Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Tuesday June 5, 2018 - by Steve NG Howell

Every day is the same, in that it is different from every other day, and the ocean is an ideal place to appreciate this paradoxical fact. Today the wind had switched back to a moderate southwest, making for a bumpy commute out into the deep blue wilderness. Variable clouds and mostly sunny conditions predominated, but the breeze kept it fresh, and our moving slowly along and chumming made for another great day in the Gulf Stream. With patience we enjoyed good views of all species, although at first the birds were high and fairly distant, towering over the white-capped seas, here Black-capped Petrel and Scopoli’s Shearwater.
            Some Band-rumped Storm-Petrels appeared rather early on, including a fresh-plumaged Madeiran type along with the more numerous molting Grant’s types, and these were seen well among the swelling patronage of Wilson’s Storm-Petrels that attended our chum buffet throughout the day. Black-capped Petrels (both white-faced and black-faced types) made numerous close passes in good light, but they rode the wind swiftly and could be challenging to photograph.
Small numbers of Great, Cory’s, Scopoli’s (see yesterday’s blog), and Audubon’s Shearwaters also showed throughout the morning, and by midday we had experienced good views of all the regular Gulf Stream bird species. A single, fresh-plumaged juvenile Sooty Shearwater also made a close pass in the afternoon. Adding to avian delights, various flyingfish entertained throughout our time in the deep blue water, but then dropped off as we crossed back into the green inshore waters.

            Speaking of which, the southwest breeze helped create a stunningly strong break between the offshore blue ‘desert’ waters and the cooler, greener, inshore waters—and unusually far offshore for this time of year, about 26 miles from Hatteras Inlet. The divide was accentuated by a ‘yellow brick road’ of golden Sargassum (or gulfweed), and this oceanic phenomenon was a highlight of the afternoon.
The green water was also less choppy than the blue, given the prevailing currents and winds, making for a fairly rapid transit back to the dock in good time to rest, recuperate, eat, and get ready to do it again tomorrow. Today was consecutive Day 14 of birding trips for Brian and Kate; only 4 more to go to complete the spring blitz.

(Thanks to everyone who joined us offshore & to Steve Howell & Nate Dias for helping us lead the trip today!  Steve gets a big thank you for taking care of the blog for me again today so I could get some sleep as well! -Kate)

Species List for June 5, 2018
Black-capped Petrel  22
Cory's Shearwater  30 / Scopoli's Shearwater  3
Great Shearwater  14
Sooty Shearwater  1
Audubon's Shearwater  28
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  62-82
Leach's Storm-Petrel  2-3
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  7-10
Arctic Tern / Common Tern  1

The main customer at Kate’s chum buffet, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel, a migrant all the way from Antarctica!
A Madeiran-type Band-rumped Storm-Petrel—note the different structure from Wilson’s, such as short legs.
Another close Black-capped Petrel
Another Scopoli’s (aka Mediterranean Cory’s) Shearwater.
One of the fresh juvenile Great Shearwaters.
A Gulf Patchwing powering away with its tail, a strong rudder.

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