Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The Finale - Yes, It Was Grand ~ 31 May 2022 by Kate Sutherland

The wind had a westerly component overnight and was light and variable this morning, there was some swell from the east but it was not really high enough to bring birds in with it.  Fortunately for us there was some life on the shelf and we spent some extra time in there this morning!  It began when some shearwaters were spotted in the distance up ahead...then some dolphins popped up on the starboard side.  When I ran up to check the species, it turned out that we were in a nice pod of Rough-toothed Dolphins (Steno bredanensis)!! (Peter Flood) 
I don't think we have seen them here for over six or seven years and we certainly have not had ones as cooperative as these for a long time!!  We spent at least ten or fifteen minutes cruising around with them under the bow and nearby, plenty of time for our participants to study how they are different from other species we've seen over the past few days!  As we were watching the Stenos a tropicbird was spotted up ahead near a charter boat!!  It never came it well for us, but photos showed a White-tailed.  By then the shearwaters were nearby and we picked up all six species there on the shelf (Scopoli's, Cory's, Great, Sooty, Manx (Kate Sutherland), and Audubon's). 
Phew.  What a start to the day and we weren't even to the shelf break yet!
Less than an hour after crossing the break we had a Fea's Petrel fly in to check us out!  It made a nice pass and everyone saw it well! (Ed Corey)
Less than an hour later some beaked whales surfaced right next to the boat, three Gervais Beaked Whales (Mesoplodon europaeus)!!  These animals must have just surfaced from a longer dive because they were very cooperative and paid the boat no mind as they swam around and under us, surfacing nearby a number of times. (Kate Sutherland)  
One of the species that we had not seen yet for the Blitz was Bridled Tern, participant Karyl Gabriel spotted one just past the shelf break and then another later in the morning!  The views were not close, but we were able to identify them.  Black-capped Petrels were scarce again today but we had a number on the water in the morning and got some nice looks at them taking off!  Around that same time a Parasitic Jaeger was seen harassing some Black-cappeds on the water and chasing them around - minutes later it came by with angry gadfly petrels on its tail! (Kate Sutherland)
It wasn't worried however, and soon started chasing Wilson's way back in the slick.  The slick was very productive today for Band-rumped Storm-Petrels and we saw a number of them well plus had a quick view of a Leach's in the slick.  We began our inshore tack just after 1130 and Brian put out the "tropicbird teaser" like he did yesterday.  It wasn't ten minutes the shout went out for White-tailed Tropicbird!!  This super cooperative individual came in and circled the boat a few times before heading away. (Ed Corey) 
WOW.  It was just an incredible and full day!  Check out our list below to get the big picture 😊
Thank you so much everyone!!  We are glad to have such great birders join us for these trips and are glad we could get so many of you offshore this spring.  Thank you to our leaders for today as well, Todd McGrath, Chris Sloan, Peter Flood, and Ed Corey all helped to make this day a success!

Species List for 31 May 2022
Pomarine Jaeger - 3
Parasitic Jaeger - 2
Bridled Tern - 2
Arctic Tern - 5
Common / Arctic Tern - 18
White-tailed Tropicbird - 2
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 124 to 131
Leach's Storm-Petrel - 1
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - 7 to 9
Fea's Petrel (likely Desertas) - 1
Black-capped Petrel - 33
Scopoli's Shearwater - 6 to 8
Cory's Shearwater - 18
Cory's / Scopoli's - 158
Great Shearwater - 32 to 36
Sooty Shearwater - 14 to 16
Manx Shearwater - 2
Audubon's Shearwater - 72

Gervais' Beaked Whale - 3
Rough-toothed Dolphin - 40 to 50
Offshore Bottlenose Dolphin - 5
Loggerhead Turtle - 1
Portuguese Man of War - 2

A few more photos of the Rough-toothed Dolphins - top with a young one - Kate Sutherland, bottom two Peter Flood
A dorsal image of the Fea's Petrel - Kate Sutherland
A couple more White-tailed Tropicbird images - Kate Sutherland top, Todd McGrath bottom
Audubon's Shearwaters were around with the large feeding flock we found on the shelf in the morning - Kate Sutherland
And we found a feeding group of shearwaters at the end of the day as well!  There was a bit of a brawl - Kate Sutherland top, the victor by Todd McGrath bottom
At one point a Pomarine Jaeger even got involved!  Kate Sutherland
Band-rumped Storm-Petrels were pretty cooperative... Kate Sutherland
The breath of a Gervais' Beaked Whale (probably a female - not showing any teeth) - Kate Sutherland
One of the Portuguese Man of War we saw today - Kate Sutherland
And we say farewell...for a few days at least!!  An odd spot midget on the way in... - Kate Sutherland

Monday, May 30, 2022

Easterlies ~ 30 May 2022 by Kate Sutherland

Well, we're closing in on the end of our annual Spring Blitz and today we added one more species to the list for this one plus great looks at the usual suspects!  I think we might just be missing Bridled Tern and Masked Booby by now...maybe tomorrow.  The shelf held a spectacular show this morning with at least three groups of feeding shearwaters for us to peruse and we had awesome views of Scopoli's, Cory's, Great, Sooty, Audubon's, plus some close Arctic Terns. (Ed Corey)
The easterly wind also brought a Leach's Storm-Petrel close by the boat on the shelf (Kate Sutherland).
As we reached the shelf and headed offshore the birds thinned out, but when a Band-rumped Storm-Petrel flew by headed to the east...Brian decided we should head that way too.  It took some time but we had great views of Black-capped Petrel over the course of the day, this may have been some of the lowest counts of the spring for them, but a quick encounter with one of their smaller cousins in the 1000 period made up for that when a Fea's Petrel flew in on the starboard side!! (Chris Sloan)
It came in fast and low, passing fairly close by the corner of the boat before rocketing away down the slick.  Hopefully everyone was quick enough to get a look at it!  Our next uncommon find came from above.  Brian put out the "tropicbird teaser" for our inshore tack and sure enough just after 1230 one dropped out of the sky and came to investigate the boat!! (Chris Sloan)
It flew around us a few times, swooping down to get a better look at us and what we might have to offer in the slick.  Everyone had a great view of this White-tailed Tropicbird, the first of the Blitz (though yes, my regular readers, we did have another one on a trip earlier this month that was banded!).  Our foray into the deep paid off plus we had an encounter with some Pilot Whales (likely Short-finned)! (Peter Flood) 
They were super cooperative and checked us out a few times.  There was at least one large male who was on his own closer to us and a couple of very small youngsters with maybe a female or two nearby.  Atlantic Spotted Dolphins gave us a nice show in the morning on our way to the shelf as well! 
Thank you so much to everyone who joined us and thank you also to our leaders who helped Brian and I lead the trip: Todd McGrath, Chris Sloan, Peter Flood, and Ed Corey.  They also are super helpful with photo contributions every evening!

Species List for 30 May 2022
skua / jaeger - 1
Common Tern - 2
Arctic Tern - 14
Common / Arctic Tern - 3
White-tailed Tropicbird - 1
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 114 to 124
Leach's Storm-Petrel - 3
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - 6 to 8
Fea's Petrel (likely Desertas) - 1
Black-capped Petrel - 21
Scopoli's Shearwater - 11
Atlantic Cory's Shearwater - 12
Cory's / Scopoli's - 130 to 132
Great Shearwater - 72 to 73
Sooty Shearwater - 25
Audubon's Shearwater - 39
Ruddy Turnstone - 8
Pilot Whale (prob. Short-finned) - 15 to 20
Offshore Bottlenose Dolphin - 5 to 7
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin - 7
Portuguese Man of War - 2
Sea turtle species - 1

A couple more White-tailed Tropicbird images (Ed Corey & Kate Sutherland)
We had some darker Black-capped Petrels today (Kate Sutherland, Peter Flood)
Cory's & Scopoli's (Peter Flood)
Great Shearwater (Kate Sutherland)
Sooty Shearwaters were around in good numbers on the shelf today! (Kate Sutherland)
And Audubon's were seen more offshore (Ed Corey)
Band-rumpeds seemed to visit us in the worst light today, but Chris Sloan still managed to get a great photo!
Another Pilot Whale image showing the eye (Kate Sutherland)
Sooties and some Sargassum (Kate Sutherland)
Flyingfishes (Kate Sutherland) patchwing and rosy-veined clearwing

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Cahow Do You Do? ~ 29 May 2022 by Todd McGrath

After a weather-day yesterday, today we were greeted by fair seas and light-winds for the entire trip. Birds were in view for most of the day, and we were able to get good views of many of the expected species. 
No point burying the lead, the big highlight from today's trip was a Bermuda Petrel spotted by Ed Corey (no relation to the shearwater) a bit after 1PM. This molting bird showed up on the starboard side and was kind enough to make a quick pass along both sides of the boat before heading off. There are only about 150 breeding pairs of Bermuda Petrels on the planet, and it's a big ocean. Anytime we find one off NC is a special day.  (photos Ed Corey)
Mid-morning we had a Brown Booby make a pass through the stern. This species has been extending its range north along both coasts, but it's still an uncommon sight off Hatteras. There were a handful of Leach's Storm-Petrels around, and midday several made close passes by the boat.  
We eventually amassed a pack of hungry Great Shearwaters in the stern, and they were soon joined by several Pomarine Jaegers (photo Todd McGrath)
and large numbers of Wilson's Storm-Petrels.
In the afternoon, as we worked back inshore we had a very nice shearwater show with "Atlantic" Cory's and "Scopoli's" Shearwaters (photo Todd McGrath)
making repeated passes in the wake and offering a nice tutorial on separating the two. While most authorities recognize these two as different species, the AOS has yet to adopt that, so perhaps a future lifer for some. 
A big thanks to Todd McGrath, Chris Sloan, Peter Flood, and Ed Corey for helping lead today. It was a beautiful day to be at sea, and we get to do it again tomorrow.

Species List 29 May 2022
Red-necked Phalarope - 5
Pomarine Jaeger - 4
Arctic Tern - 7
Common / Arctic Tern - 3
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 125 to 135
Leach's Storm-Petrel - 3 to 4
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - 2
Bermuda Petrel - 1
Black-capped Petrel - 28 to 31
Scopoli's Shearwater - 5
Atlantic Cory's Shearwater - 23
Cory's / Scopoli's - 41 to 42
Great Shearwater - 39 to 43
Sooty Shearwater - 9 to 10
Audubon's Shearwater - 16 to 19
Brown Booby - 1
Sanderling - 6
Offshore Bottlenose Dolphin - 9 to 14
Portuguese Man of War - 2

A couple more Cahow images by Chris Sloan!
A couple of white-faced, or light, Black-capped Petrels top Ed Corey, bottom Todd McGrath
Sooty Shearwater - Ed Corey
Audubon's Shearwater - Todd McGrath
Arctic Tern - Ed Corey
Red-necked Phalarope - Todd McGrath