Friday, May 24, 2019

Friday May 24, 2019 - Westerlies - by Kate Sutherland

What a difference a day makes!  The wind shifted to the west overnight changing the set up for us offshore.  Typically a west wind pushes things that we might expect to see offshore, and today was no exception.  We only saw a handful of shearwaters on our way to the shelf break this morning, and didn't see any jaegers or skuas all day.  In the Gulf Stream, the wind was 20 to 25 knots from the west southwest so the seas were a bit testy, making our task just a little more difficult than it has been so far this spring!  But there were birds out there and we had luck with our usual suspects.  Right after I got the first chum block out, Brian spotted a bird coming in fast on the starboard bow.  It had a pale belly and pale underwings with a uniformly dark back, but it was so fast that we didn't have a chance to get a good enough view to identify it.  Thank goodness leader Peter Flood snapped a few photos!
It turned out to be a light morph Trindade Petrel!  Wow!  Just goes to show that the preconceptions we sometimes have, like Trindade Petrels are seen when the winds are easterly, might not be 100% correct!

Black-capped Petrels responded well to the chum today and everything out there was really flying! (photo Peter Flood)
So while it was a challenge to bird in the sea and wind that we had, it was very rewarding because the chum slick worked well to pull in the birds for us to see.  A fresh Band-rumped Storm-Petrel, what Brian and I call a "little Band-rumped," hung with us in the slick for over three hours coming by the stern of the boat closely and feeding in the chum! (photo Peter Flood)
We also had another Band-rumped that looked to be molting, and one Leach's that I saw flare up in the slick, but don't think anyone else got an eye on.  Cory's and Sooty Shearwaters came in to feed as well giving us some nice views and a number of Audubon's zipped by close enough for everyone to see. 

So while we have ideas about what we can expect to see on days like today, it is always nice to be reminded that, honestly, we don't ever know what we'll turn up out there!  But there is no way to know if we don't go looking!  We still have space on the rest of our Blitz trips except for May 30 and June 1.  Thanks to our very salty crew of participants today for making it possible for us to get out there and see what we could find!  And thanks to Peter Flood and Jeff Lemons for helping us lead the trip!  Peter also provided the photos for the blog tonight!

Species List for May 24, 2019
Trindade Petrel - 1 light morph
Black-capped Petrel - 35
Cory's Shearwater - 21
Great Shearwater - 1
Sooty Shearwater - 6
Audubon's Shearwater - 10
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 60 to 65
Leach's Storm-Petrel - 1
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - 2
Common/Arctic Tern - 3 

Black-capped Petrel (Peter Flood)
And an individual with exceptionally dark underwings and smudgy armpits (Peter Flood)
Cory's Shearwater - we had a few come in to feed in the chum, but did not turn up a Scopoli's (Peter Flood)
Sooty Shearwater (Peter Flood)

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