Sunday, May 20, 2018

Saturday May 19 - by Kate Sutherland

Strong southerly winds led up to our first trip of the spring and it was still blowing this morning when we left the dock!  While these winds made the ride a bit more exciting and gave us some spray, we were rewarded for our efforts - it was an awesome beginning to the spring season!  There were a few Sooty Shearwaters and a couple of Cory's that passed by on our way to the shelf break, but not much else.  Once we slowed down, we began to gather some Wilson's Storm-Petrels in our slick and a short drift around 10:00 brought incredible views of Black-capped Petrels and even a couple of Leach's Storm-Petrels! (photos by Brian Patteson & Kate Sutherland)
Not a bad start to the day...  As we picked up from the drift, Brian shouted "get on this bird - starboard side!" - a Trindade Petrel zipped by and flew away behind us as two Sooty Shearwaters joined the slick!  Needless to say, it was quite distant in a matter of seconds and did not come in to the chum.  As we were scanning for the Trindade Petrel, a pod of Cuvier's Beaked Whales popped up right beside us!  While these cetaceans used to be fairly common on our trips, we do not see them like we used to down here, so it was quite a treat to see them surfacing so close! (photo Kate Sutherland)
They must have just come up from a dive as they were surfacing often, this species holds the record for the deepest recorded dive of any mammal at about 10,000 feet, so they get down there, though where we saw them it was not nearly that deep!  Just after 1130 Brian noticed one of the participants taking photos of something over the boat...and it was a White-tailed Tropicbird!! (photo Kate Sutherland) 
This curious individual flew over and around the boat for at least 10 minutes giving us all ample opportunity to observe and photograph a species that is not typical on our early spring trips - we are more likely to find a Red-billed Tropicbird this time of year!  Southerly winds brought us the earliest record we have for the Stormy Petrel II and Brian remarked that it may have been the 90's when he last observed one this early (it was May 16, 1992)!  Not long after the tropicbird, we had a couple of Band-rumped Storm-Petrels briefly in the slick and a couple of Pomarine Jaegers joined us for an easy meal of chum!  We had another Trindade Petrel come in a little before 1230 and this one was more cooperative, giving most everyone aboard a nice pass before moving on! (photo by Kate Sutherland)
Excellent start to the spring, and the Blitz begins on Wednesday May 23, we will be out there daily until June 9th and still have some trips with space, so just let us know if you would like to join us!

Thank you to everyone who came offshore with us today, we certainly were lucky!  And thank you to Jeff Lemons for helping Brian and I to lead the trip today!

May 19, 2018
Trindade Petrel  2-3
Black-capped Petrel  35-40
Cory's Shearwater  5
Sooty Shearwater  14
Audubon's Shearwater  19
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  60-70
Leach's Storm-Petrel  4
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  2
White-tailed Tropicbird  1
Pomarine Jaeger  4
Least Tern  2
shorebird sp.  1
Cuvier's Beaked Whale  5-6
Pilot Whale (prob. Short-finned)  20
Bottlenose Dolphin  8

Trindade Petrel flying towards the boat courtesy of participant Brad Sale
Black-capped Petrel feeding on some fish from the chum block (Kate Sutherland), it is always cool to see those pink legs and bicolored feet!
A white faced Black-capped Petrel, we had a few of these today, you can see how little black is in the underwing!  (Kate Sutherland)
One more White-tailed Tropicbird image (Kate Sutherland), this bird was banded but I was unable to get any photos that showed the band well enough to read!  The closest nesting location is Bermuda.
One of the Pomarine Jaegers that followed us for a bit...(Kate Sutherland)
A few more images of the Cuvier's Beaked Whales!  The males have teeth at the tip of their beak that they use to fight with one another, leaving the scars you can see on the backs of these two individuals.  The older they are the more scarred they get, so you can see that one of these was very scarred, while another was just slightly so.  Nice sighting!  (Kate Sutherland)

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