Saturday, February 18, 2012

Black-browed Albatross off Cape Hatteras

Black-browed Albatross; pelagic off Cape Hatteras on Feb.18, 2012
Full Adult; the first adult of the species photographed in the US?

With 1st-cycle Great Black-backed Gull; I wonder how often these species meet?
With Northern Gannets; another unusual juxtaposition!
In flight; notice how close we are to the shoreline in the background. Also note the molting flight feathers.  I have read that albatrosses have to take a year off from nesting to molt.

During the ~45-minute view, it mostly sat on the water. This is the only glimpse of the underwings I captured
Overexposed and cropped photo shows a dark iris; an indication the bird is from the nominate race/subspecies and may be from the Falkland Islands off Argentina (rather than Campbell Island)

My first photo of the bird at 4:40 pm; imagine if it had disappeared after this shot

And the second capture; nice and blurry like most of my pelagic photos

Bob Fogg aboard the Stormy Petrel II (captained by Brian Patteson) with the Albatross in the background.  Bob spotted the bird fly into the wake (apparently they go for chum)

Jeff Pippen taking an iPhone photo of the bird to be sent instantly to his lawyer for safe keeping.  Jeff led a group from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University that fortunately included me!
And in case anybody wants to see some HD video (be sure to watch in 720p!):

Sorry about the shakiness, the boat just wouldn't hold still.  This clip is better for shake than many of the others I took (too much zoom), but just to be safe, you may want to pop some dramamine. 

Huge thanks to Captain Brian, 1st mate Kate and spotters Bob and Dave for a fantastic trip.  It was a phenomenal day even discounting this bird (lifer #1550 and my 5th of the day!).

For more on the context of this find and details about other cool birds and non-birds seen on the trip, check out my follow-up post.


  1. Is it a black-browed albatross?

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  2. I must agree with my brilliant bride! 'Tis indeed said albatross - straying ~10,000 kilometers north of his usual range.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing - the video was fabulous. Wish I could have been there but some things get in the way (barf,barf).

  4. Congrats on a great bird and great photos. We had the honor of being on a pelagic with Brian Patterson February 1999 in VA waters and saw the Black-Browed Albatross. We will never forget our experience and you will never forget yours. Good birding. Stuart and Wendy

  5. Albatross and other seabirds, catch rides on the mega tankers.

  6. Great pics. What a strong bill.

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