Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Seabird Spectacle 4 & 5 August 2023 by Kate Sutherland

August 4 and 5th mark the beginning of our summer schedule which only has four departures from Hatteras Inlet. Fortunately the weather was cooperative and we got out there both days to find that this summer things are looking good for seabirds here in Hatteras! On the shelf Friday as we headed offshore we picked up Pomarine Jaeger, Cory's / Scopoli's, Great, and Audubon's Shearwaters in addition to catching a King Mackerel and a Wahoo. Black-capped Petrels and Band-rumped Storm-Petrels were just over the shelf break in the deeper water offshore. During the 09:00 period Brian spotted a Masked Booby in the distance, but there was no luck getting closer for a better look. Then things really started to happen! A light morph Trindade Petrel flew in to investigate the slick and just after that Brian spotted a White-faced Storm-Petrel ahead of the boat, close on the bow! (Daniel Irons)
It turns out this same individual stayed with the boat, following back in the slick for almost three hours, thank goodness for photos! In addition to these excellent sightings there are finally good numbers of Audubon's Shearwaters beginning to show up here offshore. (Daniel Irons)
A nice mixture of birds of the year and adults are around! Just after noontime another Trindade Petrel was spotted, this one a dark morph, and a couple of Pomarine Jaegers visited the boat. How could this day ever be topped?

Well, Saturday we didn't have much on the shelf but there were flocks upon flocks of shearwaters just over the break as we moved into the deeper water offshore. (Kate Sutherland)
We didn't even start really chumming until after 10:00 because we were just moving from flock to flock that would appear as Blackfin Tuna and other species pushed baitfish to the surface! One flock had mostly Scopoli's Shearwaters, including one that was super bleached (Kate Sutherland),
another a lot of Atlantic Cory's, while another had about equal numbers of Great and Cory's type shearwaters. All had small numbers of Audubon's associated with them which were likely undercounted as they zip around so close to the water and can really blend in! Sooty Terns were associated with a few of these flocks, it's nice to see them finally showing well here offshore. (Brian Patteson)
There were not many storm-petrels or Black-cappeds associated with these feeding groups, however, and we decided to keep moving offshore to the deep. Out there we finally found some nice blue, Gulf Stream water with a few more Black-capped Petrels, but it was a bit slow - only a few Wilson's in the slick and just the occasional shearwater moving by. Just after we began our inshore tack I spotted a blow in the distance behind us with a small beehive (feeding flock) that looked like a Sperm Whale! We don't see them very often, so always a treat, but it was far...Brian circled back and we headed that way just as we saw one dive and show its tail flukes - a deep dive. But then another was blowing right there! So we made it in time to observe one on the surface, showing us that left angled, bushy blow that is diagnostic of the species, before it dove! (Kate Sutherland)
It seems this little back track put us in the right place at the right time because just a little over 30 minutes later Daniel Irons shouted from the top deck "White-faced Storm-Petrel in front of the boat!!!!" Wow! Two days in a row we were treated to these little pogo-stick stormies! This one was a different individual from Friday's and stayed with us for some incredible views, everyone who had not been on Friday's trip (myself included!) was hoping we would find one on Saturday, and what a reward. (Kate Sutherland)
When this little beauty showed up it was like a switch was flipped! All of the sudden we had Band-rumpeds and Wilson's right there as well, with shearwaters and Black-caps coming in also to feed in the slick. As we moved back onto the shelf a South Polar Skua was spotted in a flock of shearwaters - yes!! (Daniel Irons)
Overall a very very successful first set of the summer!

Thank you so much to everyone who joined us out there, making these trips a go, and huge thanks to Daniel Irons and Jeffrey Effinger for helping as leaders for both! Brian also did a great job without me on Friday (I was offshore on a research cruise), and I was super excited to make it back in time to contribute on Saturday! 

Next trips are from Hatteras on the 18 & 19 of August - there is space on the 18th but the19th is FULL. After that we take the boat up to Wanchese, NC to run ten trips from Oregon Inlet! Space is still available on all of these.

Species List for 4 / 5 August 2023
Trindade Petrel - 2 (light & dark morph) / 0
Black-capped Petrel - 47 / 19
Scopoli's Shearwater - 6 / 309
Atlantic Cory's Shearwater - 4 / 371
Cory's / Scopoli's - 92 / 496
Great Shearwater - 16 / 605
Audubon's Shearwater - 27 / 133
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 40 / 44
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - 23 / 10
Leach's / Band-rumped - 0 / 1
White-faced Storm-Petrel - 1 / 1
Sooty Tern - 2 / 23
Bridled Tern - 0 / 2
Masked Booby - 1 / 0
Pomarine Jaeger - 3 / 1
South Polar Skua - 0 / 1
White tern species - 0 / 2
Sanderling - 0 / 5

Sperm Whale - 0 / 2
Scalloped / Carolina Hammerhead - 1 / 0
Wahoo - 2 / 1 caught
King Mackerel - 1 / 0 caught

A few more images from the set! 
White-faced Stormie anyone?? What a treat to have them on back to back trips! (Daniel Irons top, two below Kate Sutherland)
Black-capped Petrels were around and we had both light and dark faced birds, here is a light form above and a more intermediate looking individual below. (Kate Sutherland)
Audubon's were also pretty cooperative! (Kate Sutherland)
And Great Shearwaters were as well! (Brian Patteson)
Band-rumped Storm-Petrels were super cooperative over the two day set (Daniel Irons top, two below Kate Sutherland)
The skua was super exciting to see - participant Lucas Wilson spotted it in a flock of shearwaters! (Kate Sutherland)
And the Sperm Whale that was still on the surface - wow! The dorsal surface and also markings on the animal can help identify an individual for people studying them! (Kate Sutherland)

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