Saturday, June 15, 2013

June 10, 12, & 13 ABA IFO: Gulf Stream Tubenoses of NC

Our final trips this spring were chartered by the ABA who held a five day workshop in Hatteras, the core of which was three days offshore aboard the Stormy Petrel II.  George Armistead and Alvaro Jaramillo were the instructors for the week joined by ABA blogger, and NC resident, Nate Swick plus 20 participants, most had never ventured offshore with us before, but a couple faces were familiar!  It was a nice change of pace, almost relaxing, for Brian and I to have a couple of groups with their own leaders join us on our seabird viewing platform this spring!

Monday was breezy, Wednesday less so, and Thursday there was WIND!  Bird numbers were low for the first two trips but they were in their habitat and flying on the 13th.  Black-capped Petrels were seen well each day, but Thursday's trip had the highest numbers and best looks at these fast flying gadfly petrels in and over the slick.  We saw both white and dark faced individuals over the course of our three days offshore.  Cory's, Great, and Audubon's Shearwaters were all seen over the three days, having close encounters with each by the time we were done!  Wednesday morning a couple of Manx Shearwaters were spotted on our way offshore, and while they flew with us for a short time, not everyone saw them well.  Wilson's Storm-Petrel numbers were still low after the tropical storm last weekend, but by Thursday, they had picked up so we ended the day with over 200 individuals!  Band-rumped Storm-Petrels were also scarce but the few we did see made excellent passes so that everyone could check them off their list.  Bridled Terns made a strong showing, not in numbers, but quality encounters!  Monday we had a pair of young individuals come in to feed in the slick, found another perched on a board later that afternoon, we saw another three on Wednesday, but none on Thursday.  Subadult Pomarine Jaegers were seen well on two of the trips;  they came right in to the slick!  The highlight of the three day set, though, came on Thursday when a dark Trindade Petrel flew at medium distance up the starboard side!  Spotted by Nate Swick, he and Alvaro were able to get most of their participants on the bird successfully!

Cetaceans were not to be ignored and we had some each day with the list rounding out to include four species, plus a close Loggerhead Turtle near the inlet on Wednesday!  Sargassum was a bit scarce, but we dipped some on Wednesday and found both species (Sargassum fluitans & Sargassum natans) of "Gulf Weed" plus a few of its' specialized inhabitants!  There were some shrimp, swimming crabs, and even a young pipefish.  Overall, I think everyone who joined us had a great time - thanks to George & Alvaro (and the ABA) for making these trips possible and thank you also to all who signed up to join them!  We hope to see you again sometime!

Species List:
Trindade Petrel  (dark morph, one seen Thursday June 13, 2013)
Black-capped Petrel
Cory's Shearwater
Great Shearwater
Manx Shearwater
Audubon's Shearwater
Wilson's Storm-Petrel
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel
Bridled Tern
Black Tern
Pomarine Jaeger

Gervais' Beaked Whale (probable)
Short-finned Pilot Whale
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin
Bottlenose Dolphin

Loggerhead Turtle

& a few photos by me (Kate Sutherland)
Black-capped Petrel - 2 photos
 Great Shearwater
 Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 2 photos
 molting Band-rumped Storm-Petrel with food in the slick
Bridled Tern - first individual from Monday's trip
 Bridled Tern - second individual from the slick (2 images)
 Bridled Tern - second summer individual taking off from board on Monday's trip
 Common Tern
 Mesoplodon sp. - presumed Gervais' Beaked Whale
Short-finned Pilot Whale
 Atlantic Flying Fish aka Atlantic Patchwing!

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