Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Summer Seabirds - 26, 27, 28 August by Kate Sutherland

Our last three day set of the season went off without a hitch! It was nice to run our summer trips without interruption this year and while last weekend we had some abnormal conditions, this weekend had closer to normal Gulf Stream current on all three trips and we finally saw some nice conditions with Sargassum...which also means flotsam for Bridled Terns to use for perching! 
And food for many of the seabirds we find offshore, notably the Audubon's is a Sargassum specialist, but these Cory's / Scopoli's Shearwaters were pretty excited about it as well! 
While I never glimpsed any of the prey items they were feeding on, we did have a number of opportunities to see the aerialist pursuits of the Sooty and Bridled Terns. Small, cryptically colored fishes were under a number of dense Sargassum patches we passed on a beautiful line on Sunday. Here is a series showing how the tern picked up more than it bargained for and then drops everything to swoop back down and grab just the fish! 
Unfortunately for this individual, it was not quite quick enough to recapture its prey and the fish went back to hiding in the Sargassum! While Sooty Terns were around with their young last weekend, Bridled Terns were a bit harder to come by due to the lack of Sargassum and flotsam. Young Sooty Terns will sit on the water to be fed by their parents, while the young Bridled Terns need a perch. This weekend was certainly the best we've had for viewing and photographing Bridled Terns this year! Like this juvenile that flushed from a piece of plywood where it had been perched with a parent.
Or this year old individual that was very curious about our vessel and spent some time chasing a Wilson's Storm-Petrel in the slick that had some food!
Sooty Terns were also super cooperative over the three day set and we had wonderful opportunities to photograph both adults and their attending young.
The bird that stole the show this weekend, however, was not a tubenose or a tern, but a gull! This gorgeous adult Sabine's Gull came in high in the glare over the bow on Saturday where leader Sarah Toner got on it right away and put out the shout! Everyone had a chance to see it fairly close to the boat before a Black-capped Petrel escorted it away. Who knows what bugged the Black-cap about this bird, it was small and definitely not a threat...though it did land in the slick for a few minutes and may have been eating some food the petrel didn't approve of!
On Sunday we had another sighting with a flock of Sooty Terns, this one was a bit more distant, but it was also an adult Sabine's Gull that was seen by everyone aboard, albeit briefly. 
Jaegers were also a treat over the weekend with Long-tailed Jaeger seen on all three trips, juvenile birds on Friday and Saturday then a nice one year old bird on Sunday who put on a nice show chasing Sooty Terns and Audubon's Shearwaters! 
Friday's trip found all three species, with really nice views of young Parasitic and Long-tailed Jaegers. The Pomarine was one of the first birds of the day in the morning rain. 
Black-capped Petrels were seen well on Friday and Saturday with Sunday finding just nine individuals, though easterly winds are not always the best for finding our Gulf Stream specialty. We were excited to have really nice examples of both white-faced and black-faced birds over the weekend, as the images below illustrate! 
The expected summer shearwater species were out there in good numbers and we had a Manx zip across the bow Friday morning then a Sooty Shearwater fly by at a distance on Sunday. Otherwise, as you can see from the images below, we had both Cory's and Scopoli's, cooperative Greats, and some really cooperative (and numerous) Audubon's! 
August is when our storm-petrels get a bit scarce. We consider ourselves very lucky to see Band-rumped Storm-Petrels after about the 25th of August so we were in luck to get two on the 26th and one on the 27th! Sunday we didn't find any at all... One of the birds we saw Friday plopped down on the water just ahead of the boat and we were able to get everyone positioned on that side in time to see it on the water and to see it take off! What a treat!! 
Wilson's are beginning to slow down as well and while we had over 30 on Friday's trip, thee next two days found less than 20 each day. They did come by for us to get photos, however, so honestly? No complaints! 
As we move into the fall Red-necked Phalaropes are beginning to show up and Sunday we tallied almost 100 individuals in the shelf waters! I only captured some record shots, but maybe we'll have better luck this coming weekend if the conditions are right!

Thank you so much to everyone who joined us and made these trips some of the best attended of the summer! While we were sorry that George Armistead and Liam Heart of Hillstar Nature Tours couldn't join us to help lead the trips (due to illness), we are incredibly thankful to Daniel Irons, Sarah Toner, and Paul Laurent for being willing to help out on short notice! All of the photos for the post this time are mine, scroll down for a few more images from the three day set. 
~Kate Sutherland

Species List for 26 / 27 / 28 August 2022
Pelagic Species: 
Black-capped Petrel - 40 / 53 to 58 / 9
Scopoli's Shearwater - 8 / 6 / 17
Atlantic Cory's Shearwater - 10 / 5 / 1
Cory's / Scopoli's - 59 to 67 / 37 / 130
Great Shearwater - 32 to 35 / 11 / 15 to 16
Sooty Shearwater - 0 / 0 / 1
Manx Shearwater - 1 / 0 / 0
Audubon's Shearwater - 18 / 10 / 53 to 55
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 31 to 32 / 17 to 18 / 13 to 15
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - 2 / 1 / 0
Red-necked Phalarope - 0 / 4 / 99
Sabine's Gull - 0 / 1 adult / 1 adult
Sooty Tern - 104 / 26 / 56
Bridled Tern - 8 / 4 / 24
Sooty / Bridled Tern - 2 / 9 / 9
Pomarine Jaeger - 1 / 0 / 0
Parasitic Jaeger - 1 / 0 / 0
Long-tailed Jaeger - 1 / 1 / 1
Other Species:
Blue-winged Teal - 0 / 0 / 2
Laughing Gull - 0 / 0 / 2
Royal Tern - 3 / 3 / 0
Common Tern - 19 / 41 / 19
Sterna species - 0 / 6 / 0
Black Tern - 4 / 14 / 14
Semipalmated Plover - 2 / 0 / 0
Least Sandpiper - 1 / 0 / 0
Semipalmated Sandpiper - 0 / 2 / 0
peep species - 1 / 0 / 1
shorebird species - 0 / 1 / 0
Prothonotary Warbler - 2 / 0 / 0
Offshore Bottlenose Dolphin - 10 / 0 / 20 to 22
Coastal Bottlenose Dolphin - 2 / 0 / 0 
sea turtle species - 1 / 0 / 0
Scalloped or Carolina Hammerhead - 1 / 1 / 0
Sailfish - 0 / 3 seen / 0
Wahoo - 1 caught / 1 caught / 1 caught
Monarch - 0 / 1 / 0
A number of small moths / butterflies were also seen offshore

One more of the Black-capped Petrel & the Sabine's Gull from Saturday's trip!
When I went through my photos I saw that we had a sea turtle, likely a young Loggerhead, near the board that was a perch for a young Bridled Tern and its parent on Friday! You can see the back of it here to the left of the board and the tip of a flipper, then a shot showing gorgeous detail on the adult as it took off with the out of focus flipper (easily identified as a sea turtle!) nearby!
Another nice image of a Bridled Tern looking inquisitively at us and then taking off!
Black-capped Petrels put on a nice show for us all weekend, but especially on Friday & Saturday's trips when they came in well to feed!
Another white-faced individual from Friday.
Contrasting with the darker cap of this individual which is more typical of the birds we see at this time of year.
Some of the Scopoli's that we saw over the set
And Atlantic Cory's (borealis)
Another image of our Long-tailed Jaeger from Sunday's trip

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