Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Andrea effects at the Outer Banks

The rough seas from the passage of Tropical Storm Andrea cancelled Saturday's pelagic trip, but the storm had left the outer banks littered with interesting birds.

A scruffy-looking Common Eider showed up at Oregon Inlet.  This is a pretty rare bird in North Carolina in the dead of winter, so one in June is especially odd.
Common Eider
It even wattled up on the beach near the coast guard station...I had never seen one stand before!
Common Eider
Eventually it drifted out the inlet with the strong outgoing tide looking a bit storm-weary.

The most buzz came from the 3 to 5 Magnificent Frigatebirds that were seen along the outer banks.  One cooperative pair hovered around the Chicamicomico (Rodanthe) water tower for at least 7 hours.

Magnificent Frigatebird
These birds were in the vicinity of Kitty Hawk Kites and a few dozen kiteboarders were zooming around the sound taking advantage of the high winds.  Perhaps the kites made the frigatebirds feel at home?
Magnificent Frigatebirds
With the recent storm and the wind out of the south I was sure we would get a tropicbird on Sunday's pelagic trip.  Turns out I was wrong...we got something even better.  On our way back in an immature Brown Booby cruised past the boat!

The Booby (and getting to hear Brian Patteson shout "BROWN BOOBY!" over the PA) made up for our failure to find any rare deep sea birds. Normally I would blame the spotting crew (famous big year birders Jeff Lemons and Ali Iyoob, and myself), but it just seemed like there wasn't a ton of pelagic bird activity this day, with a modest showing by the usually-abundant Wilson's Storm-Petrels.  Maybe the storm blew all the birds away?  We did find the expected Corey's, Great and Audubon's Shearwaters; Black-capped Petrels; Ali got Band-rumped Storm-Petrel for his big year list; and a "friendly" Pomarine Jaeger followed us for at least an hour.  So really, even a relatively slow day off Hatteras is still a pretty great day!
Pomarine Jaeger
I found it interesting that all the odd storm-blown birds--the eider, frigatebirds and booby--were all immature/1st-year birds.  Perhaps adults are better at avoiding becoming displaced by severe weather?

Big thanks Brian for having me along to spot again!  For more details on Sunday's trip check out the the Seabirding blog.