Monday, June 25, 2012

Recent Fea's Petrel Sightings

It's been a while since we had a pelagic trip in Hatteras, but it does not mean we have not been to sea. We've been busy with fishing charters and research trips, with just a few days ashore since late May. During that time, there has been a good influx of shearwaters, especially Great Shearwaters, which have recently arrived in force off the eastern US coast, bound for colder more productive waters in the North Atlantic. Our friend Nate Dias in Charleston, SC usually organizes a pelagic trip to the Charleston Bump every spring and this year he had to reschedule it a few days later because of strong northeasterly winds. He and five other birders did get out on Friday June 22 and made the long trip to the Bump and beyond. The Bump was eighty-some miles out and they made it out even past that. Out on the bump they found a Fea's Petrel which was either in SC or GA waters depending on how you slice it up. Either way, a great record as there just are not enough trips down there to find these birds on any kind of regular basis. In Hatteras, we only need to go 25 or 30 out miles find them, and we have had some good luck with them in mid to late June in years past. It was a good week for Fea's Petrels as another was seen on Tuesday, June 19 a mere 5 miles SE of Montauk, presumably the first for New York. We've never had it that close to Hatteras, but we have seen it as close as 12 miles once before. When you consider how fast these birds fly, it does not take long for one to turn around and buzz back out past the shelf break in an hour or two, depending on the wind. Our next trips are coming up in a couple weeks- July 7 and 8 from Hatteras. There is still a chance for Fea's Petrel and a variety of rare species, but it is also a great time to get out and see a good number of regulars as well. See our website- for more information.  

Photos of SC Fea's Petrel courtesy of Nate Dias:
(more photos can be found at

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Masked Booby 6/11 Brown Booby 6/12

Brian had fishing trips yesterday & today and saw a Masked Booby yesterday then a Brown Booby today!  Both were seen in less that 200 feet of water along some nicely organized lines of Sargassum!  A cooperative pod of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins came in and rode the bow for about 10 minutes yesterday.  While the fishing was slow both days, shearwaters were around, and Wilson's Storm-Petrels were seen all the way inshore to Hatteras Inlet today.  Cory's, Great, and Audubon's Shearwaters were present in larger numbers than we saw over the weekend, exciting, but unfortunately our next scheduled trip is not until July 7!

Brian snapped these photos of the boobies...
Masked Booby June 11, 2012
 Brown Booby June 12, 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

June 9 & 10, 2012

The wind shifted around and blew from the north on the days we did not run trips during the past week, giving us hope that we would find a bit more life this weekend, and we were not disappointed!  Light, westerly winds greeted us each morning as we headed offshore making the conditions very pleasing for participants and giving just enough of a breeze to get birds off the water.  Black-capped Petrels were hard to come by this weekend, with just four on Saturday and two passes by one individual on Sunday;  who knew it would be the rare bird for many of our participants who were new to these trips?  Shearwaters made a nice showing and while the counts might seem low, the views were spectacular, especially on Sunday!  We found a group of 15 Audubon's Shearwaters with a Great Shearwater feeding in and around some sargassum midmorning, quite a sight to behold with them scurrying around, calling, as they fed!  Two Bridled Terns were in the area as well flying circles around the boat, and returning a few times so that everyone was able to see them well.  Our chum had the shearwaters really excited on Sunday and we actually had Cory's Shearwaters diving in the slick!  We do not typically see Cory's diving here like the Great Shearwaters do, and we even got photos showing one of the Pomarine Jaegers diving completely under the surface as well!!  Saturday was the day of the Band-rumped Storm-Petrel with the first individual showing up at 0753!  We had 15-17 individuals and rarely was there a moment we did not have one flying around the boat, making very close passes by the stern, or following back in the slick!  Wilson's Storm-Petrels were back in good numbers by Sunday with individuals following in the slick as far back as you could see all day.  First summer Pomarine Jaegers were seen each day with two of them following us almost the entire day on Sunday!  The first Pilot Whales (prob. short-finned) of the season were seen on Saturday and we had more Sunday with the addition of some cooperative Atlantic Spotted Dolphins in the morning, and some Bottlenose Dolphins offshore.  A fishing boat reported about 500 (!) flying squid in the morning on Saturday, and we were lucky to have about 15 shoot out of the water in front of us later that day.

Overall a very successful weekend, and we want to thank everyone who came offshore with us this spring making it possible to run 15 trips.

Also a big thanks to all of our leaders who took time to help us out this spring: Bob Fogg, Steve Howell, Kevin Metcalf, Dave Shoch, & Chris Sloan;  thanks to Nate Dias, Bob Fogg, Steve Howell, Dave Shoch, & Chris Sloan for sharing their photos with us to post here!

Special thanks to Willie Hendrickson who was on every trip with us and earned his title of Junior Assistant Leader by the end!  I know he helped a lot of our participants get looks at many of our "usual suspects" and kept them occupied with engaging conversation...!

A photo of Willie on morning 14 from the wheelhouse...!

June 9, 2012
Black-capped Petrel   4
Cory's Shearwater   7
Great Shearwater   2
Audubon's Shearwater   17
Wilson's Storm-Petrel   abt 120
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel   15-17
Bridled Tern   1
Pomarine Jaeger   2

Pilot Whale (prob. Short-finned)   10
flying squid   15

June 10, 2012
Black-capped Petrel   1
Cory's Shearwater   13
Great Shearwater   6-7
Audubon's Shearwater   41
Wilson's Storm-Petrel   300-350
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel   5-7
Bridled Tern   4
Pomarine Jaeger   2

Pilot Whale (prob. Short-finned)   20-30
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin   5-7
Bottlenose Dolphin   20-23

Photos from June 9:
Great Shearwater
 Band-rumped Storm-Petrel
 Wilson's Storm-Petrel
 Pilot Whales
Photos from June 10:
our only Black-capped Petrel of the day did not make a very close pass
Cory's Shearwater
 Cory's Shearwater
 Great Shearwater

Band-rumped Storm-Petrel

Pomarine Jaeger harassing a Cory's Shearwater!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Monday June 4, 2012

"Swinhoe's Storm-Petrel right here on the stern - the closest bird!" These were words we didn't expect to hear today, and sadly our expectations were met... Instead, the last day of our Spring Blitz started quite windy, again from the southwest, and switched to west but dropped off in the afternoon for a pleasant ride home. The morning wind made for great views of numerous Black-capped Petrels arcing up high, with most being of the enigmatic (and less numerous) white-faced type, whose breeding grounds still appear to be unknown. We also enjoyed good views of the other regular Gulf Stream species - Cory's and Audubon's Shearwaters, and 'Band-rumped' Storm-Petrels (winter-breeding birds in wing molt, presumed to be Grant's). Wilson's Storm-Petrels stayed with us most of the day and gave some great photo ops, but as on most days this spring their numbers were fairly low - because of ocean conditions or wind directions or some other factor(s)? As always, much to see and much to learn out on the ocean – what will see next weekend?

Black-capped Petrel   19
Cory's Shearwater   9
Audubon's Shearwater   17
Wilson's Storm-Petrel   75
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel   2
Pomarine Jaeger   2

Spotted Dolphin   4
Bottlenose Dolphin (inshore)   2

Black-capped Petrel (White-faced type)

 Audubon's Shearwaters on the water
Wilson's Storm-Petrels in the slick

first summer Pomarine Jaeger

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sunday June 3, 2012

The fresh northwest wind continued, making for a pleasant ride out when we could stand at the bow and watch flyingfish shoot ahead of the boat. Birds were relatively slow today, but Wilson's Storm-Petrels showed well, with both fresh young birds not yet in wing molt and older birds well into wing molt. The 'Band-rumped Storm-Petrels' today were both in wing molt, presumably from the winter-breeding population known as Grant's Storm-Petrel. Black-capped Petrels made the occasional pass and in mid-morning a Manx Shearwater made a brief but close pass in good light and was enjoyed by all. The highlight of the day for some was a group of about 30 flying squid that shot out from the water to gasps of surprise. These little-known denizens of the tropical deep oceans are rarely seen and more rarely photographed. Today's group was too fast for the cameras, but below for kicks is an image of flying squid Steve Howell captured last year in the tropical Pacific.

Black-capped Petrel   10
Cory's Shearwater   33
Great Shearwater   1
Manx Shearwater   1
Audubon's Shearwater   14
Wilson's Storm-Petrel   175
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel   2

heading out in the morning...
 Cory's Shearwater

 Cory's Shearwater & Wilson's Storm-Petrel
 Wilson's Storm-Petrel
 Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (prob. Grant's)
 SNGH flying squid in the tropical Pacific

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Saturday June 2, 2012

Despite strong winds and torrential rain overnight (and into the morning!) we headed out and enjoyed another wonderful day offshore. The winds shifted (finally) from southwest to northwest, and the seas were generally easy going. Good numbers of Wilson's Storm-Petrels stayed with us most of the day, and among them we found a few “Band-rumpeds”, including a fresh-plumaged bird we suspect was a Madeiran Storm-Petrel. Cory's and several Scopoli's Shearwaters showed particularly well, and sundry Black-capped Petrels and a few 1st-summer Pomarine Jaegers visited us. The afternoon produced a very co-operative light-morph Trinidade [Herald] Petrel, thanks to quick chumming work by Kate, followed by bow-riding Bottlenose Dolphins and then an obliging Bridled Tern as we stopped to examine the Sargassum weed lines. A Red-necked Phalarope on the way back inshore rounded the day.

Trinidade Petrel (light-morph)   1
Black-capped Petrel   15
Cory's Shearwater   32
Audubon's Shearwater   10
Wilson's Storm-Petrel   185-195
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel   3
Red-necked Phalarope   1
Bridled Tern   1
Pomarine Jaeger   3

Trinidade Petrel

(Bob Fogg)
(Nate Dias) Trinidade Petrel & Cory's Shearwater
Black-capped Petrel

Cory's (Scopoli's) Shearwater (top photo by Bob Fogg)

Wilson's Storm-Petrels & Common Tern in the slick
 fresh Band-rupmed Storm-Petrel (prob. Madeiran)
VERY cooperative Bridled Tern

Pomarine Jaeger photos...

 (Nate Dias)