Friday, July 8, 2016

Spring 2016 by Kate Sutherland - with yes, more photos!

Spring 2016 was unique, as most springs in the Gulf Stream are!  The only constant is the swift, ever changing current...some days close, other days farther offshore...but always out there influencing our weather, seas, and birds.  The proximity of the hot, clear, blue Gulf Stream waters varied from day to day and our weather was generally unsettled giving us some amazingly cool and comfortable days offshore.  On shore meanwhile, Hatteras Island experienced record rainfall thanks to the convergence of systems - and two tropical systems passed by this spring as well!  Weather was only caused us to cancel one trip, May 21, and while we had some rain and wind out there on other days, it was nothing to keep us ashore and we ran a total of 18 trips this spring!  Overall the numbers were a bit low as we never really had any good set up to the south to bring some of the birds moving by offshore to the west, thus sightings of species like Arctic Tern, Long-tailed Jaeger, and South Polar Skua (photo by Chris Gibbins) were sparse.
We made up for this with the gadflies!  Trindade Petrels and Fea's Petrels were as regular as they could be this spring with three trips in a row encountering Fea's (photo by Chris Gibbins)!!
It was nearly a tie with the numbers, but the Trindades pulled ahead on June 5 with 7 individuals, while Feas settled in at 6 for the Blitz.  Tropical Storm Bonnie perhaps deposited the rare treat of a noddy that we encountered briefly on the June 5 trip - while it was likely a Brown Noddy, better views were desired to clinch the id!  We had a subadult Masked Booby on the May 29th trip - a rare spring sighting of a bird that is more expected to appear in the summer months!    Our tropicbirds did not disappoint with one White-tailed (photo by Chris Gibbins) on May 31 and two Red-billed Tropicbirds.
The highlight, though, was a species we have not seen since 2014...European Storm-Petrel!  A photo taken on a trip from Florida on May 29 proved to be the first record of this species for the state, not to mention the first one that has been seen in the Western North Atlantic that was NOT on one of our trips!  This had us wondering where ours was for the year...but June 10 we had one appear in the slick just after we slowed down in the morning that stayed with us for almost four hours!  The best views we have ever had and the latest record (photo by Chloe Walker)!

Non avian species did not disappoint this spring either and we had incredible encounters with a pod of Clymene Dolphins on May 24th and close views of Gervais' Beaked Whales on the 26th!  Our May 28th trip was lucky enough to see a breaching Sperm Whales & Jeff Lemons even captured some photos of this breathtaking event!  An early pod of Pilot Whales showed interest in the humans aboard on the June 11th trip (photo by Laura Frazier) - this is a species that is more easily seen in the summer months off of Hatteras!
We were lucky to find a couple of Leatherbacks, one with an attendant Cobia offshore!  & also documented our first Kemp's Ridley Turtle for the Stormy Petrel II on May 22nd.

Below you will find a list of species with information about how many trips we saw them on, high & low counts, and following...more photos from our participants (& one leader - Chloe!) this spring!  Thank you so much to everyone who joined us, making it possible to get offshore, and also to our leaders from this spring - we always appreciate all of their help!!  This year our leaders were: Peter Flood, Lev Frid, Seabird McKeon, Chloe Walker, Doug Gochfeld, Jeff Lemons, & Nate Swick.  Peter Flood's spring album (we posted many of his photos on the daily blog reports May 20-30) can be found here & more of Chloe Walker's photos can be found here !  Photos are by Christopher Gibbins of Scotland who was with us for four trips this spring, Jeff Lewis of Manteo NC who joined us on June 11, and Laura Frazier of Kearneysville WV who joined us on June 11th as well!

Fea's Petrel  6 individuals seen on 5 trips
Trindade Petrel  7 individuals seen on 4 trips
Black-capped Petrel  they were seen on every trip this spring (18) with a high of 58 on May 27 and a low count of 3 on June 3 - an estimated 395 individuals were encountered
Cory's Shearwater  also seen on every trip this spring (18) with a high of 300 on June 2 and a low count of 5 on May 20 - an estimated 1256 individuals were encountered *we did find a few of the nominate Cory's, or Scopoli's, Shearwaters this spring as well!
Great Shearwater  seen on 13 of 18 trips with a high count of 40 on June 11 - an estimated 99 individuals were encountered, they began to show up towards the end of May as is typically the case with this species
Sooty Shearwater  seen on 7 of 18 trips - 20 individuals were encountered; not as many as we sometimes see in the spring
Manx Shearwater  seen on 5 of 18 trips - 8 individuals
Audubon's Shearwater  they were seen on every trip this spring (18) with a high of 56 on June 11 and a low count of 1 on May 23 & 24 each - and estimated 353 individuals were encountered
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  they were seen on every trip this spring (18) with a high of 260 on May 29 and a low count of 50 on June 3 - an estimated 2209 individuals were encountered
European Storm-Petrel  1 seen well on June 10
Leach's Storm-Petrel  seen on 9 of 18 trips - an estimated 44 individuals were encountered
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel   seen on 14 of 18 trips - an estimated 51 individuals were encountered; as usual, these birds started showing up in the mid 20s of May
White-tailed Tropicbird  1 seen on May 31
Red-billed Tropicbird  seen on 2 of 18 trips - May 24 & June 3
Masked Booby  1 seen on May 29
Northern Gannet  seen on 2 of 18 trips - we sometimes see younger birds in early May, these were on our first two trips
Red-necked Phalarope  seen on 4 of 18 trips - 41 individuals were encountered; these birds were around in early May
noddy sp  1 seen on June 5, likely a Brown Noddy
Bridled Tern  seen on 5 of 18 trips - 11 individuals encountered
Black Tern  seen on 3 of 18 trips - 4 individuals encountered
Common Tern  seen on 9 of 18 trips - 19 individuals encountered
Arctic Tern  seen on 3 of 18 trips - 3 individuals encountered, on the first three trips in May
South Polar Skua  seen on 4 of 18 trips - 5 individuals encountered
Pomarine Jaeger  seen on 13 of 18 trips - 58 individuals encountered
Parasitic Jaeger  seen on 4 of 18 trips - 5 individuals encountered
Long-tailed Jaeger  seen on 2 of 18 trips - 2 individuals encountered

Sperm Whale  1 seen on May 28
Gervais' Beaked Whale  seen on 2 of 18 trips - at least 10 individuals encountered
Pilot Whale (likely short-finned) a pod of 14 encountered on June 11
Clymene Dolphin  a pod of about 25 encountered on May 24
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin  seen on 5 of 18 trips - an estimated 30 individuals were encountered
Bottlenose Dolphin  seen on 8 of 18 trips

Loggerhead Turtle  seen on 2 of 18 trips - 2 individuals encountered
Kemp's Ridley Turtle  1 young individual seen on May 22
Leatherback Turtle  seen on 2 of 18 trips - 2 individuals encountered

Fea's Petrel flying over South Polar Skua (Chris Gibbins)
& some Black-capped Petrels!  (Jeff Lewis)
 A couple by Laura Frazier
We had some really checking us out!  (Chloe Walker)
 & a Black-capped doing its best Great Shearwater impression...close in the stern! (Chloe Walker)
A nominate type Cory's - aka Scopoli's Shearwater (Chris Gibbins)
 A more Atlantic looking Cory's (Jeff Lewis)
Great Shearwater showing the nicely mottled underwings and dark belly patch (Chris Gibbins)
 Great Shearwater eating a tasty piece of fish we had at the buffet that day...  (Laura Frazier)
 Our flock of Great Shearwaters in the slick!  (Laura Frazier)
 Great Shearwater (Jeff Lewis)
A nice shot showing the yellow webbing on the Wilson's Storm-Petrels!  Not an easy capture when they are in flight (& not pattering!!)!  (Chloe Walker)
 A fresh Wilson's with a piece of shark liver (Chris Gibbins)
 & a molting Wilson's (Chris Gibbins)
 Feeding Wilson's and you can just see the yellow on this one's feet (Laura Frazier)
A couple of Leach's images (Chloe Walker) - the diagnostic rump patch and buffy carpal bars are easily seen on this one!
 & here, the forked tail!  (Chloe Walker)
A molting Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (Chloe Walker)
Red-necked Phalarope looking quite colorful (Chloe Walker)
One of the few Bridled Terns we saw this spring (Chloe Walker)
 South Polar Skua (Chris Gibbins)
Pomarine Jaeger - we had some excellent views of these birds this spring!! (Chris Gibbins)
 An individual with longer tail feathers (Chris Gibbins)
A dark Pom - Black-capped Petrels really gave these birds a hard time this year!  It was usually the South Polar Skuas, but the dark jaegers also elicited the harassment response!  (Chris Gibbins)
Some Bottlenose Dolphins (Laura Frazier)
Hatteras Village being left behind in the morning sun on June 11 (Laura Frazier)
 & one of our gorgeous sunrises this spring!!  (Laura Frazier)

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