Monday, October 8, 2018

Saturday October 6, 2018 - by Kate Sutherland

Conditions looked favorable for our trip this weekend and we were not disappointed!  It was an incredible day out there, showing how the possibilities for fall, a time when we have not run many trips, are just really unknown waiting to be explored.  Our jog out to the shelf break was uneventful, but right at the shelf edge we found our first "beehive" of shearwaters!  This flock was composed of mostly Cory's type shearwaters and as we checked them out most looked to be Scopoli's!  There were some Audubon's mixed in, a few Red-necked Phalaropes, one Great Shearwater, and a Black-capped Petrel that was feeding with the Scopoli's on small bait fish in and around the sargassum (photo by Kate Sutherland).
On our way offshore we just encountered more flocks of feeding birds, so we meandered out there, going from flock to flock.  One group held a Sooty Shearwater that sat for photos before taking off and flying out of sight (photo by Kate Sutherland).
Red-necked Phalaropes were zipping around in these flocks too, so we were able to get some nice views of them in flight and on the water.  A little before 1100 we found a nice current edge with about a 2 degree temperature break.  There was sargassum lined up along it and the blue water was testy with the north wind.  We did not see much life as we scanned offshore of the break, so we opted to stay where the birds were...and that choice really paid off!  Black-capped Petrels began gathering to feed in our chum slick so we put out some more food for them.  We had at least 40 individuals feeding around the boat for almost 30 minutes, flying right by us and almost over the pulpit!  It was a spectacle the likes of which we have never seen, and the photo ops of these gorgeous, freshly plumaged birds were incredible (photo by Brian Patteson)! 
Just as things were winding down with the Black-cappeds, I happened to look up and flying over us was an adult Masked Booby!!  It moved quickly over us and away, but we all had excellent views before it was gone (photo by Ed Corey). 
I thought we might find more jaegers out there with all of the shearwater action, but we just had one Pomarine Jaeger that hung with a shearwater flock harassing Audubon's and another quick pass by one that was either a Pom or Parasitic, views were fleeting and it flew into the sun.

There were some other interesting sightings for the day including at least 7 Mola mola, or Ocean Sunfish, one of which leaped from the water three times while we were watching!  They came close enough to the boat for us to see these strange looking bony fish under the surface as they moved along waving their dorsal fins occasionally above the surface.  We also had a nice hammerhead shark swim right up next to us and almost under the bow, much to the delight of participants in the pulpit!  As we headed back to shore, I spotted a large Loggerhead Turtle on the surface.  Typically these animals will dive before we are able to stop the boat to look at them, but this one stayed up and allowed us to approach.  Tami Gray, Brian's girlfriend and experienced waterwoman, noticed that there was a net hanging from the neck of the turtle.  With some team work we were able to get the turtle to the side of the boat, cut some of the net free, and see the extent of her injuries.  Once we saw the shape she was in, we brought her aboard, cut the remainder of the net from around her neck and took her back to port for a trip to a rehab facility. 
What an amazing day!

We want to thank everyone who joined us out there today, we could not run these trips without you!  And a big thank you to Ed Corey for helping us lead the trip and contributing photos for the post!  We still have space on the rest of our trips this month, they will run on October 13(14), 19, and 20th.

Species List for October 6, 2018
Black-capped Petrel  95-102
Cory's Shearwater  50
Scopoli's Shearwater  300
Cory's type  413-473
Great Shearwater  34-36
Sooty Shearwater  1
Audubon's Shearwater  71-72
Masked Booby  1
Red-necked Phalarope  48-49
Pomarine Jaeger  1
Pomarine/Parasitic Jaeger  1
Herring Gull  2
Peregrine Falcon  1
Loggerhead Turtle (with remoras when in the water)  1
hammerhead shark (likely Scalloped Hammerhead)  1
Mola mola (Ocean Sunfish)  7
Little Tunny  1 released
American Bird Grasshopper  1 came aboard offshore

Most of the Black-capped Petrels we saw were the dark faced type, like the one pictured below (Ed Corey), but there were at least four or five white-faced individuals that I saw over the course of the day!
This is a photo to illustrate just a small part of our feeding group of Black-cappeds!  Here there are twelve Black-cappeds and a Cory's type shearwater in the slick (Kate Sutherland)
A couple more gorgeous Black-capped images. (top Ed Corey, below Kate Sutherland)
The feeding groups were amazing as well!  Here are some images of different species with prey items (Scopoli's - Kate Sutherland, Great Shearwater - Brian Patteson, Red-necked Phalarope - Ed Corey)
The "beehives" were excellent for photos!  Here is a photo of Scopoli's and Cory's type shearwaters feeding in the sargassum, followed by a Great Shearwater taking off (Brian Patteson)
Here is a photo of the one year old Pomarine Jaeger chasing an Audubon's that is vomiting!  (Kate Sutherland)!
A nicer Audubon's image by Brian Patteson!
We had a few unexpected visitors offshore, Herring Gull (Ed Corey), Peregrine Falcon (Ed Corey), and an American Bird Grasshopper!  (identified by Ed Corey and photo by Kate Sutherland)
Finally, here are images of a Mola mola dorsal fin vs a hammerhead dorsal fin!  Not only is there a difference in the shape and coloration, but the way each species moves through the water is distinctive as well!  (both photos by Kate Sutherland)

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