the slick! (photo Kate Sutherland) 
All of the individuals except for maybe one, were molting, indicating the winter breeding population, presumably "Grant's" type.  At the end of the day, clouds rolled in and the wind picked up to about 20 to 23 mph and became more west south west.  The slick came alive and we had our Pomarine Jaeger (photo Kate Sutherland),
Black-cappeds, a couple of Cory's types, Wilson's, and Band-rumpeds all putting on a good show as we approached the shelf break.  Pomarine Jaeger was a new species for the Blitz and it was good to see a few out there today.  Tomorrow the wind will be a bit different, so we'll see how that translates offshore - west - maybe will blow the birds out?  Or perhaps carry our scent and lure them to us - regardless, we'll be out there to see.

Thanks so much to everyone who joined us today!  And thanks to our leaders, Peter Flood and Jason Denesevich, for helping Brian and I lead the trip.

Species List May 22, 2022
Red-necked Phalarope - 1
Pomarine Jaeger - 3
Common Tern - 1
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 160 to 180
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - 8 to 11
Black-capped Petrel - 26 to 30
Atlantic Cory's Shearwater - 9 
Cory's / Scopoli's - 5
Audubon's Shearwater - 2
Audubon's / Manx - 1
shorebird species - 3

A couple more Black-capped Petrel images (Kate Sutherland) - top a paler individual and a darker one below.
Another Band-rumped Storm-Petrel image by Peter Flood
A couple of Wilson's Storm-Petrels by Kate Sutherland - as I mentioned above, they were super cooperative at the end of the day!

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Day 2....21 May 2022 by Kate Sutherland

Well, some days we just find the usual suspects.  And that's more likely when the winds are the same for a few days in a row.  Today was day three of a south wester and while it was a bit calmer out there today than it was yesterday, the birds were not as cooperative.  We did have some attentive Black-capped Petrels which for me pretty much makes the day!  Here is one I photographed today:

Audubon's Shearwaters were out there in the Sargassum, which was nicely lined up in the Gulf Stream offshore.  They tend to be associated with this floating brown algae and will feed on small fishes and other creatures that utilize the Sargassum for cover.  Unfortunately they didn't show well, but perhaps tomorrow with some calmer conditions will be better!  We did have some nice views of Atlantic Cory's Shearwaters passing by (photo by Peter Flood) 
and the Wilson's Storm-Petrels were our faithful followers for our time beyond the shelf break!  

As we motored back inshore we found some nice patches of Sargassum and took a few minutes to dip some and see what we could find with it!  We were lucky to find at least three very small Sargassum Pipefish, a few Sargassum Swimming Crabs, and some small shrimp in the genus Leander.  Participant Chris Thomas took a few videos that you can find at the bottom of the post! *to be added in the next few days!

Thanks to everyone who joined us out there and a big thank you to Peter Flood and Jason Denesevich for helping Brian and I lead the trip today!

Species List for May 21, 2022
Laughing Gull - 1
Common Tern - 3
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 66 to 71
Leach's Storm-Petrel - 1
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - 2 to 3
Black-capped Petrel - 34 to 38
Atlantic Cory's Shearwater - 2
Cory's / Scopoli's Shearwater - 3
Audubon's Shearwater - 7

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin - 8 to 10
Portuguese Man of War - 1

A few of the Black-cappeds we saw today were already molting heavily (Kate Sutherland)
Here is a ventral view of one of the Atlantic Cory's we saw showing the dark under primaries (Kate Sutherland)
It has been really nice to see Leach's so often this spring!  Here is a record shot of one we saw today!
And here is one of our Band-rumpeds from Jason Denesevich
And a few videos by participant Chris Thomas featuring some of our Sargassum creatures will be added as soon as my internet is back up and functioning!  (21 May 2022 - Kate)


Friday, May 20, 2022

The Beginning! 20 May 2022 by Kate Sutherland

 It was still pretty breezy as we headed offshore this morning for our first day of the Spring Blitz!  Skies were partly cloudy and the wind was blowing 15 to 20 miles per hour from the west southwest.  The ride to the Gulf Stream was a bit wet, but once we found the current edge - we could see the slick along the edge of the swift current with calmer water beyond.  When the wind and current are together, the seas are much calmer.  This gave us a nice condition to begin our fish oil slick and once we crossed the shelf break and saw our first Black-capped Petrel we put out more chum.  Surprisingly the Black-cappeds were hungry and they came in well with close to 40 individuals seen in the first hour! (feeding Black-capped by Kate Sutherland)
We had more Audubon's than we've seen so far this spring and a few were very obliging next to the boat.  Atlantic Cory's were seen as well and we had our first Sooty Shearwater of the year as we approached the shelf in the afternoon.  Wilson's Storm-Petrels were slow to gather, but we had a nice flock midday with Leach's and Band-rumped Storm-Petrels both making appearances! (Leach's photo by Kate Sutherland)  
It took awhile, but I think everyone got to see both species fairly well!  The list was rounded out by an Arctic Tern that came to check us out in the 1130 period.

Thanks to everyone who joined us out there today, we had a salty crew!  And thank you also to Peter Flood and Jason Denesevich for helping us to lead the trip.  Next report tomorrow!

Species List for May 20, 2022
Red / Red-necked Phalarope - 20
Laughing Gull - 1
Common Tern - 1
Arctic Tern - 1
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 130 to 140
Leach's Storm-Petrel - 4
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - 5 to 7
Black-capped Petrel - 71 to 77
Atlantic Cory's Shearwater - 6
Cory's / Scopoli's Shearwater - 13 to 15
Sooty Shearwater - 1
Audubon's Shearwater - 8 to 10
Peep sp - 36 to 40

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin - 4 to 7
Loggerhead Turtle - 1

Black-capped Petrels definitely stole the show today!  Here are a few more images by Kate Sutherland
Audubon's Shearwater (Kate Sutherland)
One of our Band-rumped Storm-Petrels going down to feed in the slick! (Kate Sutherland)
And another as it zipped by the stern! (Kate Sutherland)
Our Arctic Tern (Peter Flood)

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Mid-May is Magical! by Kate Sutherland

Mid-May can be a great time for seabirds offshore from Hatteras, however the weather can be a bit unpredictable.  So as we approached our Friday May 13th trip date we were just finishing with a nor'easter that sat offshore here and wreaked a bit of havoc on the highway to Hatteras village...luckily the winds and seas subsided early Thursday morning and the highway was open for business by midday.  A large weather system like that can make for some interesting birding in the days that follow, if we can get out there.  We were lucky on Friday and despite dense fog on the way to the ocean, we made it offshore and conditions were excellent for birding.  As were the conditions the following day when we had some down current (an eddy in the Gulf Stream that is moving the opposite direction from the usual north easterly flow) and easterly wind.  By Sunday conditions were much calmer and skies clear - each day was unique.  For this reason we typically recommend taking more that one trip with us when you're here, availability permitting!

The definite star of the weekend was the European Storm-Petrel we had Saturday morning less than an hour after crossing the shelf break!  This bird was spotted by myself and Jamie Adams simultaneously as it darted across the stern flashing its diagnostic white bar under the wings!!  After some pandemonium as we worked through the excitement of having a look at this species that hasn't been seen offshore here since June 1, 2019, we got people situated and did our best to call out the flight direction and identification criteria as it moved in a flock of Wilson's Storm-Petrels.  Hopefully most everyone saw it during its brief visit in challenging seas - by the time I took a minute to photograph it, it was not close and also flying away...but even so, this image with the dark upper wing and thin pale margin to the secondary coverts in addition to the short legs, is enough (Kate Sutherland) to identify it!
Later that same day we had a super cooperative Fea's Petrel come to investigate the slick after being glimpsed at a distance for some time.  This is the third sighting of this species for the spring, and it looked likely to be a Deserta's Petrel, one of the species in the Fea's Petrel complex (the others being Cape Verde Petrel and Zino's Petrel) and the one we think is most likely seen offshore from Hatteras.  We had some rain on Saturday, but that didn't slow or deter this bird from coming to check out the slick!  There were excellent views for all aboard (Kate Sutherland).
Friday we were treated to a gorgeous, adult White-tailed Tropicbird who was also super cooperative and interested in our chum!  It came to the boat and flew around multiple times at close range, swooping down to investigate us in the stern.  Looking over my photos as we headed back to the dock that afternoon I realized the bird had a band on its left leg!  A quick message to Jeremy Maderios, Bermuda's senior terrestrial conservation officer and Keeper of Cahows and Longtails there, confirmed that he does band chicks fledged from Bermuda on the left leg to track that they are a known age / location individual.  This bird was banded by him as a chick and is the first we have seen offshore here with a band!  Since 2006 Jeremy has banded about 1,700 White-tailed Tropicbird (Bermuda Longtail) chicks.  (top photo Bob Fogg, lower showing band by Kate Sutherland)
To top off the three day set we had a Brown Booby on Sunday's trip that flew by, showing well, but not coming in very close.  (Bob Fogg)
In addition to these encounters we had excellent luck with our Gulf Stream specialty the Black-capped Petrel seeing multiple individuals each trip and all days had some close passes.  While we didn't find many, we did have Audubon's Shearwaters on each trip, and another species we hope to find in the warm water, Band-rumped Storm-Petrel, made an appearance each day as well (Kate Sutherland). 
Atlantic Cory's Shearwaters are starting to show up, and the storm-petrels were just incredible with hundreds of Wilson's Storm-Petrels following us each day and multiple Leach's Storm-Petrels seen with them.  Pomarine Jaegers loyally stayed with us eating bits of fish as we motored, Parasitic Jaegers were seen best on Friday but we had at least one each day, and a Long-tailed made a pass on Saturday's trip.  Arctic Terns showed well on all three trips coming in to the boat and feeding for some time on chum before moving on.  A highlight for us was seeing both species of phalarope, sometimes together, on each trip!  There are still a few Red Phalaropes around and we had excellent views of this larger species on the water each day with the more numerous Red-necked Phalaropes also showing well!  Overall it was a great time out there even with some larger seas, fog, and rain making birding a challenge!    

Thanks so much to everyone who joined us making these mid-May trips possible!  A huge thank you also to Bob Fogg for joining us as a leader on all three trips and sharing his photos with us, Matthew Withrow who also helped on all three days, Matt Jansen who joined us Saturday, and Sarah Toner who joined us Sunday.  We couldn't do it without them!  The Spring Blitz begins on Friday...these reports will be brief, but we'll keep you posted!

Species List May 13 / 14 / 15, 2022

Red-necked Phalarope 35 / 60 to 61 / 72
Red Phalarope 2 / 2 / 33
Pomarine Jaeger 12 to 16 / 15 to 17/ 8
Parasitic Jaeger 6 / 2 / 1
Long-tailed Jaeger 0 / 1 / 0
jaeger species 0 / 2 / 1
Common Tern 37 / 11 / 0
Arctic Tern 4 / 9 / 3
Common / Arctic Tern 55 to 57 / 78 to 83 / 2
White-tailed Tropicbird 1 / 0 / 0
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 340 to 360 / 390 to 420 / 245 to 265
European Storm-Petrel 0 / 1 / 0
Leach's Storm-Petrel 7 to 8 / 11 to 15 / 2
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel 1 / 5 to 7 / 2
Fea's (likely Deserta's) Petrel 0 / 1 to 2 / 0
Black-capped Petrel 39 to 40 / 61 to 63 / 45 to 54
Atlantic Cory's Shearwater 32 / 22 / 16 to 19
Cory's / Scopoli's Shearwater 5 / 3 / 12
Audubon's Shearwater 2 / 7 to 8 / 6 to 7
Brown Booby 0 / 0 / 1
Barn Swallow 0 / 0 / 3
Other species seen in the nearshore waters include:
Herring Gull
Least, Sandwich, & Royal Terns
Common Loon
Northern Gannet
Least Sandpiper
Red Knot
Other Marine Species:
Pilot Whales (likely Short-finned) 0 / 0 / 2
Atlantic Spotted Dolphins 0 / 14 to 17 / 0
Offshore Bottlenose Dolphins 7 / 0 / 0
Loggerhead Turtle 2 / 11 / 6
Portuguese Man of War 0 / 0 / 4

And now the photos!!!  We'll begin with some Black-capped Petrels.  We saw both the white-faced and black-faced birds over the course of the weekend and they were all in varying stages of molt as we would expect with different age birds nesting at different times.  Top image is an intermediate tending darker individual by Kate Sutherland, below a white-faced bird by Bob Fogg.
One similar to the first bird pictured flying with some Wilson's Storm-Petrels in the slick (Kate Sutherland)
Fea's (Deserta's) Petrel getting after one of our Pomarine Jaegers!  (Kate Sutherland)
A couple more White-tailed Tropicbird images (Kate Sutherland)
And another image of the Brown Booby (Bob Fogg)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel on the water (Bob Fogg)
And a gorgeous seascape with Wilson's and Black-capped Petrel, also by Bob Fogg
 A couple Wilson's feeding on chum as we tried to lure the Euro back to us! (Kate Sutherland)
The blue / green color change on Friday with a Wilson's Storm Petrel, green water obviously in the foreground! (Kate Sutherland)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel with a car carrier in the background on Saturday. (Kate Sutherland)
We didn't find any Scopoli's Shearwaters out there, but we had some really nice views of the Atlantic Cory's! (Kate Sutherland)
Seen here with a Wilson's Storm-Petrel (Kate Sutherland)
Pomarine Jaegers were super cooperative as I mentioned in the trip report, here are a few images from the three day set! (top Bob Fogg, bottom two Kate Sutherland)
Eating some chum close to the stern!
Parasitic Jaeger (Bob Fogg), this top individual was a cooperative one from Friday's trip and the bottom is all we sometimes get from Sunday's trip!
The phalaropes were such a treat!  Here is a Red Phalarope (top), one with a Red-necked Phalarope (middle), and some Red-necked Phalaropes (bottom) - images by Kate Sutherland
And finally one of the Portuguese Man of Wars we saw on Sunday!  (Kate Sutherland)