Seabird Report- Recent Photos and Highlights

Monday, July 7, 2008

We had a chartered trip on our boat with the Montgomery County, Maryland Bird Club.  Paul O'Brien organized the group and his son, Michael, who was one of my regular spotters before he got too busy to make regular trips to Hatteras, came along.  Michael put us onto a nice adult Masked Booby along the edge of the Gulf Stream for a great start to the morning.  We were able to observe the bird for several minutes as it foraged there.

We made the obligatory trip to deeper water for our Band-rumped Storm-Petrels and Black-capped Petrels and that went well, with good lucks at both of those, as well as brief looks at a few Leach's Storm-Petrels.  The deep water got quiet after a while though, so we headed back inshore.  Before we reached the shelf break we were rewarded with another red letter bird.  A White-tailed Tropicbird paid us a visit.  Like the booby, it was in no hurry to leave and we even got to observe it resting on the water.  Kate got a few photos and these revealed it to be a younger bird, apparently about a year old.  It had tail streamers, but retained some of the checkered feathers of a juvenile.

It was a good trip overall.  We saw all of the expected tubenoses and two of the hoped for rarities.  For some of the people in the group, it was their first trip with us.  Hopefully they will be back for more. -BP

June 27 and 28, 2008

These pretty much qualified as "leader trips."  We had a good crew aboard with Kate Sutherland, Jamie Cameron, Bob Fogg, Richard Crossley, and myself.  But we did not have many participants. We also had the dull birding which sometimes results from too much (south-) westerly wind for days on end.  I'm kind of surprised the spring turned out as good as it did because we were plagued with westerlies for many of our early trips. This definitely hurts us for some of the deepwater stuff like Trindade Petrels (few trips this year), and Leach's and Band-rumps (low numbers), and jaegers, but it did not seem to matter as much for the other gadfly petrels.  Some of our best days for Black-caps have actually been on northwest winds!  The best bird for us this weekend was a "baby" South Polar Skua, which was a "blondie"- rare in this ocean.  Note the parti-colored tarsi and fresh plumage.  It was a photographer's delight! -BP

June 6, 7, and 8 with Hadoram Shirihai

These were our first trips following the unprecedented 17 day stretch from May 17 to June 2, when Kate Sutherland and I ran daily trips with some top notch spotters and a good number of participants on most days.  This weekend there were not as many participants, but we had some nice birding.  It was good to finally meet Hadoram Shirihai, who flew over from Switzerland mainly to photograph Black-capped Petrels.  Hadoram has been working for years on a guide to the world's tubenoses, and he has made some important discoveries along the way.  His work in the Pacific recently included the rediscovery of Beck's Petrel, a mysterious sort of "pygmy" version of Tahiti Petrel which was only known from two old specimens.  Hadoram is also a great photographer and was the chief contributor of photographs in his excellent guidebook to Antarctic wildlife.  Although we didn't have much wind to help with our chumming on the first couple of trips, the slight seas made it easy to stand and take photos.  We also had great cooperation from the Black-capped Petrels, which culminated in the comment: "Brian, you are a genius!" from our principal photographer.  I don't know about that, but it did go well, and we also had some dazzling views of two Fea's Petrels in a big slick we made on June 7.  Long-tailed Jaegers and South Polar Skuas also performed beautifully for us.  Hadoram was kind enough to share some of his photos with us, and Bob Fogg got a cracking shot of one of the jaegers.  Bob has also posted some more of his photos at  On June 8, we observed a pod of False Killer Whales, the first we had seen here in four years!

The next two photos are used with permission from Hadoram.

Black-capped and Wilson's feeding on chum

Cory's feeding over Skipjack Tuna