Monday, May 30, 2016

Monday May 30, 2016 by Kate Sutherland

This morning there was some rain, but no thunderstorms and not much wind we headed out there!  The only boat in the fleet that headed offshore from Hatteras today.  Hatteras Inlet was much nicer than expected and the ocean was not quite as steep as yesterday, nearshore anyhow...  Cory's Shearwaters are still inshore and quite a few flew by as we headed toward the shelf break.  Over the past few days, we have seen more of them in transit than in the slope waters.  Slowing just after our first Black-capped Petrel, we put out the chum and headed for deeper water.  Wilson's were slow to get the message about the free food available at the Stormy Petrel II but we did finally recruit a small group in the slick (photo Peter Flood).
Leach's Storm-Petrels also turned out to be quite attentive (photo by Peter Flood),
while our Band-rumped Storm-Petrels only made a few close passes over the course of the day.  A Great Shearwater joined us in the slick almost immediately after our first Black-cappeds, it's nice to see them starting to show up!  The highlight of the morning was a dark Trindade Petrel that shot by at a high rate of speed in the wind (photo by Peter Flood),
followed by another small gadfly petrel that at the time was thought to be a distant Fea's Petrel.  It has been identified (by photos) as a light Trindade Petrel - still not close!  Thank goodness a Fea's Petrel gave us another chance at about 20 minutes to 1pm and made an excellent, close, pass by the boat (photo by Peter Flood), and just behind the skua (photo by Doug Gochfeld)!
South Polar Skua flew in to the boat a little after noontime and, after showing off to everyone on the deck, proceeded to follow us for the rest of the day (photo by Doug Gochfeld)!
We had an awesome adventure out there in spite of (or perhaps because of...!) the rain & wind (photo by Doug Gochfeld).
Thanks to everyone who joined us offshore today and a big thank you to our leaders, Sea McKeon, Peter Flood, Doug Gochfeld, & Chloe Walker!

Trip List May 30, 2016
Trindade Petrel  2
Fea's Petrel  1
Black-capped Petrel  22
Cory's Shearwater  58
Great Shearwater  4
Audubon's Shearwater  9
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  75-85
Leach's Storm-Petrel  5
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  3
South Polar Skua  1
Pomarine Jaeger  3
jaeger sp.  3
Common Tern  2

A couple of Black-capped Petrel shots by Peter Flood
Some photos of Black-capped Petrel & South Polar Skua - yes, they were buzzing them again! (Doug Gochfeld)
 Audubon's Shearwaters were really getting up there today! (Peter Flood)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sunday May 29, 2016: Southeaster Brings New Species, by Brian Patteson

One of the reasons Hatteras is such a good place for pelagic birding is that it is generally rougher than most of the coast to the north and south. The Gulf Stream comes quite close here and the warm water is a weather maker. This morning when we left the dock there was hardly any wind, but it didn’t take long to find some a few miles off the beach. There was not nearly as much rain as I thought we might see, but the scattered rain squalls produced wind and choppy seas. The last ten miles or so out to the shelf break was slow going, but when we arrived at the blue water, it was a reasonable condition. The morning started out slowly, but we had some great looks at Leach’s  Storm-Petrels quite close to the boat (photo by Peter Flood). 
Black-capped Petrels made some nice passes too (photo by Doug Gochfeld),
and we picked up a few Pomarine Jaegers as we went along (photo by Peter Flood).
Band-rumped Storm-Petrels were tough today, but I think most people who put the time in out on deck got to see them. We made it about 34 miles out before I started our inbound tack. Sometimes this can be the most productive part of the day- especially if there was not much of a morning flight. Today the inshore tack was excellent, and we amassed a nice following of Black-caps, Cory’s Shearwaters, storm-petrels and Pomarine Jaegers. Around 1220 a Fea’s Petrel joined this entourage for a few minutes, and gave us excellent looks and photo ops (photo by Doug Gochfeld).
The Fea’s was soon followed by another red letter bird. A Masked Booby appeared suddenly as if it dropped from the sky and it too stayed around the boat for a few minutes (photo by Peter Flood).
This was our first for the year, and the first time we have seen a Masked Booby in spring for a few years. Soon after the booby came sailing in, another new seabird joined our flock. South Polar Skua was also a new species for this year, and the skua followed us for miles (photo by Peter Flood).
Before we made it back to the shelf break we also picked Great and Manx Shearwaters. We looked hard for a Sooty Shearwater on the ride back in but drew a blank. There was, however, a nice flight of Cory’s Shearwaters in close to shore. It looks like southerly winds are in store for tomorrow, so the inshore flight may pick up and there should be some good action out in the deep.

Trip List for May 29, 2016
Fea's Petrel  1
Black-capped Petrel  29-30
Cory's Shearwater  42
Great Shearwater  3
Manx Shearwater  3
Audubon's Shearwater  38
small shearwater sp.  8
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  260
Leach's Storm-Petrel  10-12
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  3
Oceanodroma sp.  2
Masked Booby  1
South Polar Skua  1
Pomarine Jaeger  13
jaeger sp.  1

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin  2

& a few more photos by Peter & Doug!
The Fea's Petrel - dorsal view by Doug Gochfeld
 Doug Gochfeld
 Peter Flood
Black-capped Petrel  (Peter Flood)
We had a nominate Cory's, or Scopoli's Shearwater, follow us in the slick for awhile late in the afternoon!  Note the small bill & petite shape of this individual (Doug Gochfeld)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel (Peter Flood)
Masked Booby (Peter Flood)
One of the dark morph Pomarine Jaegers we saw today (Peter Flood)
Our Black-capped Petrels were harassing the jaegers again today!  They did not leave the South Polar Skua alone either, though the photo below is of a Pom & a Black-cap (Doug Gochfeld)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Saturday May 28, 2016 by Seabird McKeon

Any time we go offshore, it is an adventure.  Part of the draw of going out on the Stormy Petrel II is that we never know what we are going to see from one day to the next.  Today we headed out into blustery conditions blowing off of the open ocean.  We were ready for anything.
The day got off to a good start with a Parasitic Jaeger blazing past the boat, soon followed by a trickle of Wilson’s Storm-petrels and Cory’s shearwaters that would increase throughout our trip and become abundant.   From the wheelhouse, Brian spotted a piece of floating debris and instinctively slowed the boat.  “Bridled Tern!” came the shout over the loudspeaker as the tern lifted gracefully from its perch and into the air (photo by Peter Flood). 
We stayed with it for a few minutes before moving out even further into the deep blue waters of the Gulf Stream.
Reaching the shelf break, our attending storm-petrels were joined by the stars of the Gulf-stream drama; Black-capped Petrels and Audubon’s shearwaters.  The Black-caps wheeled and banked effortlessly, as the Audubon’s hurried by frenetically.  One Audubon’s seemed to have a different style and moved closer and closer to the boat in a rather relaxed manner, prompting Kate to carefully note it was different as the bird shifted from head-on to a high banked turn, she was able to see the white undertail, and identified it as a Manx shearwater (photo by Peter Flood)! 
Our fourth shearwater species was a Sooty shearwater that sat on the water for us, allowing good looks and photos.
By this time, the storm-petrel flock in the slick was sizable, and was promting an enjoyable photo frenzy from our friends visiting from Scotland.  As larger Band-rumped and Leach’s Storm-Petrels appeared to our excitement, the Scots happily kept clicking away in search of the perfect shot of Wilson’s Storm-Petrel (photo by Peter Flood). 

As we motored along, those standing on the bow got looks at a Gervais Beaked Whale through the chop, and while we were searching for it a Sperm Whale appeared.  We paralleled the distinctive blows along the shelf edge until we were all taken by surprise by a full breach (photo by Jeff Lemons)! 

Almost no-one onboard had seen Sperm Whales in flight previously, and all were delighted.  After several more breaches, we started heading inshore accompanied by a photogenic Pomarine Jaeger.

After enjoying the birds of the Gulf Stream and our surprise encounter with a Sperm Whale in confused seas, the ride in was relaxing.  Two Atlantic Spotted Dolphins briefly joined us on the bow, reminding everyone of the endless possibilities of adventuring on the Atlantic during Spring Blitz.

Trip List for May 28, 2016
Black-capped Petrel  16
Cory's Shearwater  39
Sooty Shearwater  1
Manx Shearwater  1
Audubon's Shearwater  9-11
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  180-200
Leach's Storm-Petrel  4
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  3
storm-petrel species  1
Bridled Tern  2
Pomarine Jaeger  1
Parasitic Jaeger  1

Sperm Whale  1
Gervais Beaked Whale  2
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin  2
Loggerhead Turtle  1
turtle species  1
Man of War  1

An intermediate looking Black-capped Petrel (Peter Flood)
Cory's Shearwaters were quite attentive in the slick today!  (Peter Flood)
The Wilson's Storm-Petrels were also attentive and really gathered well for the photographers aboard when we gave them some of their favorite fish oil!  (Lev Frid)
A shot of one of the Leach's that visited the slick today - a couple of others were spotted flying by outside of the slick.  (Peter Flood)
& the Sperm Whale diving!  They do not have a dorsal fin like you see on many other species of whale, but the hump you see here instead. (Lev Frid)
We passed a gorgeous Portuguese Man of War this morning & Lev Frid was able to capture this photo!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday May 27, 2016 by Kate Sutherland

As the sun rose this morning we were heading to Hatteras Inlet, eager to see what we might encounter today!  Winds were light from the south as we headed offshore and the satellite image suggested that we might find the nice blue Gulf Stream water today! The first temperature break held some ugly looking water and the smallest bit of we continued offshore the temperature gradually rose and we finally found some nicer water heralded by flyingfish (photo by Kate Sutherland) and Audubon's Shearwaters!
We spent a few minutes here and were rewarded with awesome views and photo ops of these petite black & white shearwaters feeding and scampering around on the slick calm water (photo by Peter Flood).
Gulf Stream current was a bit different today than yesterday, running more or less about 4 knots when we got out into the deep, but we found it!  Today the Gulf Stream belonged to the Black-capped Petrels, as it should!  Numbers far surpassed any of our previous trips this spring and the views were just breathtaking...some came into the slick while others were just efficiently cruising by in the wind that came up midday from the northeast (photo by Peter Flood).
Cory's Shearwaters were cooperative, though we did not encounter any Scopoli's today, we did have a glimpse of a Great Shearwater right after slowing down, and a hungry Sooty Shearwater followed us, diving in the slick for quite some time midday!  Wilson's Storm-Petrels packed in behind us (photo by Peter Flood)
and the Band-rumped Storm-Petrel show from yesterday continued with close passes by the stern!  Pomarine Jaegers came in well to the boat, but the dark morph we had visit in the afternoon was particularly stunning (photo by Lev Frid)!
One of our Black-capped Petrels did not agree and buzzed the jaeger in short order, there was a collective gasp from those watching in the stern (photo by Peter Flood)!
This behavior is known to occur with our scrappy gadflies and skuas, but it is not as regular with the Poms.  A Long-tailed Jaeger came purposefully flying towards the slick in the 1 o'clock period, pursuing a bird we could not see, and made a nice pass before moving on!  It was a gorgeous adult, or near adult, individual and our first for the spring!  Perhaps the east winds predicted for the next few days will bring birds like the Long-tailed in a bit so we can encounter more of these northbound species transiting to our east!  While our travels to the deep and back today did not turn up any rarities in the cetacean world, we did find some Bottlenose Dolphins and were treated to some bow riding Spotted Dolphins on the way in!  A big thank you to everyone who joined us today and to those who have been with us over the past week as well - we would not be out there without you!  Thank you also to our leaders, Peter Flood & Lev Frid - who have been plugging away with us since the beginning - Sea McKeon, and Jeff Lemons.  The weather looks interesting for the next few days, so hopefully it is conspiring to bring us some of the best seabirding yet this spring (and it's already been really good...)!

Trip List for May 27, 2016
Black-capped Petrel  58
Cory's Shearwater  17-20
Great Shearwater  1
Sooty Shearwater  2
Audubon's Shearwater  22
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  115-120
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  4
Oceanodroma sp.  1
Pomarine Jaeger  4
Long-tailed Jaeger  1

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin  8
Bottlenose Dolphin  30
Man of War  1

Just after the Black-capped Petrel passed the dark morph Pomarine Jaeger (Peter Flood)
 Cory's Shearwater (Peter Flood)
 One of the Sooties (Peter Flood)
Audubon's Shearwater in the morning light (Lev Frid)
We were able to get the Wilson's Storm-Petrels to feed nicely today! (Peter Flood)
All of the Band-rumped Storm-Petrels we got photos of today were molting (Peter Flood)
Brad Murphy, one of our participants, took this photo of a bow riding Atlantic Spotted Dolphin!  Pretty awesome perspective!  You can see how different the cooler, inshore water looks from the blue Gulf Stream waters!