1998 July Trip Results
By Brian Patteson

Thanks to those of you who participated in our recent pelagic trips. I wanted to let the rest of you know what we saw on our July pelagic trips from North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Our first two trips were on Saturday, July 18 from Hatteras village and Monday, July 20 from Manteo. Diversity was pretty low as one might expect for mid-summer, but both days were excellent for seeing large numbers of Black-capped Petrels and Band-rumped Storm-Petrels. We also enjoyed an encounter with a very obliging Trinidade (Herald) Petrel on Saturday’s trip off Hatteras. The dark morph bird approached the Miss Hatteras from the stern, apparently attracted to the scent of some fish oil that we had put out, and then circled the boat a number of times affording us all crippling views for at least a couple of minutes. Needless to say, no chase was necessary. Monday’s trip from Manteo produced no avian rarities, but was excellent for two fascinating observations of Sperm Whales. Just seeing these massive creatures is a treat that we don’t usually get all that often on these trips, but on Monday we saw two behaviors that we had never before seen in previous encounters with the species. The first sighting involved a pair of Sperm Whales with a small calf that appeared to be nursing as we approached. Not wanting to disturb these animals, we kept a respectable distance and they stayed on the surface until we left them. Only about an hour later, we had a surprise look at another Sperm Whale that surfaced about SIX FEET AWAY from the port side of our boat, the Country Girl. It was so close and it happened so quickly that it really startled those who were in a position to see it. None of us had ever been so close to a Sperm Whale before and figured that probably be the last that we would see of that animal, but several minutes later it reappeared just a few feet from the starboard side of the boat, and then it proceeded to follow us for nearly half an hour. It would come up and blow and then slip just below the surface and roll over on it’s side like it was looking up at the boat, following us closely the whole time. What inspired such an behavior is a mystery to me, but I don’t expect to see anything quite like again that anytime soon.

Our second two trips were on Saturday July 25 (from Hatteras) and Monday, July 27 (from Manteo). Compared to last weekend, birds were a bit more sparse, but we did see a couple of rarities, a Trinidade (Herald) Petrel on July 25 off Hatteras and a White-tailed Tropicbird on July 27 about due east of Cape Hatteras in 1000 fathoms. The Herald Petrel made a nice close pass by the Miss Hatteras although it did not linger as long as last weekend’s bird, and the tropicbird, which was sitting on the water when I spotted it, made several circles around the Country Girl, just like a good tropicbird should. We did not find any friendly Sperm Whales this week, and fishing remains poor, but we did see Black-capped Petrels, Band-rumped Storm-Petrels, and the expected shearwaters in modest numbers. We also saw the first influx of juvenile Audubon’s Shearwaters, very sharp looking birds compared to haggard looking adults of summer. The bird and cetacean lists follow below along with last week’s numbers for comparison. Next weekend could be totally different. The Gulf Stream is always full of surprises. Last summer we saw one Band-rumped Storm-Petrel one day and over a hundred the next day in the same area. Such is the nature of pelagic birding in the current.

Birds and Cetaceans - Sat., July 18/ Mon., July 20/ Sat, July 25/ Mon., July 27

Black-capped Petrel- 113/ 137/ 73/ 39

TRINIDADE (HERALD) PETREL- 1 dark morph off Hatteras July 18 and another one off Hatteras on July 25, both well seen

Cory’s Shearwater- 244/ 51/ 58/ 164

Greater Shearwater- 20/ 6/ 3/ 9

Audubon’s Shearwater- 81/ 6/ 44/ 65

Band-rumped Storm-Petrel- 30/ 53/ 5/ 8

Leach’s Storm-Petrel- 1/ 0/ 0/ 1

Wilson’s Storm- Petrel- 152/ 137/ 40/ 84

White-tailed Tropicbird- 1 due east off Cape Hatteras on July 27

Yellow-crowned Night Heron- 1on July 18 off Hatteras

night heron sp.- 1 on July 25 off Hatteras, prob. also YC

Sanderling- 1 off Hatteras July 18

Red Knot- 7 off Hatteras July 25

Pomarine Jaeger- 1 off Hatteras July 18

Royal Tern- 1/ 0/ 0/ 1

Bridled Tern- 2/ 1/ 0/ 5

Sooty Tern- 2 off Hatteras July 25

Common Tern- 11/ 0/ 2/ 0

Least Tern- 1/ 4/ 0/ 0

Black Tern- 3/ 0/ 7/ 0

Barn Swallow- 0/ 0/ 1/ 1

Bottlenose Dolphin- 38/ 62/ 0/ 10

Spotted Dolphin- 8/ 0/ 3/ 0

Pilot Whale- 16 off Oregon Inlet July 27

Cuvier’s Beaked Whale- 5 off Hatteras July 18

Sperm Whale-4 off Oregon Inlet July 20

All of the birds above were seen well offshore.