Sunday, January 28, 2018

Saturday January 27, 2018 - by Brian Patteson

It was great to finally get back out to sea after a month long hiatus. We did not have any trips scheduled during that period, and it while was a relief when we were iced in, I would liked to have been out last weekend. Anyhow, we did have a trip this weekend and it was an awesome day to be out. Southerly winds made for a mild day, but cold water on Diamond Shoals resulted in good numbers of interesting winter birds.
We left the marina at the crack of dawn. As soon as we got to Hatteras Inlet, there was a good sign of life. Hundreds of gannets crossed our bow, headed to a flock that was raining down on a shoal of fish.  A Humpback Whale was feeding just to the east.  The water temp was around 60 degrees.  Prior to this trip I had been seeing hundreds of Razorbills from shore at Cape Hatteras. The arrival of the Razorbills was not far behind an influx of colder water, with temperatures down to the mid 40s. I had also seen a few Manx Shearwaters there in recent days, so I figured it would make sense to start inshore and work out from the north side of Diamond Shoals.
Nearing the shoals we began to see a few Razorbills on the water, and by the time we reached the north side, we were seeing dozens of these auks (photo by Lucas Bobay).
Less than four miles off the beach, we began to see Manx Shearwaters, and within an hour we had seen at least 10 Manx. We also had quick looks at single Great and Sooty Shearwaters as we chummed our way to the east.  Less than six miles out we came upon a juvenile Atlantic Puffin and had great looks close to the boat (photo Lucas Bobay).
About seven miles out I spotted a first winter Black-legged Kittiwake ahead of the boat and a few minutes later a young kittiwake made a close pass to the stern (photo Kate Sutherland).
A few minutes later we saw our first Northern Fulmar.  These birds had been attracted by a large and noisy flock of birds feeding on our chum, so it was not too surprising that our next visitor would be the highly sought target bird for many of our passengers: Great Skua. The first skua appeared astern of the boat and soon disappeared, but it was not long before we had a closer encounter and some photo ops (photo by Brian Patteson).
This was one of our most cooperative skuas in a few years and it was just the beginning.  Over the next hour and a half, we had several encounters with at least three Great Skuas.  Out near Diamond Tower (12 miles off the Cape) we found warmer water at a strong temperature break.  The water near the tower was in the low 60s and it was teaming with Hammerhead Sharks. We also found a few Loggerhead Sea Turtles there there was a large school of Little Tunny (False Alabcore) feeding at the surface with their attendant Bonaparte’s Gulls (photo Kate Sutherland).
A flock of four puffins flew by headed eastward.  From here we made a slow tack back to the inlet, staying south of Diamond Shoals and a little far to sea than we had been in the morning. The water was warmer here- in the low 60s- and there were no Razorbills to be found. We picked out a few more fulmars, kittiwakes and puffins (mostly flying), and an adult Iceland Gull joined our feeding flock briefly (photo by Lucas Bobay).
Back at the inlet there were hundreds of Double-crested Cormorants and many gannets to remind us what a rich feeding area it can be during flood current.
I would like to thank everyone who made this trip possible: our enthusiastic
participants and also our leaders: Kate Sutherland, who is in charge of the deck and
the chum, and also our guest leaders, Ed Corey and Lucas Bobay. We still have space
on all of our upcoming winter trips next month. Go to for the
schedule and registration info.

Trip List January 27, 2018 (Target Species)
Northern Fulmar  9-11
Great Shearwater  1
Sooty Shearwater  1
Manx Shearwater  21
Northern Gannet  2000
Bonaparte's Gull  700
Iceland Gull  1 adult
Black-legged Kittiwake  5 immature
Great Skua  at least 3
Razorbill  175
Atlantic Puffin  15
Humpback Whale  1
Bottlenose Dolphin  25+
Loggerhead Turtle  3-4
Hammerhead shark  25+

A couple more photos of Great Skua by Lucas Bobay - what a day!!
One of the Manx Shearwaters by Kate Sutherland
One of our scrappy Northern Fulmars dropping in to feed with the gulls behind the boat!  (Kate Sutherland)
A couple images of the Northern Gannets behind the boat - diving (Kate Sutherland)
 & flying (Lucas Bobay)

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