Sept 29 - Hatteras Pelagic

Last Sunday's pelagic out of Hatteras, NC was most notable for its Black-capped Petrel show, plus one intriguing unidentified bird.

First, the Black-caps were spectacular. Dominated heavily by "dark-faced" birds (only a couple classic "white-faced" were seen all day), this species was in nearly constant attendance in the deep blue water of the Gulf Stream, making far more close passes than usual. I don't care how many of these anyone has seen before - a show like the one we enjoyed is always awe-inspiring.

Black-capped Petrel (dark-faced)

Black-capped Petrel (dark-faced)

Black-capped Petrel (dark-faced)

Black-capped Petrel (white-faced)

Cory's Shearwaters, represented by both borealis and diomedea subspecies, were rather abundant.

Cory's Shearwater (borealis)

Cory's Shearwater (diomedea AKA Scopoli's Shearwater)

One particular Calonectris shearwater stood out from the rest. I spotted this bird from a moderate distance, initially in better light, and was struck by its exceedingly slim body and narrow wings. When the bird banked it revealed what appeared to be a borealis-like underwing pattern (dark primaries). These combined features set off Cape Verde Shearwater alarm bells so I tried to snap some photos while urging others to do the same, and radioed to Brian. The bird was lost against the sea and glare as it sheared parallel to the starboard side and not seen again.

I captured two photos of the bird alongside a borealis Cory' pic moderately sharp and the other pretty blurry. They echo my field impressions of structure, and they seem to show a pretty dark underside to the primaries. The bird also looks slim-billed and perhaps even dark-capped? But what effects do lighting, distance, and over-exposure play? Here are the unedited photos.

unidentified Calonectris shearwater (right)

unidentified Calonectris shearwater (right)

Certainly an interesting bird, but one that evades identification.

I'm leaving out quite a bit so please check out Brian Patteson's report on the day's trip!

 - Nick


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