1997 Spring Trip Results
By Brian Patteson

After having difficulty in finding enough participants for pelagic trips before Memorial Day Weekend over the last couple of seasons, we decided not to run any trips until then, but we also added three trips on the following weekend. In all, we had seven trips scheduled over a span of ten days from May 23 to June 1. We were able to run six of these, and as it was, a couple of the trips were pretty rough. We started the series with the season's first Fea's (Cape Verde Islands) Petrel on Friday, May 23 on a trip from Manteo. Unfortunately, sloppy seas prevented us from being able to chase it down with the our fast boat, the Country Girl. Sometimes, I think the whole speed issue is overrated because there are a lot of choppy days when we're offshore. The next day, off Hatteras, we actually had our first Trinidade (Herald) Petrel of the season, but because of a miscommunication, it managed to slip away leaving us somewhat uncertain of its identity at the time. The following day off Hatteras, we had another Trinidade, also a dark morph, come streaking past the boat at a high rate of speed, and it was seen by many more of the party, albeit briefly. Among the more common species that weekend, we enjoyed good numbers of Black-capped Petrels , Cory's Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwaters, and Audubon's Shearwaters. We also had good views of several Leach's Storm-Petrels, saw Bridled Terns each day, and had a beautiful look at an adult Long-tailed Jaeger on the 25th. Gale force southwest winds prevented us from getting offshore on Memorial Day itself, and a seawatch from Cape Point that morning yielded only a few gannets, Sooty Shearwaters, and Cory's Shearwaters. Birders there the previous day had seen many of the above as well as a few Manx Shearwaters and a couple of Long-tailed Jaegers.

By the evening of the 26th the wind shifted to the northeast, and the onshore flight at Cape Point pretty much died out. For the next couple of days it was so rough that no sportfishing boats went offshore. Thursday wasn't much better, and when we went out on Friday the 30th from Manteo it was still no cakewalk. We saw a lot of rain and heavy seas, but another close Long-tailed Jaeger and several Leach's Storm-Petrels brightened the day. The next day found us off Hatteras again, but with much better weather, and a better variety and larger number of birds, although the numbers of some species, like only 15 Black-capped Petrels, were still below average. We saw our only tropicbird of the spring, a White-tailed, on that trip, but it did not linger close to the boat. Our sixth and final trip of the spring, on June 1, was a little rainy, but it was the probably the best trip for most; we saw a dark morph Trinidade Petrel, two South Polar Skuas, eight Arctic Terns, 25 or more Leach's Storm-Petrels, and at least 13 Band-rumped Storm-Petrels that day.

As a footnote to the spring trips, I spoke with Captain Spurgeon Stowe of the the other day, and he told me that just days after our last trip, on June 5, the shearwaters were so numerous and so hungry that charter boats from Hatteras were unable to troll a full spread of baits without being covered up- by the birds! I cannot help but think that if we hadn't had so much northerly wind this spring that those birds would have arrived a few days earlier.