Monday, July 22, 2013

Hatteras Boat Trips, July 19, 20 and 21

I reversed the order of my trips due to timing and travel arrangements.  I am in Hatteras North Carolina, taking three trips with Brian Patteson.  I flew to Richmond, VA and drove to Hatteras.  The timing was such that I left Richmond at 11:00 pm and drove through the night 4.5 hours to Hatteras to arrive just before the boat left.   I got about one hour of sleep on the two flights to get to Richmond, VA. 

Although I was quite tired the first day, Friday, July 19, I managed to see Wilson's Storm Petrel, Black-capped Petrel, Band-rumped Storm Petrel, Cory's Shearwater, Bridled Tern, Great Shearwater and Pomarine Jaeger.  See photos below of Wilson's Storm Petrel, Band-rumped Storm Petrel and comparison to Wilson's Storm Petrel, Black-capped Petrel, Cory's Shearwater and Bridled Tern.  Later in the afternoon, I was so tired that I crashed inside the cabin and slept for about 1-2 hours.   The Great Shearwater and Pomarine Jaeger showed up after my nap.   Great Shearwater is slightly smaller than Cory's Shearwater, and gray above and white below with slightly narrower wings than Cory's, which is brown above and white below.  Great Shearwater, formerly Greater Shearwater, has a slightly different flight style than Corry's Shearwater, to my eye it flies more stiff-winged than Cory's Shearwater.  I managed to see the Great Shearwater as it was flying away from the boat.  I was not able to see the black cap and white face of the Great Shearwater but saw enough to know that it was a Great Shearwater.  For Pomarine Jaeger, I saw the large body, thicker neck and larger head relative to Parasitic Jaeger, with which Pomarine Jaeger can sometimes be confused.  Like the Great Shearwater, the Pomarine  Jaeger zipped in close to the boat and then quickly moved on.  I missed several Audubon's Shearwaters, because they zipped by quickly and kept going, a consequence of the lack of sargasso weed in the gulf stream right now, according to Brian Patteson.  We also got close-up views of a Sperm Whale.  See photos of the blow and the head and dorsal fin.    After returning to the dock, I ate dinner and then crashed in my motel room, sleeping soundly for about eight hours.

Saturday, July 20 started with higher wind and rough conditions going out in the morning with lots of spray.  I stayed outside in the back and managed to stay relatively dry, and saw three Audubon's Shearwaters, two were fly-bys far out for which I saw small black and white shearwaters with a relatively long tail that helps to distinguish it from Manx Shearwater.  Just after we stopped to set up the oil drip for the oil slick and the chum, an Audubon's Shearwater flew by quite close to the boat giving me a great look but kept on going like the others.  Not too long after the chum and oil drip were set up, Black-capped Petrels appeared in the slick.  A Fea's Petrel suddenly appeared but was first identified as a Black-capped Petrel, which delayed my looking at it.  Fea's Petrel is shorter in body length but has wings that are similar in length to Black-capped Petrel.  Fea's Petrel appears to be able to maneuver more quickly than Black-capped due to this difference in size, but Fea's Petrel has dark under-wings.  I saw these field marks in direct comparison to Black-capped Petrel as the bird flew around the boat and the wake.  Fea's lacks the black cap, but I was not able to see this well. Unfortunately, the Fea's Petrel did not stick around very long, flipping around quickly from one side of the boat to the other, and then moved on.  Otherwise, the birds seen on Saturday, were similar to those seen on Friday.  There was only one brief view of a Cory's Shearwater in the morning going out, no jaegers but more Audubon's Shearwaters.  We saw several more Audubon's Shearwaters flying by in addition to the three I mentioned.  In the evening, I drove north to Pea Island NWR to look for Seaside Sparrow.  However, the wind was really whipping the marsh and no Seaside Sparrows were found.

Sunday, July 21, started with somewhat less wind than on Saturday.  On the way out to the inlet, the group looked over the sand spits for shorebirds  On Friday, a fly-by Red Knot had been seen by our spotters, but I missed it.  Yesterday on the way out and back, I looked for Red Knot but did not find one.  Sunday, I saw an interesting bird that my have been a Red Knot.  However, the speed of the boat and the lower light early in the morning, did not help.  I could not be sure of the identification so I am not counting it.   George Armistead, an experienced bird tour guide and now working for the ABA, who worked as a spotter on these also saw this potential Red Knot but was not sure enough given the distance and light, and speed of the boat.  George saw the first one on Friday morning.  There were no new birds on this trip.  However, the highlights were a Great Shearwater that came in close and landed right by the boat, the best look of the three days, and an Audubon's Shearwater that flew up from beside the slick and landed again very close to the boat for great looks.  There was another Bridled Tern that stayed around the boat for about 10 to 15 minutes time and gave great looks and photo opportunities.

After the boat trip I looked for Seaside Sparrow and Red Knot at several locations heading north to the Oregon Inlet Bridge, but had no success.  On the way to a motel near the Richmond Airport on I-64, a lunatic was driving the wrong way on the interstate.  I slowed down and drove off the interstate on to the berm of the highway to avoid this nut-cake as that vehicle passed me going the wrong way at about 80 mph.  This was after mid-night, and fortunately, I was alert enough after a long day to avoid a serious incident.  I was sleepy earlier, and I'm glad that I was alert for this encounter.  I talked to two other drivers at the next rest area who had the same experience. One of them told me that they called 911 and were told that 911 had already received about 20 calls about this nut-cake. 

Wilson's Storm Petrel, Black-capped Petrel, Band-rumped Storm Petrel, Cory's Shearwater, Bridled Tern, Great Shearwater, Pomarine Jaeger, Audubon's Shearwater, and Fea's Petrel added nine new birds for the year raising the total to 547.

The pictures below show the identification field marks of Wilson's Storm-petrels, the feet extending beyond the tail, the yellow feet, and the pitter-pattering on the water surface that gave them the name.  Band-rumped Storm-petrel is a larger and longer winged bird than the Wilson's Storm-petrels, shown in one photograph, and does a lot of shearwater-like gliding in comparison to Wilson's Storm-petrel.  If I have time, I will add an addendum with photos of the Great Shearwater and any good ones of the additional Bridled tern.
Wilson's Storm-petrel, legs extended beyond tail

Wilson's Storm-petrel, behavior and yellow feet
Band-rumped Storm-petrel
Wilson's (left) and Band-rumped (right) size comparison
Black-capped Petrel, carrying chum

Black-capped Petrel
Bridled Tern
Sperm Whale blowing
Sperm Whale head
Sperm Whale dorsal fin, diving
Cory's Shearwater with Band-rumped Storm Petrel

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