Sunday, August 26, 2018

August 24 & 25, 2018 - by Kate Sutherland

A wind shift mid-week set us up for the best trips of the summer, just in time for the last trips of the summer!  If you have been keeping up with the blog posts, then you know we have had weeks upon weeks of southwest winds and ugly water here off of Hatteras.  The species we expect to see here in the summer have not been around in the numbers we typically encounter.  But as winds shifted around to the north last week, we watched the forecast and waited...and Brian and I were ready to see what we could find out there in the two days we had to do it!  Winds were stiff from the north north east on Friday, then falling out a bit with more of an easterly component on Saturday with little to no current and some gorgeous, blue water.  Who knows what we could have found out there Sunday, but unfortunately there was not enough interest to run that trip.  Mornings were very productive both days with a dark Trindade Petrel right off the bat on Friday, zipping in to check out the slick at a high rate of speed just before 0900!  On Saturday yelling out on deck immediately slowed our offshore progression and a second summer Masked Booby flew right up the wake and by the port side, while we were still on the shelf (photo by Kate Sutherland)!
Not even thirty minutes later there was more shouting, this time a young Red-billed Tropicbird (first summer) was with us!  That sighting coincided with our arrival at the shelf break and we slowed soon after to see what else we could turn up.  There were flocks of mostly Cory's type Shearwaters feeding on fish out there Saturday thanks to the slack current and we were able to run to get among these birds quite easily most of the day.  This worked in our favor since the first flock, indicated to us by the Sooty Terns flying high above, held another Masked Booby, this one looked to be a first summer individual (photo by Brian Patteson).  
As we sorted through the hundreds of shearwaters for something different, another tropicbird flew in to check out the activity!  This one turned out to be a young White-tailed Tropicbird (photo by Kate Sutherland)! 
We stayed with this flock for almost an hour until the birds dispersed and were rewarded with views of the Sooty Terns, including one young bird, plus Pomarine and Parasitic Jaegers!  This whole time we were watching Cory's, Scopoli's, Great, and Audubon's Shearwaters around us feeding and sitting on the water (photo of Cory's Shearwater by Brian Patteson).
A short time after we began heading offshore once again, one of our participants happened to look up and find another White-tailed Tropicbird looking back at her!  This bird looked more adult-like, though it may not have been a full adult quite yet.  It spent a lot of time hovering over the boat and checking out the slick, though it did not splash down for any food.  (photo by Kate Sutherland)  
A short time after this bird disappeared from sight, a tropicbird was spotted on the reveal that it was the same individual we had just seen, not a third individual.

We had excellent views of Black-capped Petrels on both trips, though they were definitely seen in higher numbers on Friday, the windier of the two days.  Cory's type shearwaters dominated on both trips, but we did have good views of both Great and Audubon's on each trip.  Wilson's Storm-Petrels were again around in low numbers, but this is also expected as we move into the late summer and early fall.  We were lucky to get good views of two Band-rumped Storm-Petrels on Saturday, though none were seen on Friday.  Tropical terns were hard to come by on Friday, though we did have excellent views of one Sooty, while Saturday we had nice views of both species and one of our participants even spotted a perched adult Bridled Tern that allowed for close approach (photo by Kate Sutherland).  
Overall a great couple of trips!  While we have had both tropicbirds on trips in the past, and even two White-taileds and a Red-billed on the same day...Brian cannot remember a trip with two individual Masked Boobies, so that was quite a feat!  Our next trip is September 8 (weather date of the 9th), and we should have a chance to see all of these species except for the Band-rumped Storm-Petrels, which become scarce after late August down here.  We have space!  Think about joining us out there...

Thanks to Jeff Lemons and Nick Newberry for helping Brian and I lead the trips this weekend!  

Species List for August 24 / 25
Trindade Petrel  1 / 0
Black-capped Petrel  49-52 / 19
Cory's Shearwater  1 / many seen
Scopoli's Shearwater  11 / many seen
Cory's type  84 / 440* we had hundreds of Cory's in a few flocks, it was impossible to break these down into Atlantic Cory's vs Scopoli's in the field
Great Shearwater  3 / 5
Audubon's Shearwater  16-20 / 13-14
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  20-22 / 23-24
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  0 / 2-3
White-tailed Tropicbird  0 / 2
Red-billed Tropicbird  0 / 1
Masked Booby  0 / 2
Red-necked Phalarope  1 / 0
Sooty Tern  1 / 7
Bridled Tern  0 / 2
Sooty/Bridled  0 / 2
Least Tern  2 / 0
Pomarine Jaeger  0 / 1
Parasitic Jaeger  0 / 1
Semipalmated Sandpiper  0 / 1
Bottlenose Dolphin (offshore population)  11-13 / 0
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin  0 / 6

A couple photos of Black-capped Petrels - ventral by Brian Patteson, dorsal by Kate Sutherland
One of the Scopoli's Shearwaters that we saw on Saturday (Brian Patteson)
Audubon's on the water (Brian Patteson) and flying in the rain (Kate Sutherland)
While Wilson's Storm-Petrels were in short supply, they did make some nice passes for photographs!  (Kate Sutherland)
The second White-tailed Tropicbird just after taking off of the water (Brian Patteson)
Record shot of the Red-billed Tropicbird (Kate Sutherland)
Bridled Tern in flight (Brian Patteson) 
& a couple images of the very cooperative Atlantic Spotted Dolphins we had on the way in on Saturday (Kate Sutherland)

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a fabulous trip!!!!! Wish I'd been there but thank you for the report and the awesome photos!!