Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday May 31, 2014

The winds were light at the boat this morning, but again, were forecast to increase through the day.  We had a beautiful ride across the bar and headed offshore in just a bit of swell.  By midday, it had freshened from the north west and was a little sloppy, but good for birds!  A dark Trindade Petrel flew right in to the slick about 1018 this morning!  Excellent views, and photos, were had by all.  In our hearts, we wanted a mega rarity today, but alas, this expectation was not to be realized.

Storm-petrels were very cooperative today with numerous Wilson's coming in close when we drifted, and some great views of Leach's & Band-rumped near the boat.  Cory's Shearwaters were flying by closely, though Audubon's were a bit tougher to see than yesterday.  A large jaeger zipped across the bow mid afternoon not giving us much of a chance, but thankfully a nice, adult Pomarine Jaeger tucked in behind the boat and followed us for miles feeding in the slick at the end of the day.  Before picking up to head in, we emptied all of the chum and waited.  Wilson's Storm-Petrels that were not even in view with bins appeared in moments!  A nice fresh Band-rumped Storm-Petrel also put in an appearance.  The ride home was a bit choppy, but winds are supposed to change around a bit tonight into tomorrow and we will see what we get!

Thanks to everyone who joined us offshore, and a thanks to Chris Hitt for organizing a group of birders from the "700 Club" for a couple of days out there!  Thanks also to our leaders: Todd McGrath, Bob Fogg, Dave Pereksta, and Tom Johnson!

Trindade Petrel  1
Black-capped Petrel  40
Cory's Shearwater  65
Sooty Shearwater  2
Audubon's Shearwater  16
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  155-165
Leach's Storm-Petrel  4-6
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  9-11
Pomarine Jaeger  1
jaeger sp. (large)  1

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin  3
Pilot Whale  seen
Mola mola  1
hammerhead sp.  2
Loggerhead Turtle  1

Trindade Petrel (two photos by Bob Fogg)
 & two by Tom Johnson
Wilson's (Tom Johnson)
fresh looking Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (Bob Fogg)
 fresh Band-rumped (Tom Johnson)
Pomarine Jaeger (Tom Johnson)
 Pilot Whales offshore (Bob Fogg)

Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday May 30, 2014 by Todd McGrath

Another day of moderate to brisk NE winds. The run out of the inlet was good, with more of the water staying in the ocean than several of the recent outings. It was a comfortable ride to the gulf stream. Immediately after slowing down, we turned up an adult Bridled Tern. We began working offshore, and found good numbers of Cory's and Audubon's Shearwaters, including several small groups of Audubon's on the water, allowing some of the season's best views.
 Eventually the Black-capped Petrels put in an appearance at the slick, making close passes to the delight of the photographers on board.
Wilson's Storm-petrel numbers were steadily building, and it wasn't long before the first Leach's and Band-rumped Storm-Petrels were sighted. The numbers weren't high, but the quality of looks was excellent, with several very close approaches in the slick. A beautiful sub-adult Pomarine Jaeger stayed with the boat on and off for a couple of hours, occasionally being driven off by Black-capped Petrels, in a reversal of roles.
Our search for birds was interrupted briefly by a pod of Offshore Bottlenosed Dolphins who surrounded the boat and did a bit of bow riding, their whistles and clicks could be heard by those in the bow pulpit. The marine mammal show continued with a breaching Gervais' Beaked Whale. Three quick leaps and the whale was gone. several lucky photographers caught the jumps, not easy to do.
As we headed for home, a very large whale breached once behind the boat, but was not seen well enough to identify. 
It was a smooth ride back to the dock, and a very pleasant day at sea. No rare birds, but that's why they are rare!

-Todd McGrath

A warm welcome to my niece, Hazel Elizabeth Scott, who was born last night (May 29) at 2305!  6 pounds 15 ounces & 21 inches - hopefully she'll be out with us on her birthday in the coming years!  (Kate)

Thanks to everyone who joined us offshore today and a special thank you to our leaders: Todd McGrath, Bob Fogg, Dave Pereksta, and Tom Johnson for helping us out on Day 10 of the Spring Blitz!

Black-capped Petrel  35
Cory's Shearwater  52
Sooty Shearwater  4
Audubon's Shearwater  48
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  215-235
Leach's Storm-Petrel  2
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  6
Oceanodroma sp.  1
Bridled Tern 1 adult
Pomarine Jaeger  1

Royal Tern  1
Barn Swallow  1

Bottlenose Dolphin  17
Gervais' Beaked Whale  1

Black-capped Petrel, white faced individual (Bob Fogg)
 Black-capped Petrel, white faced & dark faced (two photos Tom Johnson)

Our Pomarine Jaeger (Bob Fogg)
 same individual (Tom Johnson)
Breaching Gervais' Beaked Whale (Tom Johnson)
 Bottlenose Dolphin (Tom Johnson)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thursday May 29, 2014

Little wind this morning but forecast to pick up during the day from the northeast.  We were looking forward to it and hoping that the Gulf Stream current would not be running too swiftly since the wind against the current can be a little hairy at times!  Luck was with us and we found nice conditions offshore with little current when the wind came on in the afternoon.  Birding was a bit slow to begin, but then just after 0900 Bob Fogg spotted an adult White-tailed Tropicbird that flew right in to the boat!  The bird stayed around us for long enough for many, many photos to be snapped - some of which you can see below.  It was an incredible view of a dynamic individual - and our first White-tailed of the season!  The birds on the list were all seen well with the exception of Leach's Storm-Petrel which flew quickly by each time one was seen.

Thanks to everyone who joined us out there today, especially Theresa Schwinghammer who has been with us since the 22nd and got the tropicbird!  Thank you also to our leaders: Todd McGrath, Bob Fogg, Dave Pereksta, and Tom Johnson;  participant Doug Koch provided some of the photos

Black-capped Petrel  70
Cory's Shearwater  20
Great Shearwater  1
Audubon's Shearwater  13-16
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  175-205
Leach's Storm-Petrel  2
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  15-17
Oceanodroma sp.  3
White-tailed Tropicbird  1
Red-necked Phalarope  4
Parasitic Jaeger  1

Common Tern  5

Black-capped Petrel (Doug Koch)
Cory's Shearwater (Tom Johnson)
 Cory's (Bob Fogg)
Audubon's Shearwater (Doug Koch)
 Audubon's (Bob Fogg)
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (Doug Koch) - an individual without molt
 Molting Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (Tom Johnson)
Excellent photo of a molting Band-rumped (Tom Johnson)
& some White-tailed Tropicbird photos...(Doug Koch - two images)
White-tailed Tropicbird (Tom Johnson - three images)
 & three more images by Bob Fogg!  You can see how spectacular our views were!!

Wednesday May 28, 2014

The wind was still blowing when we arrived at the dock this morning, and we headed offshore again trying to make it as far south as possible!  Tough feat today with the seas much larger since the wind had been blowing yesterday and then all night.  The star of the show today was the Black-capped Petrel.  Perhaps due to the new moon, or just the wind and weather, they were hungry!  On our first drift a dozen came arcing in to the boat at high rates of speed.  Over the day we saw almost a hundred individuals and were awestruck by their aerial displays!  We had good looks at Cory's & Audubon's Shearwaters plus Pomarine Jaeger & South Polar Skua.  By the end of the day, the winds were a bit calmer for the ride back to the dock.

Thanks to everyone who joined us today and to our leaders Todd McGrath, Bob Fogg, Dave Pereksta, and Tom Johnson.

Black-capped Petrel  95-96
Cory's Shearwater  12
Audubon's Shearwater  13
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  155-165
Leach's Storm-Petrel  3-4
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  21-22
South Polar Skua  1
Pomarine Jaeger  2

Common Tern  2

Loggerhead  1

Excellent Black-capped Petrel photos!  (1st five by Bob Fogg)
 Two more by Tom Johnson
Cory's Shearwater (Bob Fogg)
Acrobatic Audubon's Shearwaer (Tom Johnson)
Leach's Storm-Petrel with Wilson's in the slick (Tom Johnson)
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (Bob Fogg)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tuesday May 27, 2014 by Seabird McKeon

        "We are expecting it is gonna be rough"  Cpt. Brian Patteson said in the pre trip meeting, giving everyone fair warning and a chance to get off of the trip list.   Knowing that foul weather for humans doesn't slow down seabirds, no one moved, but I was careful to eat my banana on the dock alongside the Stormy Petrel II.  I wasn't going to risk anything like bad luck on a day like today.
Everyone endured the ride through heaving, choppy swell to deep water.  More than one fell ill with seasickness- completely understandable given the situation.  But everyone would walk away from the day thrilled with a very wet birding adventure.
        Within moments of Kate setting up the chumming station,  dark wings were seen powering a large, scary bird towards us.   Here was the South Polar Skua we had thought we found yesterday!  The bird was all but arrogant in the perfect looks it presented to everyone on the boat- large white flash on the upper wing, classic grayish overtones to the brown features.   It would be settled on the water for one moment, and then making a pass at the boat within arm's reach the next.  Several of the photographers smiled and said "it is too close to focus on."  The Skua stayed with us for most of the morning, and we were able to see how it interacted with other seabirds- most notably the Black-capped Petrels, which ganged up to try to chase off the pirate.   A group of three Black-caps would dive steeply and gain tremendous speed to pass within inches of the Skua in rapid succession and then do it again and again, cheered on by an admiring crowd of birders.
        The atmosphere was one of growing expectation, with the Skua, Black-capped Petrels, Shearwaters and Storm Petrels feeding all around the boat.  The area of ocean we had occupied was alive this morning with the serious winds allowing birds to move rapidly at will.   At the back of the boat Tom Johnson, one of the spotters calmly announced "a smaller dark bird…. everyone get on this one….  FEA'S!  FEA'S PETREL!   The Fea's passed by the Stormy Petrel, twisting and turning to reveal every field mark to it's audience.   High fives, hand shakes, pats on backs were all doled out onboard.
        The day had more in store, with fantastic looks at Band-rumped Storm-petrels, shearwaters, and a brief fly-by of a Bridled Tern.   When we made the turn to head back in, few even noticed the thousands pounds of water that were being thrown at them with every wave.  All had had an amazing time, and got to enjoy seeing wild birds in a  wild place.

Thanks to everyone who joined us today, especially the Terrills (Scott, Linda, & Ryan plus Matt Brady) who have been with us for three days!!  It was awesome to have some veteran seabirders with us who were experiencing a new corner of the sea.  And a big thank you to our leaders Todd McGrath, Bob Fogg, Dave Pereksta, Tom Johnson, & Sea McKeon (who also took care of the blog post today!  thanks!).

Fea's Petrel  1

Black-capped Petrel  42-47
Cory's Shearwater  19
Great Shearwater  1
Sooty Shearwater  5
Audubon's Shearwater  12-13
black & white shearwater  1
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  150-160
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  11-13
Oceanodroma sp.  1
Bridled Tern  1
South Polar Skua  1

Bottlenose Dolphin  seen

Loggerhead Turtle  1

Fea's Petrel (Tom Johnson)

Black-capped Petrels (photos by Tom Johnson)
Black-capped Petrel (Todd McGrath)
Sooty Shearwater (Todd McGrath)
Audubon's Shearwater (Todd McGrath)
 Molting Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (Todd McGrath)
Another molting individual (Tom Johnson)
South Polar Skua (Todd McGrath)
 South Polar Skua (two photos by Tom Johnson)