And Come Home With A Petrel-Grand-Slam... Black-capped, Fea's, Trindade, Bermuda
Bermuda Petrel (c) Todd McGrath
By Todd McGrath and Terry Hunefeld
On May 23, 2009, a group of SoCal birding leaders and participants joined senior leader Todd McGrath on his annual trip back east to lead pelagics out of Hatteras North Carolina for Brian Patteson. Todd has been doing pelagics with Brian for nearly 15 years, and is as comfortable leading trips in the gulf stream as he is in the California Current.
Spring is a magical time in the gulf stream, and over our seven trips, we saw some of the rarest and most sought after seabird species in the world. While rarities were not seen on every trip, each day had a special sighting, great photographic opportunity, or spectacular marine mammal sighting to complement the great birding.
Each trip had good views of the expected species such as Cory’s Shearwater, Black-capped Petrel, Wilson’s and Band-rumped storm-petrels, and Audubon’s Shearwaters.
Fea's Petrel (c) Todd McGrath 27 May 2009
On Wednesday May 27 a Fea’s Petrel put on a spectacular show, coming repeatedly to the boat for about 40 minutes, and then reappearing regularly over the next several hours. Sought after species such as Band-rumped and Leach’s storm-petrels showed well, on several days feeding actively in the chum slick just a few meters from the boat.
European Storm-Petrel (c) Todd McGrath 29 May 2009
Participants on the Friday trip were treated to a seabird show that was among the best ever seen off North Carolina. It started early in the morning when Todd McGrath spotted a European Sorm-Petrel in the chum slick. This species has been recorded almost annually since 2003, but is still a sought after species for birders.
Fea's Petrel (c) Todd McGrath
As trip participants were looking at the European storm-petrel, Steve Howell spotted a Bermuda Petrel coming in to the wake. Bermuda Petrel is one of the rarest birds in the world, and Brian’s trips are the best way to see this near mythical species. Remarkably, we saw two more Bermuda Petrels that day, the only time three birds have ever been recorded on one trip in the ABA area. Three Bermuda petrels alone would be enough to classify the trip as one of the best ever, but we weren’t done yet. Within a 50 minute period we would get looks at a Black-capped Petrel, Bermuda Petrel, Fea’s Petrel as well as a dark Trindade (Herald Petrel). This Pterodroma ‘grand slam” has been accomplished only a few times. It has never been done with a European Storm-petrel and THREE Bermudas.
Gervais' Beaked Whale (c) Todd McGrath
Marine mammals were also exciting with views of Sperm and Pilot whales, Spotted and Bottlenose dolphin as well as a twenty minute encounter with a group of Gervais' Beaked WhalesMesoplodon europeaus that was perhaps the best at-sea view of this reclusive mammal ever recorded.
Gervais' Beaked Whale May 2009 off the Outer Banks N.C (c) Todd McGrath
Add great looks at Red-billed Tropicbirds, Sooty and Bridled Terns, plus the camaraderie that comes from going to sea with passionate seabirders and top pelagic leaders aboard some of the best organized trips into the life-zones of the Gulf Stream, and you have a sure-fired recipe for a magic day (or days) at sea.
Colin Campbell aboard Stormy Petrel II on the way out to the Gulf Stream. Photo by Terry Hunefeld
Brian Patteson has been organizing and leading pelagic birding trips since 1986. Brian moved to Hatteras in 1995 so that he could offer rich and diverse schedule of sea trips in some of the most consistently productive offshore waters in the western North Atlantic.
The close proximity of both the warm Gulf Stream current and the edge of the Continental Shelf inshore, as well as the influence of the cooler Labrador Current make Hatteras waters a dynamic environment which attracts a remarkable diversity of seabirds throughout the year. A trip with Brian affords the possibilities of seeing birds that can be seen nowhere else in the ABA.
Dave Pereksta liked the show put on by the Fea's Petrel. Photo by Terry Hunefeld
Todd McGrath grins from the wheelhouse.
Mike San Miguel and Wes Fritz in the cabin on the way out to the Gulf Stream aboard Stormy Petrel II
Terry Hunefeld on the "pulpit" of Stormy Petrel II
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