Sunday, July 12, 2015

Saturday July 11, 2015 - Discovery Series

Saturday's weather was perfect for running the trip on the "little boat", our 31' BHM the F/V Skua!  There was enough southeasterly wind to get the birds moving and to keep us fairly cool on a hot, sunny day in the warm waters of the Gulf Stream.  We had a nice ride offshore to the shelf edge with some Atlantic Patchwings to keep us company, but not many birds.  Earlier in the week the fast moving Gulf Stream current was pushed close inshore...for today's trip it had moved back off a bit, giving us a better condition for seabirding.  We slowed along a sargassum line that a few boats were fishing to search for a Bridled Tern or some Audubon's Shearwaters, and while tropical terns did not show, the Audubon's certainly did!  We checked out a handful here and then moved on to the deeper waters at the edge of the Continental Shelf in search of our specialty bird, the Black-capped Petrel, and its' seasonal warm water companion, the Band-rumped Storm-Petrel.
Slowing down a little after 0830 we began to gather some Wilson's Storm-Petrels in the slick and had some closer looks at Cory's & Audubon's Shearwaters.  Black-capped Petrels (photo above by Brian Patteson) followed shortly after, and they came in quite well to the boat.  Most of the individuals seen were the dark-faced type, but we did have at least one white-faced bird visit over the course of the day.  Band-rumped Storm-Petrels began to appear in the slick around the same time, and for the rest of the day we had at least one following us most of the time!  (photo by Kate Sutherland)
I love how these birds behave and enjoy watching them in the slick with the Wilson's, I love it even more when we have a keen group of birders who enjoy it as much as I do! Time was invested watching the Band-rumpeds in the distance on the slick with binoculars and then switching to the naked eye (and camera) as they darted around the Wilson's close to the stern!

1200 found us near some birds feeding over Skipjack Tuna and we spent over an hour following this small flock around, watching in amazement as small tunas leaped out of the water and Audubon's Shearwaters caught Sargassum Midgets in midair!  Sargassum was everywhere and the flock we found consisted mostly of Audubon's Shearwaters! This was where we finally had close views of Great Shearwater (two pictured below with an Audubon's - Kate Sutherland) and the Cory's (both types), plus a Black-capped Petrel or two put in an appearance!
But the Audubon's were the stars of the show - they were calling and diving to feed on small fish pushed towards the surface by the tuna in addition to having their usual buffet in the sargassum (photo below by Kate Sutherland).
I imagine that there was just too little wind for some of the larger shearwaters to find and easily fly in to feed with this group.  It was overall an amazing and bird filled day! Thanks to Emmanuel, Jeff, Mike, & Wendy for joining us and making the trip possible!

Black-capped Petrel  22
Cory's Shearwater  89
Great Shearwater  7
Manx Shearwater  1
Audubon's Shearwater  54-59
small black & white shearwater  1
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  80-120
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  10
Oceanodroma sp  3

Cory's Shearwater taking off (KS)
A nice size comparison!  Audubon's Shearwater (L) & Cory's Shearwater behind some Skipjacks (KS)
Audubon's Shearwater - we saw some of the birds that fledged this year! (KS)
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (KS)
 A Band-rumped Storm-Petrel feeding in the slick - you can see this bird is growing p9 and that p10 is old (likely a Grant's, as were most individuals seen) (BP)
 Wilson's Storm-Petrel (L) and Band-rumped together in the slick (KS)
& a couple images of our best customers, the Wilson's Storm-Petrel (BP)

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