Yellow-nosed Albatross Off Hatteras, NC on 2/5/00!

I wanted to report that our pelagic trip from Hatteras yesterday (Feb. 5, 2000) produced what should be the first solid record of Yellow-nosed Albatross for North Carolina.  (Click Here to see pictures) We were only about 3 miles off the beach between Avon and Salvo and had been watching a pair of Great Skuas when the great bird appeared and made a beeline for the Miss Hatteras to join the dozens of gulls and gannets that were swarming around us. We had the bird in view for about ten minutes and flushed it from the water several times while obtaining photographs to document the record. We lost it when it landed several hundred yards astern and we turned around to get another look. Needless to say, we had already seen it quite well by then anyway. The bird had a yellow ridge atop the bill but lacked the red tip characteristic of an adult, according to the literature. Most of us aboard had no prior experience with the species, but a couple of us had seen the Black-browed Albatross at the Norfolk Canyon last February and were impressed by how much smaller and sleeker this bird was by comparison. The head was quite gray and that is characteristic of the nominate race (or the Atlantic species).

While we didn't see especially large numbers of seabirds on this trip, we saw most species quite well despite fairly rough conditions. The close proximity of pelagic birds to the shore of Hatteras Island makes it possible to run trips here when it would be impossible to do them on similar vessels off the coast of Maryland or Virginia, where the birds are typically found much farther out to sea. Other pelagic birds that we saw included Northern Fulmar (11), Red Phalarope (87-mostly on the edge of the Gulf Stream where it was very rough), Great Skua (4-including 3 very close to the beach), Black-legged Kittiwake (11- surprisingly low after we saw nearly 300 off Va. Beach last week), and Razorbill (4). We also saw hundreds of gannets and nine species of gulls including 14+ Lesser Black-backeds, 2 Icelands, 1 Glaucous, and 1 Little Gull. While alcids were scarce to say the least, they were correspondingly scarce off Va. Beach a week earlier as well. 

OUR NEXT SCHEDULED HATTERAS TRIP IS ON FEB. 19(20). Our trip from Virginia Beach next weekend is full. I don't know what we'll see two weeks from now, but we sure didn't expect to see an albatross yesterday. In the past we've seen numbers of Great Skuas on most of our Hatteras trips in February and March and there is always the possibility that some Dovekies and puffins might arrive in the next few days. For access to past trip lists, visit our website at

Brian Patteson

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