Friday, July 6, 2012

Spring 2012

This spring we ran 16 pelagic trips with favorable conditions the third week in May allowing us to start off with some stellar trips on the 20th & 22nd!  We had two named storms on the East Coast this year, Alberto & Beryl, adding a challenge we rarely contend with in the spring.  Our May 26 trip was cancelled due to swell from Alberto and May 30th we ran a short, memorable trip as Beryl passed offshore.  The Gulf Stream was running fast this spring and coupled with the odd winds, there seemed to be less of a productive condition for birds and other life offshore.  After the first couple of trips we had consistent southerly winds that assist northbound birds in their journey and allowed many to just slip by well offshore.  We had very little north wind this spring to hold back the birds and make the waters more attractive to hungry birds.  On the other hand, we did have fairly strong winds most trips and the birds that were out there were flying!
Gadfly petrels were rare this year, but it was a great spring for shearwaters with Cory's and Audubon's on all 16 trips, Great and Sooty Shearwaters on ten of the 16, and Manx on just two.  European Storm-Petrel turned up again this spring on May 31st, a day with northerly winds that also found Trindade & Fea's Petrels and a Masked Booby!  Unfortunately though it was a day with low numbers of individuals turning up only six Black-cappeds, nine or ten Cory's, and one Great Shearwater, likely a result of TS Beryl's passage the preceding day.  Wilson's Storm-Petrels were seen on every trip with Leach's on seven of the 16, and Band-rumpeds made a strong showing this spring appearing on all but one trip.  May 27th turned up both tropicbirds, the only two of the spring;  I could find only one other trip list with both species encountered: June 3, 2009.  Red-necked Phalaropes surprised us with a group of over 70 on a foam line nearshore on May 22nd, a late date for such a gathering (second highest count for May with 131 seen on the 19th in 2010).  Not many Arctic Terns were seen this spring, but Bridleds were on seven of 16 trips surprising us as early as May 20th!  South Polar Skua was seen on just three occasions this spring causing us to fondly remember the spring of 2009 when we had over 20 in one day, here are two clips !  Pomarine Jaegers were here in nice numbers (53+) on 14 of 16 trips, with five turning up Parasitics and only three with Long-taileds.
Cetaceans and sea turtles were also rare this spring but we never had the calm conditions typically necessary to spot them with ease.  We saw just one Cuvier's Beaked Whale on May 28th, a small individual that obligingly surfaced beside the boat a few times. A pair of Gervais Beaked Whales popped up in our slick on May 27th, surfaced a couple of times, and then dove before we really got the boat turned around for a good look.  Pilot Whales (likely Short-finned) showed up for our last two trips and we had great view of them close to the boat along a grassline!  Each pod had a nice, large male, some smaller females & young males.  Offshore Bottlenose Dolphins were seen on just six trips with the smaller, energetic Spotted Dolphins were seen on just five!  Of note this spring were flying squid that were seen on two trips, a rare and exciting encounter for us!

Photos courtesy of Doug Koch, NY:
 Black-capped Petrel
 Pomarine Jaeger
 Pomarine Jaeger
South Polar Skua
Photos courtesy of Jeff Lemons, NC:
Common Loon
Black-capped Petrel
Red-necked Phalarope
 Bridled Terns
Long-tailed Jaeger
Photos courtesy of Dave Shoch:
Fea's Petrel
Loggerhead Turtle
Photo courtesy of Chris Sloan:
Black-capped Petrel

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