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)


  1. Great stuff as usual, thank you. Really glad you've been able to run these last couple weeks. I'm long overdue for a road trip.

  2. Great photos and post, Kate! I’ve always wanted to try pelagic birdwatching but my only chance so far has been during an otherwise fruitless whale watching trip.
    Greetings from Sri Lanka!