September 29, 2013 Trip List

September 29, 2013 Hatteras, NC

Black-capped Petrel  40

Cory’s Shearwater  225

Great Shearwater  13

Audubon’s Shearwater  32

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel  4

phalarope sp (likely Red-necked)  11-12

Herring Gull  4

Common Tern  1

Bottlenose Dolphin  6

Loggerhead Turtle  1

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Unsung September: Trips Added Sept. 28 & 29

It’s been a few years since we’ve had a trip in late September, but not because it is a subpar time for birding in the Gulf Stream here.  It just seems hard to round up a crowd to come down here after August, with all the other birding going on – warblers, shorebirds, hawk migration…  And there has been the occasional hurricane to mess up the whole fall every once in a while.  But so far things look good for this month.  It’s been a tough spring and summer for us with so much rainfall and aberrant green water conditions offshore but things are starting to look up.  We’ve had better water with good numbers of birds starting last month and a good showing of Trindade Petrels, which also began in August.  We have not run a trip here since August 25 because of other commitments with the boat, and we are itching to get back out there.  Therefore we have added a trip from Hatteras on Saturday, September 28, with either a weather date or a second trip following, depending on interest.

Five years have passed since we’ve had a mid or late September trip and the last few we ran were quite productive.  Notable sightings from those three trips alone included Trindade Petrel, Fea’s Petrel, Bermuda Petrel, and Sabine’s Gull.  Over the years (and less than ten trips!) we’ve tallied a list of twenty pelagic species here in mid to late September.  That includes all five shearwaters and all of the jaegers.  We’ve seen the occasional tropicbird and the occasional booby.  Black-capped Petrels are expected and should be looking less scruffy than last month as their molt progresses.  Of course the real excitement is just not knowing what might show up.  Maybe a White-faced Storm-Petrel or better yet a Barolo Shearwater, a species we’ve yet to see here, but occurs annually in the Gulf Stream off New England in late summer.  Maybe another Cape Verde Shearwater among the Cory’s.  And there is the fifth Pterodroma - Zino’s Petrel.  Zino’s should be dispersing from the breeding grounds and it seems quite likely we had one here on September 16, 1995 on a trip from Hatteras.  At the time it seemed too far fetched, but recent at sea observations of Zino’s off Madeira has resulted in progress on the field identification of the species.  Eighteen years ago, most of us were hand-focusing with grainy slide film and third party lenses.  Zino's Petrel

The bird appears to have a fine bill and the paler unerwing and molt are consistent with Zino’s.  Anyhow, Zino’s is a long shot mega-rarity in the western North Atlantic, but we won’t find it if we don’t get out there looking.  Hope some of you can join us this September.

Brian Patteson

Photo taken by Brian Patteson Sept. 16, 1995 showing dorsal view of Zino's Petrel

Photo taken by Brian Patteson Sept. 16, 1995 showing dorsal view of Zino’s Petrel

 

Photo taken by Brian Patteson Sept. 16, 1995 showing ventral view of Zino's Petrel

Photo taken by Brian Patteson Sept. 16, 1995 showing ventral view of Zino’s Petrel

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August 23 & 25 Trip Lists

August 23, 2013 – Wanchese

Black-capped Petrel  2

Cory’s Shearwater  72

Great Shearwater  7

Audubon’s Shearwater  7

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel  182

Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  9

Red-necked Phalarope  50

Bridled Tern  4

Black Tern  28

Ruddy Turnstone  1

Least Sandpiper  2

Shorebird sp  15

Laughing Gull  1

Common Tern  1

Atlantic Short-finned Pilot Whale  59-62

Bottlenose Dolphin  15

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin  10-15

Leatherback Turtle  10

August 25, 2013 – Hatteras

Trindade Petrel  1

Black-capped Petrel  48-49

Cory’s Shearwater  476-536

Great Shearwater  36

Audubon’s Shearwater  43

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel  86-91

Oceanodroma sp.  1

Pomarine Jaeger  3

Long-tailed Jaeger  1

jaeger sp.  1

Osprey  1

Calidris sp.  5

Ovenbird  1

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August 16-18 Trip Lists

August 16, 2013

Black-capped Petrel  41-45

Cory’s Shearwater  91

Great Shearwater  2

Audubon’s Shearwater  56

Wilsons’s Storm-Petrel  170-185

Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  17-18

Bridled Tern  7-9

shorebird sp.  1

Black Tern  2

Common Tern  1

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin  6-8

shark sp.  1

August 17, 2013

Trindade Petrel  2

Black-capped Petrel  62-72

Cory’s Shearwater  392-412

Great Shearwater  33-34

Manx Shearwater  1

Audubon’s Shearwater  119-124

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel  165-180

Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  15-18

White-tailed Tropicbird  1

Red-necked Phalarope  15

Sooty Tern  2

Bridled Tern  8

Pomarine Jaeger  1

Long-tailed Jaeger  1

Black Tern  1

Scalloped Hammerhead  1

August 18, 2013

Black-capped Petrel  15

Cory’s Shearwater  377

Great Shearwater  11

Sooty Shearwater  1

Manx Shearwater  3-4

Audubon’s Shearwater  107

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel  20

Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  4

Red-necked Phalarope  33

Bridled Tern  5

Least Sandpiper  1

Bottlenose Dolphin  2

Portuguese Man of War  1

caught a Wahoo

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August 9-13 Trip Lists

Friday August 9, 2013

Black-capped Petrel  28

Cory’s Shearwater  9

Great Shearwater  1

Audubon’s Shearwater  3

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel  25

Leach’s Storm-Petrel  2

Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  10-11

Bridled Tern  4

Bottlenose Dolphin  15

Wahoo caught

Saturday August 10, 2013

Black-capped Petrel  40

Cory’s Shearwater  16-17

Great Shearwater  4

Audubon’s Shearwater  11

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel  45-55

Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  5-6

Red-necked Phalarope  8

phalarope sp.  4

Bridled Tern  1

White Marlin seen

Sunday August 11, 2013

Black-capped Petrel  41

Cory’s Shearwater  33

Great Shearwater  2

Audubon’s Shearwater  11

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel  60

Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  2-3

Red-necked Phalarope  5

phalarope sp.  5

Sooty Tern  4

Bridled Tern  4

Onychoprion sp.  7

Common Tern  6

shorebird sp.  7

Bottlenose Dolphin  25-30

Monday August 12, 2013

Trindade Petrel  3-4

Black-capped Petrel  56-57

Cory’s Shearwater  46

Great Shearwater  4

Audubon’s Shearwater  27

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel  85-100

Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  2-3

Red-necked Phalarope  2

Sooty Tern  2

Bridled Tern  1

Onychoprion sp.  3

Black Tern  15

Long-tailed Jaeger  1

shorebird sp.  5

Semipalmated Sandpiper  1

Calidris sp.  1

Barn Swallow  17

swallow sp.  3

Wahoo caught

Tuesday August 13, 2013

Trindade Petrel  1

Black-capped Petrel  126

Cory’s Shearwater  34

Great Shearwater  1

Sooty Shearwater  1

Audubon’s Shearwater  17

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel  70

Band-rumped Storm-Petrel  1

Black Tern  1

Ruddy Turnstone  2

shorebird sp.  1

Barn Swallow  2

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin  5-6

Bottlenose Dolphin  15

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Spring 2013: A Recap by Brian Patteson

Another Spring Blitz is behind us, and unlike some years, I’ve actually had a little time to reflect on it and to think about how it went in comparison to other years.  I have run spring pelagic trips from Hatteras for 20 years now, so there’s a bit of history behind the current operation.  It started with just a few trips in late May and early June to look for the “recently discovered” Trindade and Fea’s Petrels off Cape Hatteras along with an assortment of other spring migrants which were either absent or occurred erratically on the summer trips, which were the norm back in the ’70s and ’80s.  The discovery of Bermuda Petrel here in the mid ’90s and then European Storm-Petrel just a decade ago, added even more incentive for birders to take these trips and we have met the demand by running a marathon of daily trips on our own boat since 2006.  2013 was the seventh year on our current vessel, the Stormy Petrel II.  We ran 14 “open” birding trips this year from May 18 to June 9 with 11 consecutive trips May 24 to June 3.  In 2009, we ran 19 consecutive trips!  We also ran five private charters for birding June 5 to June 13.  This is the only time of year we run so many trips back to back, so it gives us a unique perspective into the daily changes offshore and the passage of several spring migrants and visitors.  Off Cape Hatteras the marine environment is constantly changing and the impact of the Gulf Stream current is of paramount importance to the seabirding here.  The Gulf Stream can bring new birds in overnight, but it can also take them way out to sea when it takes a queer turn, as happened to us this spring.  We began our season with a hard current (3 to 4 knots) running near the shelf break, but within days the current moved way out (another 30 or 40 miles) and did not return to the shelf break for a few more days.  It wasn’t as bad as 2010 when the stream stayed way offshore for weeks, but it made for some tough birding just when it seemed to be getting quite good.  Nevertheless, we scrapped out a good spring.  Looking back, we did better with some species than I might have thought because I tend to remember more highlights than lowlights from past seasons!

Trindade Petrels were up, but still nothing like what we saw here in 2007 when we had some easterlies blow in the motherlode.  We saw at least five this spring, the most we’ve seen in the last six springs!  Fea’s Petrels were only seen on two trips, the worst showing since 2010.  I think we would have seen more if we had more windy days.  This year, we actually had the longest stretch of calm weather I can recall for late May and such is not usually conducive to seeing gadfly petrels.  Black-capped Petrels were seen daily, but in low numbers, again hopefully meaning they were just somewhere else.  Large numbers were seen at the Charleston Bump during this period, so maybe we will get more of them here on our next trips.  After three years without a sighting, we did get a brief look at a Bermuda Petrel this year on June 3.  We saw Cahows annually for over a decade and numbers are increasing, so I’m hopeful we will see some more in the near future, hopefully close to the boat next time!

Over the course of the first 13 trips, May 18 to June 3, we saw over 800 Cory’s Shearwaters, which is far more than what we usually see during that period.  Great Shearwaters did not show daily until May 30, which is about normal especially without any swell or easterly wind.  Sooty Shearwaters were scarce, but steady, and we saw them on nearly all of the trips we ran in May.  Manx Shearwaters were hard to come by this spring.  Audubon’s Shearwaters were seen in decent numbers but their abundance seems hard to gauge because it is so tied to the sargassum and wind direction.  I know we used to see a lot more of these birds 20 years ago.

Storm-Petrels were a mixed bag.  Overall, we saw modest numbers of Wilson’s but only about 350 over a four day period in late May when we would have expected three or four times that number.  Band-rumped Storm-Petrels were seen on nearly all of the trips in slightly above average numbers.  Almost all of these appeared to be molting, winter-breeding birds.  Leach’s Storm-Petrel, which is a bird of the easterlies was seen in low to modest numbers this spring and not on as many trips as some years.  For the first time since 2004, we did not see a European Storm-Petrel this year.

We only saw three tropicbirds this spring.  Two Red-billeds on May 22 and a White-tailed on May 28.  Had the Gulf Stream not gone out to sea the last of May, I think we might have seen a few more.

South Polar Skua was hard to find this spring, but this is usually the case in the absence of strong east winds.  We saw just a couple, one of these fairly close to shore.  Pomarine Jaegers were seen on nearly all of the trips, but never in large numbers.  I was surprised we saw as many as we did, given the weather, but maybe this is an artifact of recent breeding success, since most were one to three year old birds.  Long-tailed and Parasitic Jaegers were also seen in decent numbers, considering the conditions, again mostly younger birds, which is typical of the season.

Terns were a mixed bag this spring.  We always see a few Common Terns offshore and we did again this spring.  Seeing Arctic Terns is usually dependent on the conditions and we did not really have the right weather to expect much from them.  Nevertheless we saw them on five of the first 13 trips.  There were a number of first summer birds, so it was good to see some survival there.  Bridled Terns are a hit or miss bird in the spring.  Seeing them depends not only on the state of their preferred habitat – the Sargassum community – but also a certain amount of perching material in the way of flotsam.  This spring we saw them on nearly half the trips, which is pretty good considering this thier breeding season and we were seeing immature birds.  We only saw Sooty Terns on one trip, during a day with a stiff southerly wind.  There have been many springs without any Sooty Terns here.

A bonus on these trips is seeing some other intersting sea life including marine mammals, sea turtles, fish, and invertebrates.  Considering the calm conditions we had in late May for several days, we did not do quite as well with cetaceans as I thought we might have, but the Gulf Stream was doing some weird shifting at the same time, and we quickly went from a period of ripping current at the shelf break to no current, even way out in the deep.  We did better with Short-finned Pilot Whales than we have in most years, seeing them on over a third of the trips.  Bottlenose and Spotted Dolphins were seen on about half of the trips.  Mostly the Spotted Dolphins were in shelf waters and the Bottlenose (excluding those around the inlet) were out past the break.  Beaked Whales were scarce considering the sea conditions.  We only saw one Cuvier’s Beaked Whale and we had just a few encounters with Mesoplodons, presumably Gervais’ Beaked Whales, mostly at considerable distance.  We saw a Sperm Whale one day over 40 miles offshore.  They have not been much closer in recent years.  False Killer Whales made a showing one day in shelf waters.  I heard some chatter on the VHF radio about Pilot Whales in 20 to 30 fathoms (which never happens here) and we chased down the report during the afternoon and had a visit with the sleek and energetic Pseudorcas on our way home, less than 20 miles off the beach.  Non-mammalian sea life included a Leatherback Turtle on May 22, several Loggerheads, some Hammerhead Sharks, some Dolphin (or Mahi mahi), and a magnificent, free swimming Blue Marlin on May 18.  We also saw many more Portuguese Men of War than we typically find in spring.  Sampling the Sargassum with a dip net was interesting as well.  On June 5, we got lucky and found a Sargassumfish in one dip.  We also had a good time watching a small school of Ocean Sunfish the following day, not a common sight here when the waters are warm.

For anyone who has taken more than a couple of these trips with us in the spring, it is readily evident that running the spring blitz, as we call it, is not a small undertaking.  We run early and hard.  We don’t miss many trips on account of weather.  And it is absolutely essential that we are constantly vigilant because day makers can happen almost any time when we are in, or near, the Gulf Stream and then just as soon again, we might be in a birdless desert.  Therefore we rely on a team of spotters and guides, most of whom have many years of experience working with us on the Stormy Petrel II.  Once again we were fortunate to have a lot of old hands aboard and also some new helpers.  This spring, special thanks go to Bob Fogg (14 trips, including a couple of charters), the famous Steve Howell (ten trips), Todd McGrath & “Big Dave” Pereksta (seven trips), Dave Shoch – a friend going back 25 years (six trips), and Nick Bonomo (three trips).  On May 18, we had some help from Nate Dias, who also brought us some good chum.  On June 9, we had a greenhorn crew of NC birders – Scott Winton, Jeff Lemons, and Ali Iyoob;  I wish there had been more birds to see that day: Tropical Storm Andrea ran most of them out, but brought us a Brown Booby.  Longtime friend Michael O’Brien brought us a small  group for some chartered trips on June 5 and 6.  It was great to have Michael on the boat;  we did a lot of trips together back in the ’90s.  Another old Patteson regular from years past, George Armistead, brought a group on June 10, 12, and 13.  Along with George, we had Alvaro Jaramillo out from California, where he runs some pelagic trips, and NC’s Nate Swick.  Thanks to all of you guys, and especially to Kate who always goes far and beyond what even seems possible when we get going on this marathon.

I’m not sure what the summer will bring us, but I eagerly await our next trip on July 6.

-Brian Patteson

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Winter 2013 Home Page

February 24 was our last winter trip for the 2013 season.  It was an excellent day to finish up our winter trip season!  Lots of Manx Shearwaters, Red Phalaropes, Dovekies, Razorbills, and Atlantic Puffins plus an adult Kumlien’s Gull and TWO Great Skuas!!  Trip report and photos posted on our blog - thanks to everyone who joined us!!

We ran our President’s Day Weekend Trips on Saturday February 16 & Monday February 18th.  Excellent looks at Manx Shearwater, Red Phalarope, Dovekie, Razorbill, and Atlantic Puffin – plus a Humpback Whale and Loggerhead Turtles!  We also encountered the usual gulls and Northern Gannets, but they were HUNGRY so we had spectacular shows in the stern both trips!  Trip report and photos posted on our blog – thanks again to everyone who joined us!

Virginia winter pelagic trip ran on Saturday January 19, 2013 – check out our trip report by Ned Brinkley on our blog (choose from menu above).  We saw Manx Shearwater, Red Phalarope, Black-legged Kittiwake, Iceland Gull, Great Skua, Dovekie, Razorbill, and Atlantic Puffin – plus the usual suspects!  Overall a great day offshore from Virginia and we broke the state high count of Razorbills!

We saw Great Skua on every 2012 Winter Trip!

Gulls, Northern Gannets, & Northern Fulmar feeding behind the Stormy Petrel II winter 2012

& our favorite photo from the 2012 Winter Season…

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