It was good to be back offshore with a birding trip after a rainy and windy two weeks here at Cape Hatteras. Dr. Fred Alsop brought his Coastal Ecology Class to the Outer Banks for a field trip that has been a tradition for 35 years. We’ve been taking Fred’s group on pelagic trips since 1994 when I started organizing trips in Hatteras. We also had a handful of other birders along, including stalwart regulars and new participants.
The forecast called for a rainy day, but it turned out not to be the case, as the rain came much later than predicted, beginning soon after we returned to the dock. The morning was beautiful with light westerly winds and smooth seas. We left the dock at first light and enjoyed an easy ride to the Gulf Stream, which we found near the shelf break about 23 miles out. There was a distinct color change where the clear blue water met the rather murky inshore water. This is not always the case in October, but we’ve had so much rain and wind that I expect it will take a while for the shelf water to clear up. We did not find much bird activity near this color change, but we did have a quick look at a Leatherback Turtle which we startled as we arrived at the edge.
I figured there would be at least a few Black-capped Petrels out in the deeper water, so we eased out toward the slope waters right away. Approaching 200 fathoms we saw a distant Black-cap and we increased our chumming effort by melting a homemade chum block. Within minutes we had Black-caps close at hand and a Northern Fulmar also came in and gave us good looks (photo by Brian Patteson).
After a while, it seemed like most of the Black-capped Petrels were fading behind us, so we backtracked inshore. The wind also freshened and we soon had quite a following of Black-caps, with up to 20 in view.
I would like to thank all of our participants,-especially Fred for bring his class, and our leaders- Kate Sutherland, Jeff Lemons, and Kyle Kittelberger for making this a successful trip.
Common Loon 2
Northern Fulmar 1
Black-capped Petrel 50-70
Cory's Shearwater 16
Great Shearwater 2
Audubon's Shearwater 5
jaeger sp. 2-3
Great Blue Heron 1
Blue-winged Teal 13
American Pipit 1
Leatherback Turtle 1
Inshore Bottlenose Dolphin 30-40
marlin sp. 1
A few more images of the ever impressive Black-capped Petrel:
top photo by Brian Patteson
A Scopoli's Shearwater (nominate Cory's):
A photo of the Great Blue Heron, zoomed in!
& one more of the Sargassum Nudibrachs, such cool little creatures!