Friday, May 19, 2023

Shifting Winds - 12, 13, 14 May 2023 by Kate Sutherland

Weather and the Gulf Stream cooperated to bring us a really awesome set of trips this past weekend! Those who joined us for all three had a nice list by the end and we were treated to something unique each day. Friday winds were from the south and we had nice views of Audubon's with one Manx Shearwater first thing in the morning as we approached the shelf. The first Sooty Shearwater of the season joined us in the slick for a couple of hours and we had a good showing of Wilson's Storm-Petrels and Pomarine Jaegers as well! Black-capped Petrels were around but not in large numbers. One of our participants, Max Epstein, spotted a couple of Gervais' Beaked Whales from the top deck mid-morning as we were heading towards some activity in the distance - these whales had some Black-cappeds and a Sooty milling around them so had likely just surfaced! We had some nice views as they swam by before diving again. Shortly after that we had a gorgeous Roseate Tern fly by!
Saturday we has winds with a bit more of a westerly component, so south southwest becoming more southwest over the course of the day and increasing. Just past the shelf we had a small group of feeding tubenoses! Black-capped Petrels and Atlantic Cory's Shearwaters were feeding over some small tuna that were pushing flyingfishes to the surface. Watching Black-capped Petrels chasing flyingfish was amazing and not something we will ever forget! Wilson's were very attentive in the slick and we saw more Black-capped Petrels than on Friday. 
Pomarine Jaegers were also attracted to the free meal and we had one dark morph individual with us for over an hour. Midmorning Brian spotted a couple of birds on the water ahead, unfortunately they were in the glare but at least one was an Audubon's. As they flushed we realized the other was a large storm-petrel, incredibly enough it was a Leach's! Initially it flew off but it soon found the slick and gave us some great views for everyone aboard. We didn't have any Band-rumpeds over the three day set, but they should start showing up in good numbers any time. A small pod of presumed Short-finned Pilot Whales (we didn't see their pectoral fins, but these are the most likely species in our area) was also seen well - first of the season!
Sunday skies were overcast, giving us a nice, low ceiling. Winds had been westerly overnight and while we still had some southwesterly swell the wind was blowing from the west. The forecast was for a shift to the north northeast in the afternoon, but checking the stations up the beach we could see it was already coming around as we headed to the shelf break! Black-capped Petrels were on the shelf both in the morning and in the afternoon and we had a solid count of almost 100 by the end of the day. It seemed everywhere you looked there were a couple arcing in the distance. A pod of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins on the shelf had a small flock feeding over them and we found our first Bridled Terns of the season along with some great views of Atlantic Cory's, Sooty, and Audubon's Shearwaters. We don't usually expect to see birds from the south or east on a west or northerly wind so it was awesome to have our first White-tailed Tropicbird of the year drop in less than an hour past the shelf break! 
It checked us out a couple of times them moved on. The west wind had deposited a number of shorebirds and even a couple of warblers out there in the deep and as we watched a Yellow Warbler keeping pace with the boat I glanced up to see a South Polar Skua in pursuit! Or maybe it was just chance that it was flying by just above and behind the warbler? Who knows, but it was hungry and we were treated to some incredibly close views!

A huge thank you to Doug Gochfeld for making the trip down to help Brian and I lead these trips and thank you to everyone who joined us out there! We couldn't see what's out there without you! (All photos by Kate Sutherland for this post)

Species List 12 / 13 / 14 May 2023

South Polar Skua 0 / 0 / 1
Pomarine Jaeger 9 to 10 / 4 to 6 / 0
jaeger sp 0 / 1 / 0
Laughing Gull 0 / 0 / 1
Bridled Tern 0 / 0 / 2
Black Tern 0 / 1 / 0
Roseate Tern 1 / 0 / 0
Common Tern 7 / 3 / 21
Sterna sp 0 / 0 / 3
White-tailed Tropicbird 0 / 0 / 1
Common Loon 2 / 1 / 3
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 95 to 100 / 106 to 111 / 162 to 167
Leach's Storm-Petrel 0 / 1 / 0
Black-capped Petrel 33 / 49 to 51 / 91 to 92
Atlantic Cory's Shearwater 8 / 12 / 5
Sooty Shearwater 1 / 1 to 2 / 2 to 3
Manx Shearwater 1 / 0 / 0
Audubon's Shearwater 11 / 3 / 25

Ruddy Turnstone 0 / 0 / 13
Red Knot 0 / 0 / 3
Greater Yellowlegs 0 / 0 / 6
shorebird sp 13 / 0 / 6
Barn Swallow 0 / 0 / 2
Magnolia Warbler 0 / 0 / 1
Yellow Warbler 0 / 0 / 1

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin 0 / 2 / 12 to 15
Offshore Bottlenose Dolphin 12 to 15 / 0 / 0 
Short-finned Pilot Whale (presumed) 0 / 12 to 15 / 0
Gervais' Beaked Whale 2 to 4 / 0 / 0
Portuguese Man of War 4 / 0 / 0

The Gervais' Beaked Whales were super cooperative!
We had great views of both light and dark Black-capped Petrels over the course of three days
Atlantic Cory's Shearwaters showed well!
The Sooty Shearwaters were also very cooperative, as they tend to be when they're hungry!
Audubon's Shearwaters have been challenging to see so far this spring, but we did have some chances to see them well on this set!
The Leach's Storm-Petrel was a bit less cooperative, but at least I was able to get a record shot
Wilson's Storm-Petrels, however, gave us some incredible photo ops - it helps that Brian is really good at positioning the Stormy Petrel II so we can have these opportunities!
This image of the South Polar Skua is barely cropped! It didn't mind us checking it out at all when it was on the water.
This dark morph Pomarine Jaeger stayed with us for over an hour!
This gorgeous Laughing Gull joined us offshore of the shelf break for awhile on Sunday
Record shots of our Yellow & Magnolia Warblers!
And an image of the striking and dangerous Portuguese Man of War - such an interesting collection of creatures! These are not jellyfish but a type of siphonophore - and they have colonies of specialized polyps that make up what many assume is just a single animal!
The wave action was pretty awesome as well...!

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