The odds for August suggest that it should take 5 or 6 all-day pelagic trips with Brian Patteson to get a Trindade Petrel, but this summer has seen more reports than usual off the east coast. They have been more regular than usual on pelagic trips out of Hatteras and several have been recorded on NOAA seabird surveys. This past weekend was my last chance to spot on one of Brian's trips in 2013 and I was psyched to read the teaser he posted on Carolinabirds midweek:
A front just came through and we now have northeast winds, which is usually the best for seeing Trindade Petrels here- better than the conditions we've had recently.
It's ballsy to predict a good trip offshore, especially days in advance, but if anybody knows about birds in the Gulf Stream, it's Brian Patteson.
Sure enough, the Saturday trip, with winds out of the north, was about the birdiest I had ever seen the pelagic ocean off Hatteras. Shearwaters were all around the boat most of the day without the much in the way of a typical midday lull. In fact it was just after noon when vindication appeared:
|Trindade Petrel (intermediate)|
|Trindade Petrel (same individual as above)|
To address the post title, hope and pray for winds out of the north when you take your Patteson pelagic and you just might get a Trindade Petrel. Even if you don't, you should have a better than average time birding. That petrel was just one of the 14 pelagic species we saw, which is about as good as one can reasonably hope for!
Other excellent birds seen were a White-tailed Tropicbird (my 350th bird for North Carolina!), Long-tailed and Pomarine Jaegers, Manx Shearwater (uncommon in summer), and both Bridled and Sooty Terns.
Oh and we also had one more first for me: a Hammerhead shark!
|Hammerhead (if you look closely you can see the head)|
Unfortunately the winds shifted around to the south overnight and Sunday's trip didn't yield such exceptional diversity. But we still saw all of the usual suspects: lots of Cory's, Great and Audubon's Shearwaters, inquisitive Bridled Terns, a few Wilson's and Band-rumped Storm-Petrels, great looks at Black-capped Petrels and the always cute Red-necked Phalaropes.
|Bridled Tern looking a bit bald|
Always cool to see shorebirds looking at home 20+ miles from the shore!
A few Manx Shearwaters including one that sat on the water next to a couple Audubon's for excellent side-by-side comparison, and a distant Sooty Shearwater, quite uncommon off Hatteras in August.
Well, that wraps up a successful pelagic season for me. Hopefully there will be more to come in 2014!
Check out the official trip report and some fantastic photos by Kate Sutherland on the Seabirding blog. Brian has space on his trips this coming weekend. More info at: http://www.seabirding.com/