May 24, 2014
Gulf Stream off Hatteras, North Carolina
Today I was going on my final pelagic trip of the week before we left for Tennessee the next day. This was also my last chance to find my much-desired Fea's Petrel. We left the dock with windy and slightly choppy conditions but nothing like the rough trip on May 21st. Again, we had hardly left Hatteras Inlet before we found our first Sooty Shearwaters of the day. A couple Audubon's Shearwaters flew close to the water's surface, only rising to make brief arcs in the air. A Pomarine Jaegar also trailed behind the boat.
Black-capped Petrels and Wilson's Storm-Petrels quickly arrived in the wake after the first chum block was tied to the boat. Despite the fact that in the past couple of days Black-capped Petrels made very close passes by the boat, I was unable to get a decent photo of one due to their unbelievable swiftness. But today I was happy to finally manage a good (well, in my opinion) photo.
You don't just see tubenoses on these pelagic trips; there are often dolphins, whales, fish, and more. Today, we were very fortunate to observe Clymene Dolphins and False Killer Whales swimming around the boat. Clymene Dolphins are very rare; in fact, you are more likely to see a Bermuda Petrel than a Clymene Dolphin! False Killer Whales are also somewhat uncommon.
False Killer Whale
After the dolphins left, we were very surprised to find a Red-billed Tropicbird flying away from the boat. The tropicbird was my 306th lifer and my last lifer of the trip.
Not too long after the tropicbird sighting, a dark morph Trindade Petrel arrived. This bird provided a nice comparison to the also present Sooty Shearwaters.
Not-so-great cropped photo of a dark morph Trindade Petrel.
Several Audubon's and Cory's Shearwaters made passes by the boat. The Audubon's Shearwaters were the more stuborn of the two, making only brief, distant, and low passes. Cory's Shearwaters are much more cooperative, coming a lot closer to the boat and giving us passengers good looks.
A couple hours later, a second (or possibly the same) dark morph Trindade Petrel flew by. Then, a light morph Trindade Petrel came in extremely close to the starboard side of the Stormy Petrel II. To wrap up the day, a second (or the same) Red-billed Tropicbird was found, though much more distant than the first.
A second, not-so-great cropped image of a Trindade Petrel. This one is a light morph.
I really enjoy doing these pelagic trips, mainly because the challenges involved in identifying each species, and because each day brings its own thrills and unique adventures. Next year I'll be helping out as a junior leader/spotter on the Stormy Petrel II, so perhaps that will be a chance to meet some of my readers...??? We'll see!
View the post from our trip on the Seabirding blog here.
View my complete eBird checklist from the trip here.
You can see a folder of photos from my 2014 pelagic trips here.