Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Sunday September 6, 2015

We had scheduled a couple of trips on the F/V Skua for this past weekend, but in keeping with weather patterns of late, we had northeast winds predicted for both Saturday & Sunday.  Saturday morning the weather buoy at Diamond Shoals showed the wind blowing strongly and steadily from the northeast with very steep waves, a bit too much for the biggest little boat in the harbor!  Brian met our participants at the dock to fill them in and let them know that Sunday would hopefully go, as it was forecast to be a bit calmer.  Luckily it was, and I headed out with Capt. Will Whitley and a full boat at 0617 on the 6th.  Brian had a conflict with a fishing trip scheduled on the Stormy Petrel II, so he did not join us.  It was strange to see her behind us in the morning as the sun rose (she's on the left)!
The ocean was much calmer than anticipated, though we knew it was windier offshore, and that in the Gulf Stream current the wind would make our ride a little wilder!  Just after 0830 we slowed down for a group of Red-necked Phalaropes concentrated by a nice line of sargassum
and also saw some Audubon's & Cory's Shearwaters there.  Will spotted a current edge up ahead and when we reached it, the temperature went up 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit, with the Gulf Stream moving at about 1.2 knots on the far side.  I knew we were in a good place when we saw a jaeger ahead chasing some Bridled Terns - a Long-tailed I thought just from watching its behavior and taking note of its size and shape.  The photos I snapped were not the best, but it was identifiable as a juvenile individual.
This was a nice place to spend some time, so before we headed offshore to deeper water, we cruised along the sargassum and found some more Bridled Terns, adults with their attendant young.  There were two perched on a piece of flotsam, the adult paying little attention to its very vocal companion!
Wilson's Storm-Petrels were slow to gather in the slick when we put out our oil slick around 100 fathoms.  Their numbers begin to thin out in late August and September, so I was glad to see as many as we did!  And while Band-rumpeds are not unheard of in September, careful examination and scanning did not reveal any on Sunday.  Our first close shearwater was a Sooty that ignored our chum and continued by to the southeast, but, as if to make up for it, we had two very cooperative Great Shearwaters come right in to the stern where they spent time feeding and diving!  Out over the edge of the shelf we finally picked up our first Black-capped Petrel just before 1130 and we had excellent views of this amazing seabird in the slick for most of the afternoon.  
Audubon's Shearwaters were by far the most abundant shearwater of the day and we were able to approach them on the water, and they us in flight.  We had a young Herring Gull that came in shortly after 1100 staying with us in the slick for the rest of the day, and even following for awhile after we picked up for the run back to the inlet!  Two second summer Pomarine Jaegers visited the slick, one just after 1130 and the other closer to 1400, a nice treat after the quick glimpse of the first jaeger in the morning!
Overall it was an awesome day out there, in spite of, or perhaps because of, the wind and the Gulf Stream current!  Thanks to everyone who joined us offshore, and a big thank you also to Capt. Will Whitley for doing an excellent job piloting the boat all day!  - Kate Sutherland

Trip List
Black-capped Petrel  13-16
Cory's Shearwater  26
Great Shearwater  9
Sooty Shearwater  1
Audubon's Shearwater  59
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  40-50
Red-necked Phalarope  28
Bridled Tern  10
Black Tern  40
Pomarine Jaeger  2
Long-tailed Jaeger  1

Herring Gull  1
Sandwich Tern  1

Flyingfish seen: Atlantic Patchwing, Atlantic Necromancer, Oddspot Midget, Sargassum Midget, & possibly some Purple Bandwings

Cory's Shearwater (all photos today by Kate Sutherland!)
Great Shearwater
 Wilson's Storm-Petrel
One of the young Bridled Terns seen in the morning
& another take on one of the youngsters

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