Thanks to all who came out for our spring trips. Between May 19 and June 3, 2001 we ran a total of 12 pelagic birding trips from Oregon and Hatteras Inlets, NC with simultaneous trips from both ports on May 26, 27, and 28. While we did not see as many rare gadfly petrels this spring as we have in some past seasons, we did manage to find all four species of Pterodroma over the Memorial Day Weekend and 21 species of pelagic birds over the period. A predominantly strong southwesterly flow may have contributed to the paucity of deep water specialties and a fairly low numbers of many species on most of the trips.
We did get to enjoy great studies of some of the rarities. One of the Fea's Petrels that we saw on May 25 (a day with a light easterly wind) came to the boat on two occasions twenty minutes apart and fed in our chum slick. The dark morph Trinidade (Herald) Petrel that day was also well seen. An adult White-tailed Tropicbird on the following Friday off Oregon Inlet was very accommodating, and the next day we had a young Red-billed Tropicbird come in to investigate the Miss Hatteras and our chum line. As is usually the case, some birds got by the boats quickly leaving some participants disappointed. These included a Bermuda Petrel and a Red-billed Tropicbird on May 26 off Oregon Inlet, and a handful of Trinidade Petrels - May 19 and 26 and June 1 and 2 . While Leach's Storm-Petrels were scarce or lacking on most of the trips, Band-rumped Storm-Petrels were more numerous and gave good performances in the chum behind the boat on most of the trips.
Cetaceans were generally in short supply this spring, but we did see Sperm Whales on two of the trips, and one that we saw on June 2 made a spectacular breach behind the boat. We also had good fishing for dolphin (mahi-mahi) while we searched for birds in the deep, and participants on most of the Miss Hatteras trips were able to enjoy fresh caught dolphin sandwiches for lunch.
Of course our trips would not have been possible without all of the participants who signed up. Most of our spring trips were full to capacity, and we are grateful for such a strong turnout. I would also like to thank our leaders on these trips - Butch Pearce, Todd McGrath, Jamie Cameron, Ned Brinkley, George Armistead, and Mike Tove all helped to spot and show many of the birds to trip participants, and Diane Andre and Kate Sutherland kept careful tallies of the birds and other marine life encountered on these voyages. The crews of the Country Girl - Capt. "Big Al" and Randy - and the Miss Hatteras - Capt. Spurgeon Stowe, Richie, Natalie, Blake, and "Diamond" Dave - all made certain that our trips offshore were as safe, comfortable, and productive as possible.
I’ve gotten the impression that many folks think spring is the best time to see pelagic birds off Cape Hatteras, especially the rarities. While it is true that we have had some great trips during May and June in recent years, the list of birds that we have seen in the summer months is equally impressive. We’ve seen Fea’s Petrel nearly every July for the last five years and we’ve seen Bermuda Petrels during August in 1999 and 2000. We have seen many Trinidade Petrels during the summer, and we had three and four in a day on trips this past August. Summer is usually the best time for the tropicbirds, and we have already seen two Red-bills this spring, so maybe it will be a banner year for them. Both Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrels and Bulwer’s Petrel were seen on August 8, 1998, and White-faced Storm-Petrel is always a possibility especially on trips from Oregon Inlet. Of course the "regular" or common Gulf Stream specialties are also typically seen in much larger numbers on trips during the summer than in spring. I hope that many of you will take advantage of the opportunity to get offshore with us this summer. We have room on all of our trips. The dates are July 7, 8, 28, and 29 and August 4, 5, 11, and 12 from Hatteras and August 18, 19, 25, 26, September 1, and 2 from Manteo (Oregon Inlet).