Friday, July 15, 2016

Friday July 15, 2016 by Kate Sutherland

Summer is here and the water offshore is hot!  The satellite image of the sea surface temperatures off of Cape Hatteras is all shades of orange & red...and a deeper red swath of water offshore.  So we were looking for the hotter hot water today!  It was nice to have a breeze accompanying us offshore to get the birds up and moving.  We did not see much on our way to the shelf edge this morning, just some Royal Terns and a handful of Cory's Shearwaters - but our first Black-capped Petrel was right over the break in 100 fathoms!  It was a day of hot water birds - Black-cappeds (top) and Band-rumpeds (bottom).
 Amazingly, the rare and endangered Black-capped Petrel was the most common bird of the day, outnumbering even the Wilson's Storm-Petrels!  And at one point glancing back in the slick, I counted more Band-rumpeds following than Wilson's!  A little after 1130 Brian called a bird flying down the starboard side...a shearwater?  No...wait!  A Brown Booby!!  Even though the bird was not extremely close and flew away from the boat, everyone was still able to see it as the small sulid rose above the horizon multiple times for people to get a fix on it.  Shearwaters were in short supply as there are currently no schools of tuna to hold them here, but we did encounter Cory's, Great, and Audubon's Shearwaters (pictured below) over the course of the day!
We had a couple of brief encounters with what looked to be Leach's Storm-Petrels, but these birds did not stick around for photos or close study!  It was nice to see some dolphins today with some Atlantic Spotteds coming in to bow ride on our way offshore this morning, followed by a really nice pod of offshore Bottlenose Dolphin who attended the boat for 15 or 20 minutes just after 0930!  Overall it was an awesome day out there with really incredible Black-capped Petrel & Band-rumped Storm-Petrel encounters - there is never a dull moment observing these two species.  Every year we are able to glean more information about the variation that exists through observation and photography.

Thank you to everyone who joined us today!  And thank you also to Nate Swick & Sage Church for helping us lead the trip!  While it was not the best day for photography, I did my best and have included a few images here for the report!  -Kate Sutherland

July 15, 2016 Trip List
Black-capped Petrel  41
Cory's Shearwater  8
Great Shearwater  3
Audubon's Shearwater  6
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  27-32
Leach's Storm-Petrel  2
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  13-17
Brown Booby  1

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin  5
Offshore Bottlenose Dolphin  40-50
Hammerhead Shark  1

While these are not the best photos, this is one of the first Black-cappeds we saw this morning - it is a fresh white-faced individual!  I just really enjoyed the crispness of the underwings and feathers, most of the Black-cappeds we saw today were in varying stages of molt.
This is one of the last Black-cappeds we saw today - this bird was in just over 300 feet of water feeding in the slick!  It is the same individual pictured above in the trip report - it is a nice dark faced bird!
A Wilson's Storm-Petrel - in short supply today!  But you can see the yellow webbing on its feet in this picture...
& one more Band-rumped Storm-Petrel image...

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