Friday, February 18, 2022

Saturday February 12, 2022 - Oregon Inlet - Brian Patteson

After several consecutive weekends with stormy and / or windy weather, we finally had a pretty Saturday on February 12.  It was actually the fourth day of a lull, so it was interesting to see how things had changed since Monday.  For the most part seas were slight, so we were able to see birds at great distances.  We also had constant bright sunshine, so we had to do a lot of zig zagging to check out birds on the water.  Water temperatures were in the mid 40s and we found hundreds of actively feeding Razorbills and Bonaparte's Gulls fairly close to shore.  Puffins were not nearly as numerous as on Monday, but we had no problem getting good looks at several individuals (Kate Sutherland). 
We took a bit more of a southerly tack offshore compared to Monday and after a while we reached some warmer water about 25 miles offshore - up to 61.5 degrees Fahrenheit.  Along the way we were surprised to see a small group of Risso's Dolphins including one that breached a couple of times off the port side of the boat (Kate Sutherland). 
Most of our records of Risso's Dolphins are from the summer months and deeper water - out past the shelf break.  When we got to the warmer water we found a small flock of Red Phalaropes.  These are frequently found offshore here in winter mainly near the edge of the Gulf Stream (Kate Sutherland).
We wandered into the warm water for a short while, but it was not at all productive so we tacked back inshore.  We found many hundreds of Bonaparte's Gulls on the inshore tack and after much searching, I spotted an adult Little Gull that stuck around for some close views.  Unlike Monday, kittiwakes were nowhere to be found, but we did see several Manx Shearwaters during the afternoon, including some feeding along a tide line just outside the inlet with Bonaparte's Gulls.  We also had a first winter Kumlien's Gull pay us a visit for a few minutes (photo by Ed Corey).
All things considered, it was a pretty nice day to be out, and we had good views of all the target species that we encountered.  

I would like to thank Kate Sutherland, Ed Corey, and Jason Denesevich for helping lead the trip, and all of our participants for making it possible.  Kumlien's Gull photo by Ed Corey, all other photos today by Kate Sutherland.

Species List for February 12, 2022
Surf / Black Scoter - 4
Red Phalarope - 9
Razorbill - 884
Atlantic Puffin - 10
Bonaparte's Gull - 1869
Little Gull - 1 adult
Herring Gull - 562
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 40
Great Black-backed Gull - 23
Kumlien's (Iceland) Gull - 1 first winter
Forster's Tern - 16
Red-throated Loon - 246 (likely low count)
Common Loon - 6
Manx Shearwater - 30
Northern Gannet - 260
passerine sp. - 5

Humpback Whale - 1
Risso's Dolphin - 4
Bottlenose Dolphin - 20 to 25
Loggerhead Turtle - 3

An image of the Red Phalaropes in flight, note the gray back and stout bills!
A small flock of Razorbills flying by the north end of Hatteras Island in the morning.  We had hundreds of them moving by!
Just a couple of the thousand plus Bonaparte's Gulls we saw
A couple images of the Little Gull - alone and with a Bonaparte's Gull for comparison.  Everyone saw this bird well!
A selection of gulls that came to visit the Stormy Petrel II:
Herring Gull
Immature Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
And Great Black-backed Gull with a Menhaden head, only the best for our gulls!
A couple Manx Shearwater captures - taking off and on the water along the tide line we found just outside of the inlet in the afternoon.
One of the many Northern Gannets we saw over the course of the day.  Most were adults like this bird.
And finally one of the Loggerhead Turtles we encountered.

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