Monday, June 15, 2015

June 12 & 13, 2015

Weather this spring has been quite variable and unexpected, bringing in a nice diversity of birds for the Spring Blitz and following trips.  The forecast for Friday & Saturday included wind, lots of it on Saturday, from the west south west.  Usually these winds are excellent for Black-capped Petrels so we were anticipating some amazing encounters with our "signature species" on these trips.  Most of our participants were unfamiliar with the species offshore here, so while the sought after rarities (many times people forget that Black-cappeds are rare themselves!) were no shows, the expected species turned out well with a few surprises!  And the sunrises were spectacular!

Friday morning the first arrivals at the boat were five unpaid passengers.  They would not be returning to the dock since we planned to throw them overboard, and they were less than a year old!!  The Lohmanns, professors at UNC Chapel Hill, brought satellite tagged Loggerhead Turtles to release in the Gulf Stream!  Monster & Mushu were two turtles we released for them last year, but no one from the lab was able to accompany them on their journey offshore so we released them, taking data about the release to send to the lab.  This was the first time the Lohmanns (seen here photographing & releasing one of the turtles)
had ever encountered the Gulf Stream, and they were fascinated to see where their turtles, raised in captivity, would spend the next phase of their lives.  These small turtles will be reporting their location via the transmitters affixed to their shells for up to about 150 days each time they surface!  The Lohmanns promise to share their findings when they have them, we promise to keep you posted on the Lohmann Turtle Project, you can also check out their website here!  Click here to see a short video of Monster's release last summer.

Moonlight was scarce out there this past weekend, so we had a pretty good idea that the Black-capped Petrels would respond well to the chum.  They did not disappoint!  Here is a Black-capped by Brian Patteson getting ready to drop down to the water to feed on some shark liver:
And here you can see a fresh (possible juvenile) white-faced type Black-capped Petrel (center) feeding in the slick with Wilson's Storm-Petrels, Cory's (right), and Great (left) Shearwaters (photo by Kate Sutherland).
Friday we were thrilled to see a few Leach's Storm-Petrels!  They came in close to feed in the chum, as did Band-rumped Storm-Petrels, which were seen very well each day, though numbers were not what we had last weekend.  Pictured here is one of the typical "Grant's" type birds in primary molt (photo by Kate Sutherland).  This time of year while it's obvious that the molting birds we see are likely the "Grant's" type, fresh individuals of this type are also possible.
Cory's Shearwaters were seen well each day and we had a Scopoli's Shearwater stay with us in the slick on Friday for an extended period of time!  Great Shearwaters were also obliging, diving and eating right behind the boat.  Cory's pictured here in the front with a Great behind (photo by Kate Sutherland).
Our bonus species were a Pomarine Jaeger on Saturday that flew up the slick, and a South Polar Skua (a juvenile, upon inspection!) that I spotted about a mile ahead of the boat on a grassline beating up on some shearwaters.  Brian chased the skua and we found it right were he predicted, sitting on the water!  (photo by Jeff Lemons)
Overall it was an awesome, breezy two days offshore!  We would like to thank everyone who joined us and especially thank Jeff Lemons & Nate Swick for helping to lead the trip.  Thanks to Jeff for also contributing photos.

Trip Lists (June 12, 13):
Black-capped Petrel  13-14, 25
Cory's Shearwater  53, 11
Great Shearwater  14, 5-6
Audubon's Shearwater  27, 13
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  95, 140
Leach's Storm-Petrel  3-4, 0
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  7-8, 5-7
Pomarine Jaeger  0, 1
South Polar Skua  0, 1
Spotted Dolphin  3, 0

Black-capped Petrel (Brian Patteson)
 White-faced Black-capped Petrel (Kate Sutherland)
 Molting & fresh individuals (Kate Sutherland)
 Black-capped (Jeff Lemons)
Cory's Shearwater (Jeff Lemons)
 Cory's Shearwaters (Kate Sutherland)
Great Shearwater & Wilson's Storm-Petrel (Jeff Lemons)
Fresh Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (Kate Sutherland)  
 Molting Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (Kate Sutherland)
Pomarine Jaeger from Saturday on the water in the slick (Kate Sutherland)
 & in flight (Jeff Lemons)

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