Wow. These were two days of incredible variety, differing conditions, and a lot of life offshore! Both days had some rain and clouds, but also some sun, so we finally had those gorgeous sunrises we love to see on our way out in the morning! Both days also found little current offshore in the deep, the Gulf Stream was moving at less than a knot. Friday had light and variable winds, mostly from the north and northwest, and some swell from the south southeast. Saturday there was more wind than they forecast, so it was up to 15 mph at times from the south west, falling out in the afternoon, also with an underlying swell from the southeast. Saturday morning we slowed down just offshore of the shelf break and put out the chum, about 8 minutes later participant David Kirschke and leader Chris Sloan started shouting about a bird coming in up high...and a light morph Trindade Petrel zipped into the slick - right behind the boat! Needless to say, Brian made a rare appearance on the deck and captured this gorgeous image!
Saturday was also much better for Black-cappeds than Friday had been, just reinforcing the fact that these winged runners like the wind. We tallied almost 60 of them that day! Our storm-petrels also responded differently each trip with only 4 Wilson's (yes, you read that correctly FOUR) on Friday, 9 Band-rumpeds and 2 Leach's! None of whom came into the chum and all of these large stormies were sitting on the water, here is one of the Leach's with an Audubon's (Kate Sutherland).
Unlike our petrels and storm-petrels, shearwaters were incredible on both days! Friday's calm waters allowed us to see natural slicks all over it seemed, some held cetaceans, like the Mesoplodonts, Short-finned Pilot Whales, Kogias, and Offhsore Bottlenose Dolphins, while others held squid and fish! All of them had shearwaters! They were in tight groups that responded as food came to the surface. Saturday the seabirds were a bit more spread out with arcing shearwaters in all directions, though a few times we got into some nice concentrations! Scopoli's Shearwaters seemed to be the dominant species
Friday we had an incredible experience that I cannot help but share! As we approached the shelf break we encountered another group of about 50 or 60 feeding shearwaters. A Black-capped Petrel was with them initially, but peeled off when we pulled up to the group. We could see some type of tuna breaking the surface and as we pulled closer to the activity, Chris Sloan mentioned he saw some fins in the water and what looked like blood! I photographed about two minutes of activity and was so perplexed in the field with the shapes and colors of what was in the water. Then I saw one tuna, they turned out to be blackfins, with some tentacles sticking out of its mouth - these were squid! When I sorted my photos that evening I realized I had a series of a Great Shearwater capturing a squid and flying off with it!https://www.flickr.com/photos/138110919@N07/albums/72157715628019828 And we finally got to sample some sargassum, see photos of our finds at the end of the photo spread!
Thank you to everyone who joined us out there, those who were able to be with us for two days had quite the experience! And thank you to Chris Sloan, who took the time to join us for the last three sets of trips! He also contributed photos for our eBird lists and these blog posts!