Thursday, February 20, 2014

February 16 & 17, 2014

After a long hiatus, we made it back out to sea with some birders aboard the Stormy Petrel II for a couple of trips over Presidents' Day weekend.  Strong winds kept us at the dock on Saturday, but conditions were quite pleasant on Sunday.  Despite some blasts of cold air in recent weeks, the water temperatures in the ocean off Cape Hatteras have been fairly mild, owing to a close Gulf Stream this winter.  On Sunday we crossed Diamond Shoals and worked northward looking for colder water and we only found it fairly close to shore.  We had high 40s about three miles off the beach, but mid 50s another three miles out.  There was no shortage of Razorbills, but the best of it was definitely near shore.  This is where we also had our only encounter with Great Skua.  The skua was seen briefly about three miles out just north of Avon, where there was a large gathering of feeding gannets and Bottlenose Dolphin.  A few miles farther out to sea, there were a few Northern Fulmars, and out near Diamond Shoals Tower we found warmer water (60s) and a couple of Manx Shearwaters.  We also found some Red Phalaropes in this area, but the highlight for many was an enormous Manta Ray that was feeding along the temperature break/color change.  It was fairly quiet to the west of the shoals on Sunday.

Monday was much different.  We awoke to strong winds following the passage of a cold front.  Sea conditions were workable south of Cape Hatteras and west of Diamond Shoals, but it was obvious that we would not be seeing the north side that day.  I picked a route to minimize spray and maximize comfort, with hopes the wind would abate somewhat by midday, which it did.  We worked southward from the cape out past 20 fathoms and that was pretty good for Northern Fulmars.  The numbers were modest but we had great looks close to the boat.  Manx Shearwater and Red Phalarope were also seen, but not as well as on Sunday.  Two different "Nelson's" Gulls followed the boat for some time.  This is a hybrid resulting from pairing of Glaucous and Herring Gulls.  There were plenty of Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  This is now a common species here.  We also saw several Loggerhead Turtles, despite the choppy conditions, so it makes you wonder how many were really out there.  Razorbills were seen in good numbers, but most were on the move.  There were not as many gannets as we had seen on the north side on Sunday, but there were some feeding flocks off Hatteras Inlet.  Probably the most impressive sight were the hundreds of Bonaparte's Gulls, which were feeding along a tide line to the west of Diamond Shoals along a stretch of several miles.  Scrutiny of these flocks turned up two adult Little Gulls, which were seen repeatedly and quite well at close range.  A distant jaeger was seen near Hatteras Inlet before we crossed the bar.

I would like to thank Kate Sutherland, Lev Frid, and Jeff Lemons for helping lead the trips both days, and of course all of our participants, many of whom traveled long distances in adverse weather to get here.

Birds and Wildlife of Note February 16/17
Manx Shearwater  3/1
Northern Fulmar  13/10
Red Phalarope  11/7
Great Skua  1/0
jaeger sp.  0/1
Little Gull  0/2
Razorbill  270/157
Manta Ray  1/0
Loggerhead Turtle  6/14

There were also hundreds of the common gulls, gannets, and good numbers of Bottlenose Dolphins, along with a few loons in the offshore waters.

Northern Fulmar - photo Lev Frid
Northern Fulmar
 Northern Gannets
Red Phalaropes
Little Gull (above) and Bonaparte's Gull (below) - photo Lev Frid
"Nelson's" Gull - third cycle individual
Banded Herring Gull!
 Let us know if you know anything about this color band!
Lesser Black-backed Gull - photo Lev Frid
Razorbills - photo Lev Frid
 Loggerhead Turtle - photo Lev Frid
Manta Ray - photo Lev Frid
Double-crested Cormorants and a Northern Gannet on an inshore sand island

1 comment:

  1. The Herring Gull was banded on Appledore Island, York Co, ME. I'm sure Julie Ellis would be thrilled to hear about this sighting. For more information and her contact information, see: