Thursday, July 25, 2013

Photos July 19, 20, & 21

Here are some photos from last weekend!

Fea's Petrel July 20 trip (photo George Armistead)
 Fea's Petrel, same individual as above (photo Kyle Kittelberger) 
an intermediate Black-capped Petrel (photo Kate Sutherland)
Kyle taking a photo of the only Great Shearwater we had close to the boat (photo Brian Patteson)
Great Shearwater (photo Kyle Kittelberger)
excellent shot of Band-rumped Storm-Petrel from Friday's trip (photo George Armistead)
photo of a Band-rumped Storm-Petrel from Saturday's trip (photo Kate Sutherland)
and just to show how tough the light was on Sunday morning - another Band-rumped Storm-Petrel shot (photo Kate Sutherland)
 Wilson's Storm-Petrels feeding in the slick (photo Kate Sutherland)
 Adult Bridled Tern from Sunday July 21 (photos Kate Sutherland)
& two awesome shots by Kyle Kittelberger from Friday July 19
our Sperm Whale -
 Loggerhead Turtle - not visible: it's attendant school of fish!!
I did take some GoPro video of the Sperm Whale underwater (not the best, but you can tell what it is...), so two clips are posted on our YouTube page - links are here: 

Monday, July 22, 2013

July 19, 20, & 21, 2013

The first three day weekend of the summer went off without a hitch!  We had excellent birding conditions all three days, though the conditions for humans may not have been so perfect if you ask some participants!  Winds were from the southwest all three days, but each day could not have been more different.  Friday was calm and sunny with the winds beginning to pick up a bit in the afternoon, Saturday held the most in terms of wind, and Sunday was still a bit windy, but with heavy rain and thunderstorms to contend with in the morning!  The Gulf Stream was fairly close each day and moving at a good clip, but there was not much Sargassum out there and the most notable this weekend was the absence of shearwaters!  Typically we expect to have no problem seeing large numbers of Cory's and Great Shearwaters in the summer, these were not typical summer trips.

The Fea's Petrel on Saturday morning was the bird of the weekend - this was the first Fea's to be seen in July since 2007; they are more typically seen in the spring or fall.  This bird shot by on the starboard side of the boat and flew down the slick, working around in the distance and then returning for a few close passes so that even naked eye, it was a great look!  Everyone also had great looks at Black-capped Petrels, and our other warm water specialty - the Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - both were hungry and easily recruited to the slick each day.  Wilson's Storm-Petrels were scarce, so there were times when the "default" storm-petrel in the slick was Band-rumped!  It was an interesting exercise to show participants Band-rumped Storm-Petrels without being able to use a Wilson's for comparison!  Amazing how easy it has been to find the Band-rumped Storm-Petrels so far this summer; these trips have far surpassed most others in quality encounters with this sometimes shy species.  Leach's Storm-Petrels were seen on all three trips, but they did not feed as readily in the slick for easy viewing.

Cory's Shearwaters were mostly seen on Friday and though there was a report of one on the way out Saturday morning, we did not see one for the list.  How it is possible to be out from Hatteras in the summer and see a Fea's Petrel, but no Cory's Shearwater, we do not know, but it has now happened at least once!  Great Shearwaters were seen flying by in the distance Friday & Saturday with one on Sunday coming in to the slick and plopping down right next to the boat for the weekend's best looks (and photo ops)!  Audubon's Shearwaters were as scattered as the Sargassum they favor and we had a tough time getting a good, close look at one, but again, on Sunday we finally had some closer views.

Two Bridled Terns were seen, one younger individual that was spotted by Chloe Walker (age 13 of TN) in the slick on Friday and another, more cooperative adult seen on Sunday afternoon.  A Pomarine Jaeger flew by the boat quickly on Friday afternoon and possibly another was seen Sunday afternoon on the way back inshore.

Non-avian highlights were also encountered, though not nearly like our last trips a couple of weeks ago!  We had a very close and cooperative Sperm Whale on Friday that swam right next to the boat for almost 30 minutes!  Later that afternoon we had a large Loggerhead turtle with an attendant school of fish swim right under the boat, surfacing for an excellent photo-op.  That same day we also saw a nice school of Tripletail under a log out in the clear, blue water of the Gulf Stream.

Overall the trips were a great success!  We would like to thank everyone who joined us over the three days.  A big thanks also to our leaders, George Armistead and Kyle Kittelberger (who got us on that Fea's Petrel!) - both were a great help spotting birds and helping our participants.  We have three long weekends in August - two from Hatteras and one from Oregon Inlet - please check our website for prices and availability!

Friday July 19, 2013
Black-capped Petrel  33
Cory's Shearwater  13
Great Shearwater  2
Audubon's Shearwater  6
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  130
Leach's Storm-Petrel  1
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  28-31*
Bridled Tern  1
Pomarine Jaeger  1

Sperm Whale  1
Loggerhead Turtle  1

Saturday July 20, 2013
Fea's Petrel  1
Black-capped Petrel  23
Great Shearwater  1
Audubon's Shearwater  23
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  45
Leach's Storm-Petrel  2
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  25-29*

Loggerhead Turtle  1

Sunday July 21, 2013
Black-capped Petrel  25
Cory's Shearwater  2
Great Shearwater  2
Audubon's Shearwater  12
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  101
Leach's Storm-Petrel  3-4
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  18-20*
Oceanodroma sp.  1
Bridled Tern  1
Black Tern  1

Loggerhead Turtle  2

*Many of the Band-rumpeds were following in the slick for fairly long periods, these are our best estimates!
A few photos from Friday's trip - more to follow later this week!
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (Kate Sutherland)

 Sperm Whale & participants (Brian Patteson)
 you can see how close it was!  (taken from the wheelhouse by Brian Patteson)
The Swift Ace behind the Sperm Whale (Brian Patteson)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Photos July 6 & 7

Some photos from this past weekend.  Thanks to Nate Dias for letting us use some of his images from Sunday's trip!

Black-capped Petrel - photo Brian Patteson
Leach's Storm-Petrel - photo Brian Patteson
 Band-rumped Storm-Petrels - photos Kate Sutherland
 Audubon's Shearwater taking off with a Great Shearwater flying behind - photo Kate Sutherland
Saturday's Bridled Tern - photo Kate Sutherland
 Pomarine Jaeger chasing a Black-capped Petrel - photo Brian Patteson
South Polar Skua - photo Brian Patteson
 South Polar Skua over a Cory's Shearwater - photo by Kate Sutherland
 young Sperm Whale from Sunday's trip - photo by Kate Sutherland
a pair of Gervais' Beaked Whales - photo Kate Sutherland
 excellent image of a Gervais' Beaked Whale - photo by Nate Dias
 offshore Bottlenose Dolphins - photo Kate Sutherland
 Nice shot of one of the Skipjack Tuna that shearwaters were feeding over each day - photo by Nate Dias
 & the hopper dredge Murden whose position dictated the timing our return trip in the channel each day! - photo Kate Sutherland

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July 6 & 7, 2013

Summer is finally here as our trips this past weekend illuminated so well!  We had just enough breeze each day to make us comfortable, but the seas were mostly quite calm.  In recent years our spring trips have become more popular, and in keeping with that theme, we had just enough participation to run these trips - but each day really exceeded our expectations for it is still not fully summer, with the beehives and tropical terns that abound in August, yet the birds, mammals, and yes - fish - were spectacular!

The Gulf Stream current was quite typical on Saturday but by Sunday it had pushed way offshore so we spent the day in the deep well over a 1000 fathoms and finally found signs of life similar to Saturday.  Black-capped Petrels were seen well each day with more individuals on Sunday when it was a little windier.  The shearwaters were out there, with excellent numbers of Cory's and Greats making up most of the feeding flocks we found over small skipjack tuna.  Audubon's Shearwaters were scarce on Saturday and we had a tough time getting a good, close look at one, but Sunday they seemed to be everywhere - on the way to the deep and in the feeding flocks!  Wilson's Storm-Petrel numbers were low overall for the weekend, but the large storm-petrels were quite pleasing on Saturday and definitely not shy on Sunday either!  Leach's Storm-Petrels were a surprise for us on Saturday with their numbers, it was like a "Leach's Highway" out there on our slick!  We had Band-rumped and Leach's Storm-Petrels coming in to the chum and feeding from 0900 until after 1330 on Saturday.  While the Band-rumpeds were not quite as cooperative on Sunday, we still had nice views.  Over the weekend we saw not only the cool season breeders (Grant's Type), but what looked to be some of the smaller individuals as well (possibly Madeiran).  Bridled and Sooty Terns were scarce, as we expected this early in the summer, but Saturday morning the first bird of the day was a Bridled Tern perched on a float!  Sunday we encountered both species over a feeding flock of shearwaters.  The star of the show Saturday was a South Polar Skua that flew in to a flock of feeding shearwaters and petrels before 1300!  This individual spent more time than usual harassing the shearwaters in the flock, sitting down for a moment, then gearing up again and again to chase them!  It was a spectacular show!  Sunday we did see a Pomarine Jaeger in the morning, but it was quite lethargic by comparison.

Cetaceans were definitely around this weekend and the conditions helped us spot them.  Though we had many calm days this spring, beaked whales were not seen very often and this caused some concern, since we spent a lot of time where they typically live.  Just this past weekend we encountered more Gervais' Beaked Whales (Mesoplodon europaeus) than we have seen in recent memory!  Saturday we also found three distant Sperm Whales just inshore of 1000 fathoms.  These individuals stayed on the surface long enough for us to see their distinctive blows well before they dove, showing their tail flukes.  Sunday on the way back inshore, inside of 500 fathoms (about 3,000 feet of water) Brian saw an animal blowing just ahead of the boat.  It turned out to be a young Sperm Whale, the shallowest we've seen one off of Hatteras, and it had just enough curiosity to spend time swimming along and surfacing next to the boat before diving.  We also had excellent looks at both Atlantic Spotted and Bottlenose Dolphins over the course of the weekend.

Thank you to everyone who joined us and thanks also to our leaders - Scott Winton and Kyle Kittelberger - they both did a great job spotting and keeping everyone keyed in to what was going on around us.  Our next trips are July 19, 20, & 21 - the summer continues...

Saturday July 6, 2013

Black-capped Petrel  16
Cory's Shearwater  166-189
Great Shearwater  80-92
Audubon's Shearwater  5
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  76-86
Leach's Storm-Petrel  21-28
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  19-22
Bridled Tern  1
South Polar Skua  1
jaeger sp.  1

Sperm Whale  3
Gervais' Beaked Whale  7
Bottlenose Dolphin  20

Sunday July 7, 2013

Black-capped Petrel  26
Cory's Shearwater  125
Great Shearwater  92-97
Audubon's Shearwater  24
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  30-40
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  22-23
Oceanodroma sp.  1
Sooty Tern  1
Bridled Tern  1-2
Pomarine Jaeger  1

Sperm Whale  1
Gervais' Beaked Whale  9-10
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin  11
Bottlenose Dolphin  20-24

Photos to follow tomorrow...!