Saturday, August 13, 2016

Saturday August 13, 2016 by Kate Sutherland

Winds were west south west this morning as we left Hatteras Village behind and headed offshore (sunrise by Kate Sutherland).
It was breezier than yesterday so we were hopeful that some birds would be flying...but instead we found some blended, greenish blue water offshore of the shelf.  We started chumming in about 100 fathoms, but did not see even a Wilson's Storm-Petrel for awhile.  At times when the wind is more westerly, combined with a long period of high pressure, things offshore can get a little stagnant - and that is more or less what we found out there today.   We were able to find some birds though, and ended up adding a couple of species to the weekend's list, plus had awesome views of all of them!  Black-capped Petrels and Band-rumpeds were not as attentive as they were yesterday, but they were out there and we had some nice passes by both - though the Band-rumped was a bit fleeting...! (photo by Kate Sutherland)
Cory's and Audubon's Shearwaters both made some close passes, but we were unable to turn up a Great Shearwater today.  Sooty Terns were a highlight with one making some really nice passes by the boat! (photo by Lucas Bobay)
Plus we were able to find three more Bridled Terns, and some adults in contrast to yesterday's young individual.  The second new species for the weekend was Red-necked Phalarope!  We encountered a small flock on our way in that landed on the water and then allowed us to approach quite closely for some awesome photo ops (photo by Lucas Bobay).

The deep was another story.  Today we went out farther than yesterday because of that blended water and we wanted to see what we could find.  Out in over 8,000 feet of water, the Gulf Stream was deep blue, highlighted with patches of sargassum - a gorgeous sight!  One of the Bridled Terns was perched out here and we had close passes by the Audubon's (photo by Lucas Bobay).
The highlight, though, was a massive Leatherback that swam along just below the surface coming up for a breath a few times as we watched!! (photo by Kate Sutherland)
It's not every day that we get to encounter these deep divers and the views were quite satisfying!  I have been waiting all summer to get into patches of sargassum like that so we could dip some to look at - and a quick sample before making the inshore tack turned up some sargassum swimming crabs, both types of shrimp, and six sargassum nudibranchs (photo of one by Kate Sutherland)!!
After two days out there, it was very cool to get to show these creatures to our participants!  Overall, we turned a day with some low numbers into an awesome day offshore - though each day in the Gulf Stream is an adventure!

Thank you to everyone who joined us for both trips, and for today - it was so nice to have a full boat for a change!  And thank you to our leaders - Jeff Lemons, Lucas Bobay, and Ed Corey - they did a great job keeping up with the birds and keeping our participants informed!  Thank you again today to Lucas for allowing me to use some of his photos for the post!

Trip List August 13, 2016
Black-capped Petrel  14
Cory's Shearwater  16
Audubon's Shearwater  7
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  45
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  3
Red-necked Phalarope  16
Sooty Tern  3
Bridled Tern  3-4

Least Tern  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Barn Swallow  2

Leatherback Turtle  1

Black-capped Petrel - this dark faced individual was one that made some nice passes by the stern today (Kate Sutherland)
 Cory's Shearwater - possibly one of the nominate types (Kate Sutherland)
Another view of one of the Sooty Terns (Kate Sutherland)
& Bridled Tern - perched on a large piece of bamboo and in flight (both photos by Lucas Bobay)
Red-necked Phalaropes in flight (Kate Sutherland)
 One more photo of the Leatherback Turtle (Kate Sutherland)
The larger sargassum swimming crab that we found (the species is Portunus sayi)
The good thing about the Gulf Stream is that even when birds are scarce, there are always flyingfish to look at!!  Top photo of "Rosy veined Clearwing" which could also be a patchwing, and an interesting smaller flyingfish that looks like some kind of young flyingfish...perhaps a double midnight wing...!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Friday August 12, 2016 Bird of the Day... by Kate Sutherland

Since we were weathered out last Saturday, it was nice to get back offshore today - the morning dawned with more wind than was forecast making all of us very optimistic as we headed offshore!  (sunrise by Kate Sutherland)
We slowed down about 30 minutes inshore of the shelf break since there was a fair sign of birds and we didn't want to miss anything charging past the edge of the Gulf Stream.  The shearwaters and storm-petrels we saw in there were mostly distant save for a Pomarine Jaeger that flew up the slick, past the boat, and then kept on going.  Black-capped Petrels began showing just over the break (photo by Lucas Bobay),
a little shallower than we sometimes find them, but as the day progressed, we realized that most of the birds today were in that swath of water - not out in the deep (we know because we checked!).  I was very pleased to see that the Black-cappeds were hungry, even with a fairly bright moon out there, and some of them followed us for over an hour dropping down and feeding in the slick!!  We passed a couple of flocks sitting on the water and were able to recruit a few to the slick.  Bird of the Day?  Easily Black-capped Petrel for me!  Wilson's Storm-Petrels, while a bit sparse and distant to begin the day, soon were flying right up to the stern and for a few people, these little superheroes from the bottom of the world were the Bird of the Day!  Cory's & Great Shearwaters also gave us some stellar views in flight and on the water - with Black-cappeds - not a comparison that we see every day (photo by Kate Sutherland).
Band-rumped Storm-Petrels finally made an appearance and also gave us some close views along with the usual study more distant in the slick.  One of these came to feed right next to the boat (photo by Kate Sutherland),
prompting a long time participant to remark that it was the best he had ever seen a Band-rumped - easily the Bird of the Day for others aboard!  Late morning found us in the neighborhood of the canyon dwelling Gervais' Beaked Whales - and sure enough, we encountered a small pod of females and possibly young individuals!(photo by Lucas Bobay)
Sometimes a mammal is the Bird of the Day - we had some people aboard today for whom Mesoplodon europaeus was the Bird of the Day!  These denizens of the deep were very cooperative surfacing multiple times close by!  (photo by Kate Sutherland)
One thing that was noticeably absent out there today was the sargassum.  We passed some small patches of it, but nothing like what we usually find here in the summer.  So with that, we were also missing the species that are associated with this type of floating brown algae, the Audubon's Shearwaters and Bridled Terns!  We saw only three Audubon's offshore of the shelf break today - pretty disappointing for an August pelagic trip from Hatteras!  And without some perches for the Bridled Tern...well, my hopes were not very high for an encounter.  Then, on the way in we found a float with...yes!!  A Bridled Tern!  And around it, some sargassum and Audubon's Shearwaters!!  We took a few minutes to approach and photograph this individual (photo by Lucas Bobay)
that for many aboard, was the Bird of the Day!  Who knows what it will be tomorrow - a tropicbird?  Perhaps a booby?  Maybe even a mega like Black-bellied Storm-Petrel...either way, we'll be there and keep you posted!

Thanks to everyone who joined us today and a big thank you to our leaders, Jeff Lemons, Ed Corey, and Lucas Bobay who did an excellent job helping everyone get on the birds!  Thanks also to Lucas for letting me use some of his photos here.

Trip List August 12, 2016
Black-capped Petrel  42
Cory's Shearwater  40-41
Great Shearwater  5
Audubon's Shearwater  9
Manx/Audubon's sp  1
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  60
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  11
Bridled Tern  1
Pomarine Jaeger  1

Least Tern  1 (offshore)
Black Tern 2 (just inside of Hatteras Inlet)
shorebird sp.  6

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin  5-6
Gervais' Beaked Whale  4-5

A really fresh looking Black-capped Petrel (Kate Sutherland)
 Black-capped Petrel & Cory's Shearwater taking off together (Kate Sutherland)
Great Shearwater (Lucas Bobay)
 One of the Audubon's Shearwaters nearshore (Kate Sutherland)
Band-rumped Storm Petrels (left three) Wilson's Storm-Petrel & Black-capped Petrel, it was nice to see these birds together on the water and then taking off!  (Kate Sutherland)
 Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (Kate Sutherland)
A couple more images of the Bridled Tern (Kate Sutherland)
& one more Gervais' Beaked Whale photo - here you can see the "tiger" stripes that are typically seen on the female individuals.  There is also a scar behind the dorsal fin on this individual, the scar is dark vs light or white which is characteristic of this species as well.  (Kate Sutherland)

Friday, August 5, 2016

Friday August 5, 2016 by Kate Sutherland

Light southeast winds and a little bit of swell from overnight greeted us as we traversed the sandbar at Hatteras Inlet, oh, and another gorgeous sunrise (photo by Kate Sutherland)!
As has been the case on our trips so far this summer, we did not see many birds on our way to the shelf break, but once we slowed down and began chumming we had incredibly close Audubon's Shearwaters (photo by Peter Flood) - they were mostly this year's birds -
and nice views of some Cory's & Greats a little more distant.  Our first Black-capped Petrel made an appearance before we even had a good look at a Wilson's Storm-Petrel, and the day was off to an excellent start!  It was just calm enough for birds to be sitting around on the water and for us to spot them with ease...but there was also just enough breeze and cloud cover that the day was not too hot.  We encountered flocks of shearwaters and Black-cappeds on the water (photo of Black-cappeds taking off by Peter Flood),
mostly in the morning on our way to the deep.  Band-rumped Storm-Petrels were very obliging and our first individual flew in to the back of the slick right around 1000 working its way up towards the boat for a quick view.  The next couple of individuals stuck around much longer (photo by Peter Flood)
and by the end of the day we had two to four Band-rumpeds with us at all times, even as we approached the shelf break!  It seems the shearwaters are back and we had excellent numbers of Cory's Shearwaters plus at least three individuals that looked like the nominate type, also known as Scopoli's.  These birds stayed with us feeding in the slick alongside Great Shearwaters (photo by Peter Flood)
and Black-capped Petrels who all were following us with our ever present Wilson's Storm-Petrels for much of the day.  Our surprise visitor flew in just after 1230 though, a very curious South Polar Skua!  (photo Peter Flood)
This seemingly enormous bird came right in and hovered over the stern of the boat, checking us out as we all craned to see it overhead!  It made a few more passes before flying away down the slick.  The Gulf Stream was variable in appearance with some dirtier looking water inshore, then clean, cerulean water offshore - with scattered sargassum.  While we thought it might be the perfect day for a tropicbird, none appeared, and the conditions were not favorable for any tropical terns.  Overall it was a perfect summer trip with excellent views of everything we saw over the course of the day, and good numbers of all species!  Thank you to everyone who joined us out there today and also thanks to Peter Flood for helping us lead the trip and for contributing photos for the post today!!

Trip List August 5, 2016
Black-capped Petrel  39-43
Cory's Shearwater  62
Great Shearwater  11
Audubon's Shearwater  23
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  100-125
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  9-13
South Polar Skua  1

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin  20

All photos below courtesy of Peter Flood
We had one young Black-capped Petrel come in to the boat!  Here are a couple of images of this gorgeous and sharp looking bird!
Another Great Shearwater image
And it would be difficult to resist more photos of the young Audubon's Shearwaters!
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel with a morsel of food
 Atlantic Spotted Dolphins from this morning
 Atlantic Patchwing - we saw many of these over the course of the day

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Saturday July 30, 2016 by Kate Sutherland

This morning dawned much calmer than yesterday and as we headed offshore there was ample cloud cover to keep us cool instead of wind (sunrise photo by Kate Sutherland)!
A pod of curious Atlantic Spotted Dolphins came in to the boat to ride the bow wave on our way offshore and we had awesome views of these small, energetic marine mammals!  When we reached the shelf break, we were greeted by shearwaters...unlike yesterday when it took some time to find them.  Right off the bat we had awesome looks at a pair of Audubon's that one of our participants spotted sitting on the water, so we slowed there and headed offshore (photo of one of these Audubon's in flight by Kate Sutherland).
We found Cory's and Audubon's Shearwaters to be quite cooperative on the water and even encountered our first Wilson's Storm-Petrels in a flock taking off in front of the boat (as opposed to in the slick!).  As we reached deeper water, Black-capped Petrels and Band-rumped Storm-Petrels put in an appearance!  A flock of fourteen Black-cappeds, two Audubon's, and three Wilson's on the water sat calmly for us to approach - a rare close encounter with sitting Black-cappeds!  (photo of a couple taking off by Brian Patteson)
Sooty and Bridled Terns were not around like they were yesterday in spite of some nice sargassum (with life!) offshore, but we did have one Sooty Tern that flew right over the boat, so at least everyone aboard had a nice quick view.  Cory's Shearwaters were more plentiful than on yesterday's trip and we had some excellent passes, but we were unable to turn up a Great Shearwater for the second day in a row.  Squalls in the distance kept us cool this afternoon and also brought us some wind;  it was nice for our participants to get to see the birds really showing off their ability to harness it!  Black-cappeds and Band-rumpeds, even the Wilson's, were transformed.  It is amazing the difference a day makes and we were quite pleased to find today to be more of a "summer" trip with the lines of sargassum and flyingfish (photo by Kate Sutherland) to keep us company out in the deep.
Everyone had a chance to see our usual suspects and see them well - another excellent adventure in the Gulf Stream!  Thank you to everyone who joined us out there today - we have space on our trips next weekend, Friday August 5 & Saturday August 6th!

Trip List July 30, 2016
Black-capped Petrel  37-38
Cory's Shearwater  16
Audubon's Shearwater  25
Wilson's Storm-Petrel  75
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  15-19
Sooty Tern  4
Bridled Tern  1
Black Tern  1

Least Sandpiper  1
shorebird sp.  1
Kingfisher  1

Black-capped Petrel by Brian Patteson
We spent some time with the Wilson's Storm-Petrels on a quick drift in the afternoon.  Here you can see the yellow webbing!  (Kate Sutherland)
 Another nice view of their long legs!  (Kate Sutherland)
Atlantic Patchwing (Kate Sutherland)
& finally a photo of our weather buoy (NDBC 41025) which we passed on our way in this afternoon (Kate Sutherland)