Tuesday, June 30, 2020

June 26 & 27, 2020 - by Kate Sutherland

Our first trips of the summer turned out as well as we had hoped!  Winds were southwest leading up to Friday's trip, but then they shifted to the west early that morning so we headed offshore feeling like a lot of birds may have been pushed out with the offshore wind...but there were some Cory's and Great Shearwaters as we headed toward the shelf break - phew!  Once we got there and slowed down we had Black-capped Petrels right off the bat! (Kate Sutherland)
Plus Cory's, Great, and Audubon's Shearwaters with some Wilson's Storm-Petrels fluttering around in the slick.  The first Band-rumped Storm-Petrel flew in before 0900!  As we worked offshore, we added Bridled Tern to the day's list and also found our first Scopoli's Shearwater of the summer.  Late morning the wind shifted a bit more to the north and it seemed our chum was more attractive to our tubenosed friends.  Black-capped Petrels worked their way up the slick circling by the stern on their close approach.  Our inshore tack was really productive for watching Scopoli's with Great Shearwaters and we had good views of Band-rumpeds and Wilson's as well.  It was an excellent study, though the light was not perfect for photographs.  A second Bridled Tern was spotted perching on a plastic bottle right around noontime, and it allowed a close approach! (Kyle Kittelberger)
On our way back to the inlet a playful pod of Atlantic spotted dolphins came it to the bow and put on a good show for us!

Saturday we didn't have as much wind in the morning, but it was southwest and the forecast had it increasing over the course of the day - we were looking forward to it!  We had all of our shearwaters again before 0900 with a couple of Bridled Terns in the distance.  Wilson's Storm-Petrels were as numerous as they were on Friday, but we had a few behind us for most of the day.  We had at least one Leach's Storm-Petrel make an appearance when the wind starting picking up and it flew right by the boat so we could easily see the forked tail and large rump patch - not to mention the startlingly buffy carpal bars!  Band-rumped Storm-Petrels were following in the slick with up to four at a time back there, and while most that we saw on these trips were presumed "Grant's" type, we had at least one "little" Band-rump on Saturday! (Ed Corey)
Jaegers were also out there on Saturday, with one young Pom in the morning and a gorgeous first summer Long-tailed Jaeger in the afternoon. (Kate Sutherland)
The latter stayed with us for over an hour feeding in the slick alongside the Scopoli's and Great Shearwaters and in spite of some harassment from the Black-caps!  Offshore bottlenose dolphins were out there today and we had a few encounters with them right under the bow.  In the morning Kyle Kittelberger spotted some whales breaching over a mile away - they looked to be some type of beaked whales!  Their size suggested perhaps they were Cuvier's beaked whales, but it was hard to tell.  Overall it was a good start to the summer and we hope to add more species to the season's list in late July and August!

Thank you to everyone who joined us this weekend for the trips and thank you to Kyle Kittelberger and Ed Corey for helping Brian and I lead the trip and for contributing photos for this post!  

Species List for June 26 / 27
Black-capped Petrel 18 / 18 to 19
Cory's Shearwater 23 / 9
Scopoli's Shearwater 13 / 5
Cory's type 5 / 6
Great Shearwater 17 / 27
Audubon's Shearwater 9 / 12
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 40 / 25
Leach's Storm-Petrel 0 / 1 to 2
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel 6 / 9
Bridled Tern 2 / 2
Bridled/Sooty Tern 0 / 1
Royal Tern 0 / 1
Pomarine Jaeger 0 / 1
Long-tailed Jaeger 0 / 1
Pomarine/Parasitic 0 / 1

beaked whale 0 / 2
Atlantic spotted dolphin 15 / 0
Offshore bottlenose dolphin 0 / 40 to 42

Scopoli's Shearwaters dorsal view (Kate Sutherland) ventral view showing extensive white in the underprimaries, especially p10 (Kyle Kittelberger)
A Cory's type feeding in the slick - this bird had white in the underprimaries, but not an extensive amount in p10.  We usually leave birds that do not show all of the characteristics of Scopoli's as Cory's/Scopoli's (Kate Sutherland)
Great Shearwaters were present most of the day each day!  On Saturday we got to do a "chum dump" at the end of the day and watch the Great's bicker over this floating treasure!  (Kate Sutherland)
Leach's Storm-Petrel - dorsal view showing the long bill and buffy carpal bars (Kate Sutherland) and a ventral view showing the forked tail (Ed Corey)
A couple more images of the "little" Band-rumped on Saturday (Kate Sutherland)
Our young Pomarine Jaeger that visited the slick on Saturday (Ed Corey)
And another photo of the Long-tailed Jaeger (Kyle Kittelberger)
And finally, our spotted dolphins from Friday (Kate Sutherland) and our offshore bottlenose dolphins from Saturday (Ed Corey)!

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

June 5 & 6, 2020 by Kate Sutherland

A trip was scheduled for June 4, but the wind and waves were just too much for us to make it that day.  Thankfully the following morning was much calmer and we were able to run two trips of the scheduled three!  Both days had winds of varying strength from the south and southwest, our typical wind direction as we move into the summer months here in Hatteras, and we found our usual suspects out there plus a few bonuses!  Shearwaters were on the shelf each morning and we had really nice feeding activity in the chum both days offshore of the shelf break giving us six species in a couple of days!  Friday the sargassum had moved up with the Gulf Stream current and we had excellent numbers of Audubon's Shearwaters.  Storm-petrels were not around in very large numbers, but we did turn up two types of Band-rumpeds and a handful of Leach's in addition to the more numerous Wilson's.  The "Grant's" type Band-rumpeds were easily picked out by their larger size and primary molt while the "little" Band-rumpeds, as we call them, were a bit more difficult to pick out as they fed with the Wilson's.  These are likely Madeiran Storm-Petrels, but more work is needed to know for certain!  (Peter Flood) 
Friday afternoon a shout went up from the bow "BOOBY!!"  Leader Ned Brinkley spotted a Masked Booby ahead of the boat and this bird put on a show for us!  Flying around, landing on the water with the shearwaters, diving a couple of times in water clear enough for us to follow as it plunged beneath the surface chasing fish we couldn't see, it was cooperative to say the least. (Kate Sutherland) 
Saturday morning Peter Flood and I must have both been intently studying our followers in the slick because we both shouted "Fea's Petrel!!" at almost the same moment as one appeared behind us and worked its way up to the boat.  Putting out a little extra chum paid off and the small gadfly petrel circled back again and again while Brian maneuvered the boat perfectly for everyone to admire its seemingly effortless flight and capture some images!  (Kate Sutherland)
This bird stayed with us for at least 15 minutes and just after it flew off Ned spotted another gadfly petrel crossing the bow - a dark Trindade Petrel!  My little extra chum did not pay off this time since the bird was upwind, but everyone aboard still had a nice view as it flew by mid-distance.  

Black-capped Petrels were attentive to the chum on both trips and we had each type in addition to many intermediate individuals.  I never tire of these birds and we had ample opportunity to photograph them each day in addition to observing their incredibly dynamic flight style back in the slick where a number of Great Shearwaters also followed each day.  Scopoli's Shearwaters are beginning to show up and we had at least one make a nice pass Friday and Saturday!  Leach's were only seen on Friday, but we had a Long-tailed Jaeger make an appearance on Saturday...so that worked out well for everyone who joined us for both trips!

These were our last trips of the spring, thank you again so much to everyone who made it possible for us to get out there!  Our next trips will be the end of this month, June 26 & 27.  Thank you so much to Ned Brinkley and Peter Flood for helping Brian and I to lead these trips, and thank you Peter for letting us use your photos as well!

Species List June 5 / 6
Trindade Petrel - 0 / 1
Fea's Petrel - 0 / 1
small gadfly petrel species - 2 / 0
Black-capped Petrel - 29 to 32 / 21 to 23
Cory's Shearwater - 48 to 51 / 65
Scopoli's Shearwater - 3 / 3
Cory's type - 6 / 6
Great Shearwater - 18 to 20 / 31 to 32
Sooty Shearwater - 2 / 0
Manx Shearwater - 3 / 0
Audubon's Shearwater - 84 / 17
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 120 to 150 / 52
Leach's Storm-Petrel - 4 / 0
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - 4 / 4
Leach's / Band-rumped - 1 / 0
Masked Booby - 1 / 0
Bridled Tern - 1 / 0
Black Tern - 0 / 1
Common Tern - 2 / 0
Long-tailed Jaeger - 0 / 1
Ocean Sunfish - 1 / 0

A few more photos of the Fea's Petrel (Peter Flood top, Kate Sutherland bottom)
And of the Masked Booby - here diving and one more flight shot! (Kate Sutherland)
Black-capped Petrels came in well to the chum both days! (Peter Flood)
A nice dark-faced Black-capped Petrel (Kate Sutherland)
And one that is more intermediate, leaning towards white-faced (Kate Sutherland)
We had up to four species of shearwater in the slick at once each day, here you can see Cory's, Great, and Audubon's (Kate Sutherland)
Great Shearwaters were with us most of the time we were out over the shelf break (Kate Sutherland)
The Sooty Shearwater we had follow us for awhile on Friday was molting its primaries (Kate Sutherland)
It was nice to finally have a good look at a Manx Shearwater this spring! (Kate Sutherland)
A nice comparison when you look at the much lighter bodied and longer tailed Audubon's Shearwater, they also typically have a much lighter face than the Manx, and of course dark undertail coverts!  (Peter Flood)
Wilson's Storm-Petrels were not around in the numbers we had earlier in the spring when the wind was more northerly (Kate Sutherland)
Another nice shot of the non-molting Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (Kate Sutherland)
And one showing the more typical outer primary molt of the "Grant's" type we see in the spring.  (Kate Sutherland)
Atlantic Patchwing (Peter Flood)

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Tuesday June 2, 2020 by Kate Sutherland

I know...June 2?  That wasn't on the Baby Blitz schedule!  But we had a group from Missouri that drove to Hatteras to go offshore for a couple of trips, the first was Monday June 1 and the second Thursday June 4.  Brian looked at the long range forecast and was worried that we might not make our trip on Thursday so he offered to add a day for them.  We recruited a few of our Blitz participants and one of our Thursday participants and made it a go!  There wasn't much wind in the morning and we steamed offshore, our first Trindade Petrel, dark morph, flew in to the slick before 0900.  (Kate Sutherland) 
Less than two hours later, we had another, different dark morph individual!  And in between?  We had a distant look at a Red-billed Tropicbird.  In spite of the light winds we had some good birding, perhaps due to the easterly swell that was rolling our way.  We had a nice look at an Arctic Tern, two Pomarine Jaegers, and a gorgeous Long-tailed Jaeger.  Our Black-capped Petrels chased the Poms and when the Long-tail came in it started dogging one as well, they just couldn't get a break.  The wind began to pick up early in the afternoon from the southwest and our slick became a popular place for Great and Sooty Shearwaters - a few Black-cappeds came to check it out as well.  Two Black-cappeds even came in once we were back on the shelf.  It was another exciting day offshore from Hatteras, and we're back at it again tomorrow...weather permitting!  We'll keep you posted!

All photos today by Kate Sutherland

Species List June 2, 2020
Trindade Petrel - 2
Black-capped Petrel - 18 to 19
Cory's Shearwater - 123
Scopoli's Shearwater - 4
Cory's type - 6
Great Shearwater - 36 to 39
Sooty Shearwater - 11 to 12
Audubon's Shearwater - 17
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 130
Leach's Storm-Petrel - 6
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - 3
Leach's / Band-rumped sp - 1
Red-billed Tropicbird - 1
Arctic Tern - 1
Common Tern - 
Common / Arctic Tern - 1
Pomarine Jaeger - 1
Long-tailed Jaeger - 1
Pom / Parasitic sp - 1
Barn Swallow - 1
swallow sp - 1
Gervais' beaked whale - 6 to 8
Offshore bottlenose dolphin - 32
Portuguese Man of War - 4

Not every day you can capture the artistic reflection of a Trindade Petrel on the sea
We saw at least two white-faced Black-capped Petrels over the course of the day
Great Shearwaters were following us and diving, so the second photo was something often seen!
One of the Pomarine Jaegers we saw, not quite an adult but getting close!  This bird stayed with us for hours.
Long-tailed Jaeger that chased the Pom!
There are four animals in this photo!  It might take me awhile, but hopefully I can do some comparisons and get a maximum number of individuals.
The offshore bottlenose dolphins we saw enjoyed riding in our wake!
And a dreamy looking Portuguese Man of War...did we say the seas were calm in the morning?  Almost glassy, but not quite!

Monday, June 1, 2020

Monday June 1, 2020 by Ed Corey

The morning greeted us with a beautiful sky as we left the dock at Hatteras for another Gulf Stream excursion. Cape Point provided a natural buffer to the Northeast winds, and our trip over the breakers and into the deep was relatively uneventful, compared to previous days. As we cleared the Point, the seas began to build, the winds gained strength, and we started seeing our first birds of the day. Cory’s Shearwaters were moving north, giving short but distinctive views.
We made it to the shelf break just before 0800, and began to form our slick. In short order, a procession of tubenoses had appeared, including Great Shearwaters, Wilson’s Storm-Petrels, and Black-capped Petrels.  Less than an hour later, the call of Fea’s Petrel rang out from the stern, and folks scrambled to get a glimpse at this sporty Pterodroma! This bird gave excellent views, allowing all on board to study its smaller physique and dark underwings. (Kate Sutherland) 
As we continued along, more and more birds piled into the slick. Our storm-petrel flock intensified, and we caught our first glimpse of Leach’s Storm-Petrel for the day! Brian and Kate decided to deploy a floating chum block, to allow the flock to gather in one spot. The block performed beyond expectations, gathering dozens of birds around it, and even attracting a young Tiger Shark!
Just after 10, Kate spotted a dark bird powering into the slick: a dark morph Trindade Petrel! (Kate Sutherland)
This gadfly petrel soared around for a bit, before heading away into the blue desert. Shortly before 11, a dark shape again appeared in the flock, and again the yell of Trindade. However, this was a different bird; an intermediate morph, the second of a whopping FOUR for the day!
Birds were chewing at the stern as the attending flock grew, with several energetic Sooty Shearwaters increasing the pulse rate for those watching the slick. However, everyone was able to study the differences between this cold-water species and the superficially similar Trindade Petrel.  Providing further study for the passengers were various Band-rumped Storm-Petrels, which zipped and glided circles around the Wilson’s.

-Ed Corey

Thanks to everyone who joined us out there today!  A big thank you also to Ed Corey and Justin Bosler for helping us to lead the trip!

Species List June 1, 2020
Fea's Petrel - 1
Trindade Petrel - 4 to 5
Black-capped Petrel - 29 to 30
Cory's Shearwater - 55
Scopoli's Shearwater - 2
Cory's type - 4
Great Shearwater - 33
Sooty Shearwater - 18
Audubon's Shearwater - 9 to 12
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 235
Leach's Storm-Petrel - 3
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - 8
Leach's / Band-rumped - 1
Offshore Bottlenose Dolphin - 21
Tiger Shark - 1
Portuguese Man-of-War - 1

The second encounter with an intermediate bird which could have been the same individual we saw earlier in the day! (Ed Corey)
Black-capped Petrels showed well! (Kate Sutherland)
It was really nice to see some Scopoli's finally in the slick with the Great Shearwaters! (Kate Sutherland)
Great Shearwaters were finally around in good numbers! (Ed Corey)
Sooty Shearwaters also came in well to the chum and at least a couple were with us all day! (Kate Sutherland)
We had another Common Tern visit us offshore today. (Ed Corey)
The offshore bottlenose dolphins were awesome to watch as they surfed in the waves! (Ed Corey)