Monday, September 27, 2021

Saturday September 25, 2021 - Kate Sutherland

Friday was a blustery day and we hoped the winds would calm enough to get offshore on Saturday...well luck was with us and Saturday morning winds were blowing about 12-17 mph from the north.  Skies were partly cloudy as we headed offshore into a sea that was calmer than expected, but still a bit choppy once we made it out of the lee of Cape Hatteras.  As we approached the shelf break, there was a temperature break with a bit warmer water on the offshore side, a Long-tailed Jaeger came zipping by on this feature and we started seeing some Cory's type shearwaters popping up around us on the horizon.  We saw our first Black-capped Petrel of the day on the shelf!  Certainly not a bad start! (Kate Sutherland)
Gulf Stream current was running a bit as we moved offshore into deeper water and the wind against the current made the seas a little larger than they had been, but this also had the birds moving, and we found our first feeding flock of shearwaters in the 0900 period.  This flock was composed of mostly Cory's type shearwaters, but we also had views of our first Great and Audubon's Shearwaters of the trip here as well.  Both were cooperative, and a few Black-capped Petrels were in the area too.  It was nice to see some Wilson's Storm-Petrels in with the feeding flocks and we were able to entice a few to follow us with our fish oil slick, allowing participants to study them for most of the day as they showed off their long legs and short, paddle-shaped wings. (Kate Sutherland)
As we continued offshore, we kept seeing feeding flocks arc up on the horizon, a couple of these were easy to keep an eye on since they had their attendant Sooty Terns flying up high over the action.  One of these groups with terns we finally caught up to and we could hear them calling as they flew overhead, quickly moving off with the shearwaters.  These feeding flocks are moving with the fish below the surface and also with the wind, so a few flocks we were unable to catch, and others we were able to just stay with for a short time before they moved along.  It was nice to see so much activity in late September, but this is a time of year when we just run a few trips, so we still have a lot to learn about what to expect!  We do tend to see more land birds and coastal species in the fall, and we had at least three young Herring Gulls and a young Lesser Black-backed Gull following us for most of the day!  A Tree Swallow and a few Barn Swallows also checked out the boat many miles from shore!  Once we put out the chum and birds started following the boat, we had really good views of Black-capped Petrels and Wilson's Storm-Petrels right behind us.  Jaegers were also around in the deep and we had a young Parasitic Jaeger fly by offshore, then a couple more cooperative Pomarine Jaegers, one of which stayed with us for over an hour! (Kate Sutherland)
The show wasn't over once we left the blue water of the Gulf Stream...we found two Red-necked Phalaropes and had a fly-by Sooty Shearwater in the cooler, greener shelf waters.  Overall an excellent day offshore!  Thanks so much to everyone who joined us making this trip possible, and a big thank you as well to Jason Denesevich for helping us lead the trips!  We're excited to make it out there three more times this fall, and we still have space on the last two trips - Oct 9(10) and 23(24) - come see what we can find!

Species List for September 25, 2021
Black-capped Petrel - 37 to 38
Cory's Shearwater - 3
Scopoli's Shearwater - 16
Cory's / Scopoli's Shearwater - 550 to 555
Great Shearwater - 78 to 79
Sooty Shearwater - 1
Audubon's Shearwater - 55
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 43 to 44
Red-necked Phalarope - 2
Phalarope sp. - 11
Sooty Tern - 6
Sooty / Bridled Tern - 4
Pomarine Jaeger - 2
Parasitic Jaeger - 1
Long-tailed Jaeger - 1
Jaeger sp. - 2
Herring Gull - 3 to 4
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 1
Barn Swallow - 3
Tree Swallow - 1
Offshore Bottlenose Dolphin - 8 to 10
Loggerhead Turtle - 1
Cloudless Sulphur - 1

Black-capped Petrel dorsal and ventral views (Kate Sutherland).  All of the individuals we saw were sharp looking like these!  We saw both types of Black-cappeds (dark and light forms) plus a number of intermediate looking birds.
It is a lot harder to get on Scopoli's Shearwaters when they're not following us in the slick!  But we did have some nice views of them in the feeding flocks we found.  (Kate Sutherland)
And a couple of the Cory's Shearwaters we saw - I only photographed three of these out of 25 I had images of.  Pretty interesting to know that we still have a number of Scopoli's here offshore from Hatteras in late September!  (Kate Sutherland)
A dorsal view of one of the Cory's types we saw (Kate Sutherland)
And one of our young Herring Gulls!  (Kate Sutherland)

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