Wednesday, June 9, 2021

June 5 & 6, 2021 - Kate Sutherland

Weather again!  We had storms and high winds move through on Friday June 4 causing us to cancel the trip scheduled for that day, the following two days were suitable, however and we made it out there!  Both days life was a bit farther offshore from the shelf break than usual, but we were able to find and have great looks at a number of seabirds if you were with us for both trips.  No matter how many times we say it, people still think they can see it all on a single trip, and while we have those days, anyone who joined for both trips this weekend had a nice, solid list of seabirds to show for it!
Winds were southwest, our typical wind direction here in Hatteras, but usually we have some Gulf Stream current offshore in conjunction with that wind, working to keep the waves a bit smaller than they would be without that current moving in the same direction.  Saturday we didn't have much current, which was nice because the breeze made the sea a bit choppy and we also had some clouds and weather around - all good things for making seabirds fly and for making our chum interesting to them!  Saturday was strictly a tubenose day, we didn't see any terns or jaegers out there, but had a solid list.  Great Shearwaters were super attentive in the chum and we had some followers for most of the day.
Cory's are here and in addition to the Atlantic breeders we also saw at least three of the Mediterranean species, Scopoli's Shearwater!  Audubon's were zipping around and we had enough pass closely by for everyone to see these small black and whites with their long tails and pale faces.  We were even lucky enough to have a Manx Shearwater fly up the slick and away so everyone in the stern could see how different from, and similar to, Audubon's they really are!  While Wilson's Storm-Petrels were not around in high numbers, we had our fair share in the slick and as usual they were super helpful for participants to study while waiting to see a larger storm-petrel appear in the slick.  Though they never seem to prepare them for how quickly they move around, flying circles around the Wilson's!  Both Leach's and Band-rumpeds visited the slick on Saturday with nice views of both.  Black-capped Petrels were around but they were not very interested in the chum so didn't come incredibly close, but definitely made some nice passes!
Sunday was a bit different, life was still offshore of the shelf break and it took some time to gather a small following of Wilson's Storm-Petrels, but skies were fairly clear and there was not as much wind.  The Gulf Stream current was closer to the shelf and there were some birds moving on the horizon - Black-capped Petrels were around and we'd only seen a handful before the shout went out from the top deck - "FEA'S PETREL!!"  Todd McGrath spotted this silvery petrel with dark underwings that made a few nice passes around the bow of the boat before angling away.  Photos by Tom Blackman (top) and Douglas Koch (bottom)

Not a bad start to a day of calm seas!!  A little over an hour later a distant tropicbird was spotted flying high, flight style and photos revealed it to be a White-tailed Tropicbird.  Not the most satisfying views...but no worry...this bird or another appeared above the Stormy Petrel II, as these curious birds sometimes do, less than 30 minutes later!  
The view was quite satisfying, close enough that many of us couldn't get our lenses to focus.  A third new species for the pair of trips flew in to investigate the slick and our followers in the afternoon - two Long-tailed Jaegers.  These birds put on quite a show feeding on our chum and harassing some of our shearwaters and storm-petrels.  We finished up the pair of trips with 13 pelagic species!  It pays to sign up for at least a couple of trips when you decide to join us!
Thank you so much to Todd McGrath and Dave Pereksta for traveling to help us out this weekend and also to Andrew Rapp for helping Brian and I lead these trips.  Our summer schedule is beginning to fill up, so if you wanted to join us be sure to check our availability soon.

*all photos except for those of the Fea's Petrel (and those are labeled) are by Kate Sutherland

Species List for June 5 / 6
Fea's Petrel - 0 / 1
Black-capped Petrel - 24 to 29 / 25 to 26
Cory's Shearwater - 48 / 41
Scopoli's Shearwater - 2 / 0
Cory's / Scopoli's Shearwater - 32 / 12
Great Shearwater - 36 to 37 / 15
Sooty Shearwater - 0 / 1
Manx Shearwater - 1 / 0
Audubon's Shearwater - 20 / 18
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 65 to 70 / 52 to 57
Leach's Storm-Petrel - 2 / 0
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - 4 to 5 / 3
Leach's / Band-rumped - 0 / 1
White-tailed Tropicbird - 0 / 1 to 2
Long-tailed Jaeger - 0 / 2
jaeger sp. - 0 / 2
Common Tern - 0 / 4
Laughing Gull - 0 / 1
Beaked Whale sp. - 0 / 1
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin - 20 to 25 / 0

A couple more Fea's Petrel images by Tom Blackman
Black-capped Petrels with the ocean texture, we saw mostly dark form or intermediate (pictured below) individuals over the weekend.  Just a handful of light form birds.
Great Shearwater showing off its dark belly patch
A couple of Band-rumped Storm-Petrel images - a molting individual (top) and a non-molting individual (bottom).  
Our second encounter with a White-tailed Tropicbird - close enough to see the Stormy Petrel II reflected in the eye!
And finally, one of the Long-tailed Jaegers that followed us for a period 

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Tuesday June 1, 2021 - Kate Sutherland

 Our last day of the Blitz still held a bit of wind in the morning, from the northeast and skies were sunny as we headed offshore to the shelf break.  The hot, fast Gulf Stream current was offshore a bit farther than usual so we continued running past the break before we slowed and started to chum.  Cory's Shearwaters were on the move and we tallied over 50 of them over the course of the day with at least one Scopoli's that came to feed with the Great Shearwaters in the slick for a bit.  

While this individual didn't have as much white in p10 as we sometimes see, it did have a slender bill and was closer in size to a Great Shearwater than the larger Atlantic Cory's that were around!  It was nice to see one following and feeding as they typically do in the summer when we have more offshore here.
We had excellent views of both Leach's and Band-rumped Storm-Petrels, with one Band-rumped (Grant's type) following us up onto the shelf in the afternoon.  Sargassum was here in large amounts, and in the morning we spent some time checking large patches to see if we could possibly turn up a Bridled Tern...and yes!  

Leader Andrew Rapp found one perched on a coconut ahead of the boat so we were able to get everyone situated to get a view of this first summer bird before it flew.  As we crossed the shelf, passing through a lot of sargassum in the afternoon we turned up a couple more of these tropical terns.  With a lot of sargassum we usually expect to see good numbers of Audubon's Shearwaters, but they just weren't around in any number.  This wind direction is also not the best for Black-capped Petrels, but we did have a few visit us to feed on the chum and they made some nice, close passes!  One jaeger visited our flock in the afternoon, a Parasitic, but didn't hang around for long.
Wilson's came in well, there just were not a lot of them and while we were circling back and drifting at one point, participant James Huntington pointed out a Wilson's with what looked to be white feathering around the bill.  It also had a few white feathers on the belly.  I kept an eye out to see how long this bird trailed us in the slick, but it was a short visit!

Thank you to everyone who joined us this spring for these Blitz trips, David Greening signed up for all of them and we only missed two!  We're out there again this weekend, June 4, 5, and 6, so we'll keep you posted!  Thanks to Andrew Rapp for helping Brian and I lead the final trip of the Blitz!

*all photos today by Kate Sutherland

Species List June 1, 2021
Black-capped Petrel - 8 to 14
Cory's Shearwater - 52 to 54
Scopoli's Shearwater - 1
Cory's / Scopoli's - 4
Great Shearwater - 5 to 6
Sooty Shearwater - 1
Audubon's Shearwater - 8
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 83 to 93
Leach's Storm-Petrel - 1 to 2
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - 4 to 6
Bridled Tern - 3
Parasitic Jaeger - 1
Bottlenose Dolphin (offshore population) - 12

Black-capped Petrel

Great Shearwaters were quite loyal to the slick again today and we had up to three following us at once!

Wilson's Storm-Petrels were really the best at coming close in decent light today!  They were excited about the pieces of chum.
I missed the Band-rumped and Leach's when they were close, we were making sure everyone saw the right bird!  And I think we were successful in that undertaking!  It can be difficult to pick out these large stormies since they fly so quickly, it is tough to follow them.  Our final Band-rumped of the day stayed with us for long enough for everyone to have a chance to study it, however!