Sunday, September 3, 2017

Saturday September 2, 2017 - by Kate Sutherland

Friday night into Saturday morning there was a line of storms that moved east across the state, pushing offshore just around 4 in the morning yesterday.  The rain was light when our participants began to show up behind the boat in the morning, but many of them had travelled through this weather and then had restless nights with the thunderstorms, as did Brian & myself!  You just never know what you will get with the seabirds after an event like this, the birds could be pushed offshore by the storms, or when they are widespread, the birds are spending a lot of time moving around and are hungry, so more responsive to the food we offer them in the chum.  Luckily for us, the latter was the case for yesterday's trip!  We had an excellent showing of Black-capped Petrels
with about sixty individuals over the course of the day, and many of these birds came in to feed in the slick, dropping down to the water to show off their pink and black feet - something not everyone who comes offshore with us gets to see!
We also found a feeding flock offshore early in the the day that, when we relocated it, on the water it held almost twenty Black-cappeds with some shearwaters and Wilson's!  Shearwaters were in attendance with four species feeding behind the boat at one point, though this weekend the Cory's were the dominant species versus Great Shearwaters last weekend.  Again, the majority of the Cory's we had in the slick looked to be the nominate type, or Scopoli's Shearwaters, like we had a few weeks ago.
Great Shearwaters also followed, calling and feeding with the Cory's, and we had a few juvenile Audubon's Shearwaters who followed us for long periods as well.  Around 1230 one of our passengers yelled, "Kate!  What is this?  A Sooty Shearwater??!"
Sure enough, a Sooty Shearwater flew in to our feeding flock and made sure to get some food as well!  This bird stayed with us for awhile and must have been hanging around, because it showed up again when we stopped for a chum drift over an hour later!  Many of the birds were diving completely under the water to feed, including the Wilson's Storm-Petrels!  It was quite a show!  Meanwhile, above, we had a nice flight of Sooty Terns with groups of up to nine flying over at once.
Many of these birds were adult and juvenile pairs.  Bridled Terns were not as easy to come by, though we did turn up one young bird without its attendant parent that flew directly away from us, and another adult individual that flew over us and away down the slick.  Late summer is a good time to see jaegers and I was a little worried we might not cross paths with any in spite of the good shearwater numbers out there.  It wasn't until after 2 that  a Long-tailed Jaeger flew by the boat and into the slick!  As we circled back we saw there were two, a juvenile and a subadult bird.  After we crossed back onto the shelf, we had another group of shearwaters inshore and were treated to nice views of a Pomarine Jaeger, that looked to be a first summer individual!  This bird attacked an Audubon's Shearwater right next to the boat,
but the shearwater outsmarted it, diving underwater and swimming some distance away before surfacing.  A very narrow escape for the little Audubon's, they have to learn quickly out here!

This was our last scheduled trip for the summer and it was an excellent one with good looks at everything (except for the uncooperative Bridled Terns...) and a bonus species in the Sooty Shearwater!  Thank you to everyone who joined us, and thanks to Jeff Lemons for helping Brian and I lead the trip!  All photos today are by me, Kate Sutherland.

September 2, 2017 Trip List
Black-capped Petrel  57-60
Cory's Shearwater  104 *at least 20 or 25 of these were Scopoli's
Great Shearwater  23
Sooty Shearwater  1
Audubon's Shearwater  26
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  80-85
Sooty Tern  40-43
Bridled Tern  2
Onychoprion sp.  1
Pomarine Jaeger  1
Long-tailed Jaeger  2
jaeger sp.  1

Black Tern  2
shorebird sp.  3

Bottlenose Dolphin  17-22
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin  8-10

Black-capped Petrel flying behind an Audubon's Shearwater in the slick
Dorsal view of a Black-capped Petrel
Black-capped with the dramatic backdrop of a frontal line offshore!  These squalls can provide some nice wind for seabirds!  Black-cappeds especially take advantage of the breeze along these fronts.
Cory's Shearwater - this individual was one of the nominate types, or Scopoli's Shearwater
Great Shearwater
Audubon's Shearwater
Another view of the Sooty Tern showing the dark underprimaries in addition to the reduced white in the forehead.
A couple images of the Pomarine Jaeger, on the water with Cory's Shearwaters, and in flight.

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