Monday, December 7, 2015

Saturday December 5, 2015 - Virginia

Participants started showing up at Dockside at 0530, excited by the opportunity to get offshore from Virginia in December and see what we could find out there.  The weather held off and while it was breezy on Friday, the wind fell out enough for us to head out at 0622 Saturday morning.  The sunrise was spectacular and was just the beginning of a very mild, sunny day offshore (photo by Kate Sutherland).
Just over an hour later we had a Parasitic Jaeger put on a nice show chasing a gull, nice start to the day!  While we were unable to entice many birds to follow us, we did see some Northern Gannets (photo below by Kate Sutherland) & gulls on the way out to deeper water.
The wind was blowing about 10-15 from the north making the ride to deeper water a little choppy, but we did see some nice flocks of Bonaparte's Gulls on the way out, a good sign!  We passed some very obliging Common Loons on the water and even saw a Great Blue Heron on the way out as well.  Brian had seen a nice temperature change offshore about 50 miles out, so we continued that way.  Around 1045, in a little over 120 feet of water, there was some activity ahead and the water looked a little different, it was warmer and we even found a few pieces of sargassum out there.  The first tubenose of the day was a Northern Fulmar, followed by a Great Shearwater (photo by Brian Patteson)!
We had excellent views of each of these species as they followed us feeding on chum with the gulls and gannets that comprised our flock.  Northern Fulmar with Herring Gulls (photo by Kate Sutherland)
It was after 1130 before we had our first good view of a Black-legged Kittiwake, but just a few hours later we had multiple individuals following the boat flying right up behind us!  At one point we had a young kittiwake (photo below by Brian Patteson)
sitting on the water with a Northern Fulmar!  Red Phalaropes were out there too, but we just had some individuals quickly fly by, none were cooperative enough to land on the water for approach.  As we headed back inshore, the wind breezed up, but it was much easier birding with the waves behind us and we approached several flocks of Bonaparte's Gulls for perusal (no Little Gulls were discovered!).  One such flock was over some feeding Little Tunnys and were calling as they constantly shifted position over their moveable feast.
These small gulls were definitely the dominant species offshore on Saturday with numbers nearing 12,000!  The water off of Virginia is still quite warm, in the high 50s, so it was not too surprising to not see good numbers of alcids on this trip, but we were lucky to have two Razorbills fly by close enough for everyone to get nice views!

Thank you so much to everyone who joined us for this first trip of five from Virginia Beach!  A big thank you also to Ned Brinkley & Todd Day who helped us lead this trip.  Next weekend is full, but we still have space on all of our January trips.

We saw Northern Gannets, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Laughing Gull, Bonaparte's Gull (several thousand), and Lesser Black-backed Gull (nearshore).  We also encountered Red-throated & Common Loons plus one Great Blue Heron.  -Kate Sutherland

Northern Fulmar  10
Great Shearwater  3
Red Phalarope  10
Black-legged Kittiwake  14
Parasitic Jaeger  1
Razorbill  2
alcid sp  1
sea turtle sp  1

 Northern Fulmar (all photos below by Kate Sutherland)
Northern Gannet
Herring Gull (first winter)

A few photos of Black-legged Kittiwakes, all young birds
As we neared Cape Henry, we were treated to a spectacular sunset!!

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