Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August 15, 16 & 17, 2014 - Discovery Series

Finally we made it three days in a row on the "little boat" for a Discovery Series weekend!  The weather was calm Friday through Sunday and we had a full boat for two of the trips.  This summer has been a little off in terms of what we typically expect, the birds and fish are just not here in the numbers we usually see this time of year.  But the tropical terns are finally here, and we had excellent views of both Sooty and Bridled Terns on all three trips!  While we have yet to encounter a young Sooty Tern, this year's Bridled Terns were seen this weekend begging from their elders!
Black-capped Petrels were out there in low numbers, but without the wind to get them flying they did not come very close to the boat.  Cory's Shearwater was the most common bird of the weekend and we had excellent views of them,
especially on Saturday when we found a few feeding flocks out in the deep.  Great Shearwaters were hard to come by, but we turned up at least one individual each trip and they made nice passes!
The most Audubon's were seen on Friday's trip, but a few young birds investigated the slick and the boat each day, so they were seen well!  Wilson's Storm-Petrels were around, just not very hungry, and while the numbers of Band-rumpeds were low, we had at least one close pass on each trip.
Red-necked Phalaropes are beginning to show up again and we found a few on Friday & Saturday around grasslines.

The weather was typical and atypical for summer.  Typical in the slick calm waters we found over 30 miles offshore with scattered grass, and atypical in the cooler north winds we've been experiencing this summer.  Friday's trip actually had some light north breeze for most of the day!  Saturday was more typical since the wind had shifted to light south early that morning.  Sunday was forecast to be breezy, but there was just a moderate south west wind offshore.  Each day the Gulf Stream was a little different, but there was sargassum way offshore in the deep - usually good conditions for finding a tropicbird or two...though not this time!  We found Sunday's Fea's Petrel around 1230 on a nice edge with an organized grassline way offshore in the deep.  The bird passed a Cory's Shearwater and then continued flying languidly along the line.  We picked up speed and attempted to get closer to it, and though we pursued it at close to 20kts for awhile, it was effortlessly moving too fast for us to catch!

Calm seas are good for cetaceans and these trips were no exception!  Friday we found a Sperm Whale just after noon;  it was a bit far and dove before everyone had a good look at it.  Just moments later, one of our participants spotted another individual much closer to the boat.
Brian maneuvered us closer to the animal and it stayed on the surface for a time before coming closer to check us out, even spyhopping close by and then swimming under us and out of sight!  Saturday we had some sharp eyed brothers aboard who spotted a young Hawksbill Turtle in some sargassum!
This was the first Brian has ever seen, needless to say it was my first as well.  These gorgeously adorned sea turtles are typically found on reefs, but this individual was way offshore in the deep!  We stopped to spend some time taking photos and soon had schools of fish swimming around us and our chum - it was better than dipping sargassum for a quick lesson!  Later that day a Kogia was spotted on the surface.  For those who are not familiar with these animals, there are two species, Pygmy Sperm Whale & Dwarf Sperm Whale, either would be a possibility offshore here.  Notoriously difficult to see, they can be distinguished by the shape of their dorsal fin.  Each species will "log" on the surface and then sink without much provocation - this Pygmy Sperm Whale stayed on the surface for quite a time and then dove giving us enough time to get some identifying photos!

Thanks to everyone who made the trip to Hatteras to go offshore with us this long weekend!  We could not get out there without you and it seemed that everyone who joined us had a great time.  It helped to have nice weather and some cooperative birds in spite of the low numbers!  Trip lists are on our website here A short youtube video of the Hawksbill Turtle is here!  All photos by Brian Patteson & Kate Sutherland

Here you can see how calm it was!
One of our Audubon's in the slick
We found one Bridled Tern on Saturday perched on a well used cushion!
 Bridled Tern in flight - adult
An interesting looking Sooty Tern adult with a few feathers missing!
Micro Tropicbird...we saw Least Terns every day offshore!!
While we only caught one Wahoo over the three days, we did hook a few more fish!  Here is one of the Mahi that we hooked on Saturday.
Pygmy Sperm Whale (Kogia breviceps) diving
 Another view of the same Sperm Whale on Friday's trip
Two more images of the Hawksbill Turtle!

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff Kate, even if the bird numbers were lower than usual...and you scored a Fea's as well! The diversity (including the turtle and whales) more than made up for that, I'm sure.