Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Wrapping up the Spring! 10, 11, 12 June 2022 by Kate Sutherland

This trio wrapping up our spring trips went very well finding a total of 12 pelagic species and a lot of hungry shearwaters who were happy to follow us and show off during the offshore portion of the trips!    The weather definitely spanned most of what we can find offshore here from northeasterly winds and rain on Friday, to lighter winds on Saturday and southerly winds with thunderstorms on Sunday.  Black-capped Petrels were seen well on all three trips and each had at least one young individual, fledged this year, while on Sunday we had at least three! (Bob Fogg) 
Most were the pale form and a few of them stayed with us feeding in the slick with the shearwaters for hours, not a common sight! (Kate Sutherland) 
Most of the adults we saw were well into molting their flight feathers and of these we saw both forms.  Large shearwaters were also seen well on all three trips with great views of Cory's, Scopoli's, and Greats in the chum slick and a number of Audubon's Shearwaters zipping around as well.  Sunday we added a couple of Sooty Shearwaters and a Manx to the weekend's list.  One of the Sooties was especially cooperative diving for pieces of fish and flying close to the boat. (Kate Sutherland) 
Wilson's Storm-Petrels were seen well each day, though we didn't see the numbers we had earlier in the spring.  It was a treat to have Leach's Storm-Petrels on every trip, they were moving quickly and were not the easiest for everyone to get on, but they did show well!  Band-rumpeds were a bit more skittish and didn't spend much time close to the boat, however we did see them each day and many made close passes for those who were in the right place at the right time!  (Kate Sutherland)
Friday we had a bit of rain, but also had a good northeasterly wind that can be nice for drifting!  We put out a chum block to sit with for awhile and within a few minutes a shark swam through the slick taking the block with it!  It was tough to see it well with the wind waves but it looked like a Carcharhinus species - maybe a silky, bignose, or dusky. (Bob Fogg) 
That put a quick end to our desire to drift and we moved on...pulling our chum block and shearwaters with us.  Less than thirty minutes later a Brown Booby flew in to check us out!  This bird followed us in the slick for a bit feeding with the shearwaters and making some really nice passes by the boat. (Kate Sutherland) 
Saturday we saw just the usual suspects but they were super cooperative and we had excellent views of Cory's and Scopoli's with the Greats in the slick.  We also had really good numbers of Audubon's out there as well! (Bob Fogg) 
Sunday our trip offshore was a little sidetracked by some thunderstorms, but we had a chance to see this awesome cumulonibus arcus feature on the leading edge of the storms! (Kate Sutherland) 
We again had a nice following once we got around this storm and to the shelf break with good views, but the highlight of the three day set came when the wind breezed up a bit in about 200 fathoms (1200 feet) on our inshore tack just after one in the afternoon.  As we were keeping an eye on our following flock, a Fea's Petrel zipped up the slick and made a close pass by the stern! (Kate Sutherland) 
This bird continued up the slick, so we circled back to see if we could get another view...  Leader Daniel Irons spotted the bird up ahead and it slowly made its way back toward us on the slick flying right by us and giving spectacular views!  A few minutes later leader Mario Balibit spotted the bird off the starboard bow while I had one coming in towards the stern from about 7:00!  Sure enough, looking back at photos we had at least two individuals visit us in just a ten or fifteen minute period! (Second individual - Kate Sutherland) 
I put out more chum and one of these birds came right in to feed with the shearwaters in the slick - always a rewarding sight!
A huge thank you to everyone who joined us for this set making all three trips possible, and thank you so much to our leaders, Bob Fogg, Daniel Irons, and Mario Balibit for helping us lead the trips!  Thank you also to Bob for contributing some of his awesome images for this post!

Species list for June 10 / 11 / 12
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 201 to 211 / 172 to 182 / 150 to 160
Leach's Storm-Petrel - 3 / 1 / 7
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - 2 / 6 / 5
Fea's Petrel - 0 / 0 / 2
Black-capped Petrel - 31 / 21 to 24 / 57 to 60
Scopoli's Shearwater - 8 / 4 to 6 / 7
Atlantic Cory's Shearwater - 11 / 26 / 27
Cory's / Scopoli's - 102 / 60 / 155 to 158
Great Shearwater - 167 / 93 / 115
Sooty Shearwater - 0 / 0 / 2
Manx Shearwater - 0 / 0 / 1
Audubon's Shearwater - 48 / 56 to 59 / 66
Manx / Audubon's - 0 / 0 / 1
Brown Booby - 1 / 0 / 0
Northern Gannet - 1 / 0 / 0

Laughing Gull - 0 / 0 / 1 offshore
Common Tern - 0 / 1 / 0
Royal Tern - 1 / 5 / 3
Common Loon - 0 / 1 / 5

Atlantic Spotted Dolphins - 15 to 20 / 3 to 5 / 0
Offshore Bottlenose Dolphins - 0 / 21 to 23 / 0
Coastal Bottlenose Dolphins - 0 / 0 / 10 to 15

Carcharhinus species (silky, bignose, or dusky shark?) - 1 / 0 / 0 
Hammerhead (scalloped or Carolina) - 0 / 0 / 1

A few more images of the Fea's Petrels - head on - the first and second individuals (Kate Sutherland), you can see the difference in their facial patterns.
Ventral images (Kate Sutherland, Bob Fogg)
And dorsal images (Bob Fogg, Kate Sutherland)
Another image of the very cooperative Brown Booby sitting on the water Friday!  (Kate Sutherland)
Black-capped Petrels were very cooperative each day! (top three by Kate Sutherland, bottom two by Bob Fogg). Here are some representative images of mostly white-faced birds
While the facial pattern looks pale on this bird, the underwing is quite dark!
A darker faced individual with a smudgy looking nape just beginning to molt its primaries.
Bob captured this Atlantic Cory's as it was calling!
Another Cory's / Scopoli's shearwater in the same pose! (Bob Fogg)
We had really nice views of Scopoli's Shearwaters in the slick on both trips! (Kate Sutherland) This top bird was banded, not something we see very often!!
These smaller Calonectris were outnumbered by the larger Atlantic Cory's, however (top Kate Sutherland, bottom image by Bob Fogg).  As we move into the summer months the tables will turn and we typically find more Scopoli's offshore from Hatteras.
Great Shearwaters put on quite a show for us every day, diving, calling, and feeding on our fish block behind the boat!  This is the time of year that they push through down here heading for richer feeding grounds up north - sleek, fresh youngsters were here with older birds attending in smaller numbers. (top image by Bob Fogg, others by Kate Sutherland)
With a Black-capped Petrel above
Audubon's were zipping around all three days and we saw good numbers of them for the spring!  (Bob Fogg top, Kate Sutherland bottom image)
Wilson's Storm-Petrels kept their distance in the slick most days, preferring to be farther back in the slick than the large group of shearwaters!  Sometimes when we circled back these small storm-petrels made some nice passes!  (Kate Sutherland, Bob Fogg)
Bob captured this cool image of our flock with a Leach's Storm-Petrel flaring up on the left side!
Some gorgeous light on a flyingfish Sunday morning near the squall line - this is either an Atlantic or Fourwing flyingfish (. (Kate Sutherland)

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