Sunday, September 11, 2022

Shelf Birding - 3 & 4 September 2022 by Kate Sutherland

Easterly winds were with us on both trips this weekend with a bit of north added to the mix on Sunday. This can be good for birds on the shelf as we head to the deep in search of Black-caps and storm-petrels! This set once again proved that late summer can be a good time to find nice feeding flocks on the shelf and less than 30 minutes from Hatteras Inlet on Saturday we had excellent views of a young Long-tailed Jaeger and another jaeger that looked to be a Parasitic! Another 30 minutes and we were showing everyone five species of shearwater in a nice flock, Manx was a nice treat plus we had good views of both Scopoli's, Cory's, Great, and Audubon's. Common and Black Terns were feeding over this group and we also had some Red-necked Phalaropes on the water in this area as well (Kate Sutherland).
A couple of Sooty and Bridled Terns rounded out the shelf list for Saturday morning. 

Once we reached the Gulf Stream birds were a bit more scarce, but we found our first Black-capped Petrels and Wilson's Storm-Petrels as we continued into deeper water, plus we saw more of the species we had earlier in the day. Interestingly just after noontime we saw a Bridled Tern perched on something odd we got closer we saw it was a dead Blue-winged Teal! (Kate Sutherland) 
A species that we do see way offshore at this time of year, but it was the first time we'd ever seen a dead one used as a perch by a tern! As we approached the shelf again in the afternoon a Sabine's Gull flew up behind us and overhead, continuing on away from us ahead of the boat - WOW - two weekends in a row and three sightings. Not bad for this species here offshore from Hatteras! (Record shot by Kate Sutherland) 
Sunday morning we found that the hot, fast waters of the Gulf Stream had pushed in overnight and were up on the shelf. This can be a difficult condition for everything, tough for fishing and tough for birding, even on an easterly wind. But before we reached the current we had some nice feeding flocks right in with the fishing fleet and got some good views of Cory's / Scopoli's, Atlantic Cory's, and Great Shearwaters plus Common and Black Terns (Ed Corey)
- and we even had a nice look at a Pomarine Jaeger! A pod of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins were feeding under the shearwaters and terns and a few of these came in to check us out under the bow pulpit. We continued offshore into the river moving northeast and slowly turned up more of our target species like Bridled Tern, Black-capped Petrel, and Wilson's Storm-Petrel. Some of the awesome things we found out in the deep were a Long-tailed Jaeger sitting near a float that gave us all good views (Kate Sutherland),
and a flock of 11 Black-capped Petrels on the water that allowed us to approach them closely, for Black-caps, that is! (Kate Sutherland) 
This was the largest group of Black-cappeds we found over the two day set. A couple of Sooty Terns and a dark Pomarine Jaeger rounded out our time offshore and we picked up to head to the north where some boats were reporting birds along a rip. This was near the Diamond Shoals Light Tower, decommissioned but still standing, and we found a beautiful color change where the warmer water butted up against some cooler water forming a nice condition for some food to aggregate...meaning also a good place for some hungry birds to aggregate! Red-necked Phalaropes were in the area in addition to a number of Sooty and Bridled Terns. The only Audubon's Shearwaters we found were also along this rip. (Ed Corey) 
Overall we had a very successful couple of trips! I wish we could have had more people join us out there, but we thank those who did and also thank our leaders, Ed Corey and Jacob Farmer, for helping everyone get on the birds we did see! We had to cancel our September 10 (11) trip due to swell from Hurricane Earl, but we'll be back at it on the 24th of the month. Hope to see some of you then :)

Species List for 3 / 4 September 2022

Pelagic Species: 
Black-capped Petrel - 7 to 8 / 27
Scopoli's Shearwater - 8 / 7
Atlantic Cory's Shearwater - 7 / 4
Cory's / Scopoli's - 38 to 39 / 102 to 103
Great Shearwater - 48 / 75
Manx Shearwater - 2 / 0
Audubon's Shearwater - 11 to 14 / 18 to 20
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 17 to 18 / 16 to 17
Red-necked Phalarope - 26 / 42
Red Red-necked Phalarope - 0 / 1
Sabine's Gull - 1 / 0
Sooty Tern - 5 / 15
Bridled Tern - 8 to 9 / 13
Sooty / Bridled Tern - 5 / 0
Pomarine Jaeger - 0 / 2
Long-tailed Jaeger - 1 / 1
jaeger species - 1 likely Parasitic Jaeger / 0

Other Species:
Laughing Gull - 0 / 1
Common Tern - 268 / 171
Sterna species - 0 / 1 possible Roseate Tern
Black Tern - 14 / 83
Atlantic Spotted Dolphins - 0 / 12 to 15
Offshore Bottlenose Dolphin - 14 to 17 / 0
Loggerhead Turtle - 0 / 1

And as usual a few more images from the weekend!
Black-capped Petrel from Saturday - at least one made a nice pass! (Kate Sutherland)
Another shot of the birds that we found on the water taking off on Sunday (Kate Sutherland)
Saturday morning we had some really nice feeding behavior! Following are a few images from that. First one that shows the Common Terns above with a Cory's (left) and Scopoli's (right) feeding, followed by one with some Great Shearwaters with food. (Kate Sutherland). 
Awesome capture of one of the Common Terns (Ed Corey)
We had good views of Scopoli's (2), Greats (also 2 images), and Audubon's here as well as the phalaropes pictured above in the blog! (Kate Sutherland)
Wilson's Storm-Petrels were a challenge, but I did manage to capture at least one on Saturday! (Kate Sutherland)
In contrast to some other weekends, Bridled Terns were much more obliging and even more numerous for this set. Like this juvenile bird by Ed Corey, followed by another one by Kate Sutherland.
We also had some nice encounters with adults, like the one perched on the teal, and this one perched on some flotsam. (Kate Sutherland)
Or this one with some food for its chick! (Kate Sutherland)
A couple images of the Long-tailed Jaeger on Sunday (Kate Sutherland)
Plus a Cory's / Scopoli's with the Diamond Shoals Light Tower in the background from Sunday (Kate Sutherland)
One of the offshore, or pelagic, Bottlenose Dolphins we saw on Saturday by Ed Corey
A cool look at a Tripletail next to a float we found on Sunday! (Kate Sutherland)
And to wrap it up a couple of flyingfish images - one of what we call "grasshoppers" or "Sargassum flyingfish" (likely juveniles of known species) and some Sailfin Flyingfish - also known as Odd Spot Midgets (SNGH). (both by Kate Sutherland)

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