On Thursday February 27, we ran a last minute trip that was basically a "chase trip" for the Yellow-nosed Albatross that we saw on February 22. It seemed like our best chance would be to work inshore among the gulls and gannets, so we did not get to see what was flying around a hard temperature break out near the edge of the continental shelf. The water was markedly colder in the areas where we had seen the albatross a few days before. There were good numbers of gulls and gannets, including some nece feeding flocks, but no sign of an albatross. We did not see any skuas either - our first miss north of Diamond Shoals in four trips. We did , however, see the first Dovekies of the season, a California Gull, and Little Gull (each time we crossed the shoals!). It was good to see Ned Brinkley and Paul Sykes among others who made it possible to run this extra trip.
We ran our last winter trip of the season on Sunday March 2. It was a beautiful day with sunshine, calm seas, and warm temperatures. The water, however, was cold, so it made for some very good birding. Conditions had changed quite a bit from Thursday, so we did not have to go to the shelf break to find a hard temperature break. Instead we found this condition right on the edge of Diamond Shoals. We had a good 10 degree break from the low 50s to low 60s and it was teaming with life. There were hundreds of Red Phalaropes
along the change as well as lesser numbers of Bonaparte's Gulls. We had close looks at a number of Manx Shearwaters.
A Sooty Shearwater, rare here in winter, joined our gull flock for a while feeding and diving in the chum line.
We stayed on the change for over three hours and nearly 20 miles. Toward the north end of this journey we found a large number of Manta Rays, several Loggerhead Turtles, and our first and only Dovekie of the trip.
Working inshore and into cooler water, we found many Razorbills. Kate spotted an adult Thayer's Gull behind the boat and it followed us for miles.
A Long-tailed Duck made a close fly-by and a California Gull zipped down the port side in pursuit of a Bonaparte's Gull.
A few miles off Avon we found hundreds of Razorbills and had distant looks at a large Basking Shark. There were several Loggerhead Turtles here even though the water was in the high 40s. We could not turn up a skua, despite a good showing of gulls and gannets. Crossing Diamond Shoals in the afternoon there were some nice feeding aggregations of gannets and Bottlenose Dolphin and a California Gull joined our chum flock and gave looks to all this time. This was possibly the bird seen a few miles north, but a different individual from the one we saw on Thursday. Working back towards Hatteras Inlet, there were good numbers of birds and dolphins but no new additions to the day's list. Special thanks to Jeff Lemons for helping lead the trip and to Scott Winton for bringing the "Nic Nat's" group from Duke for their annual winter boat trip. It was a great trip to finish the season with.
(photos above by Brian Patteson - Manx Shearwater, Jeff Lemons - Dovekie & Long-tailed Duck, and Kate Sutherland - Red Phalaropes, Sooty Shearwater, and Thayer's Gull)
Red-throated Loon (Jeff Lemons)
Sooty Shearwater (Kate Sutherland)
Manx Shearwater (Brian Patteson) - note the compact body and short tail!
Manx Shearwater (Jeff Lemons) - note dark face, long, slender bill, and white undertail coverts
Second year Northern Gannet (Kate Sutherland)
California Gull (two photos by Jeff Lemons)
Thayer's Gull (Kate Sutherland)
Razorbills (Kate Sutherland)
Adult Razorbill (Jeff Lemons)
Manta Rays & Remoras next three photos (Kate Sutherland)