The idea of squeezing in a couple of Brian and Kate’s Springtime Gulf Stream ‘must do’ days on the water between Alaskan adventures was a necessity, and despite the difficulties of getting from Anchorage to the outer banks and back again flat was worth it. My only previous Atlantic pelagic experience was similarly on the Stormy Petrel II – but early in the year, in crazy cold conditions. On that occasion the 2.5 hour drive from Norfolk Va to my accommodation at Hatteras took four hours due to dangerous snow conditions. This time it similarly took four hours due to very dangerous heavy rain conditions – with extensive patches of flooded road during the last 50 miles or so. I had several almost disastrous episodes when solid road gave way to foot-deep water that caused me to nearly plane off the road. The weather forecast for my two days wasn’t pretty, but the conditions that eventuated were not too bad. In fact, both days brought terrific birds – and apart from what felt like occasional narrow escapes from descent into sea-sickness, I had a terrific time seeing a whole bunch of seabird species that I’ve never seen before. Of the two rare petrels that had popped up every second day or so prior to my dates, we saw only one – Fea’s Petrel, missing the Herald/Trinidade that was seen the day before. But no complaints, saw my second White-tailed Tropicbird for the year, and new year-birds (and lifers for ABA) included South-polar Skua, Black-capped Petrels (stunning!), four terrific Shearwaters (Great, Cory’s (two ssp), Manx and Audubon’s), Wilson’s and Band-rumped Storm-petrels. Have attached some pix. Was good to have big year birder Laura Keene on board on second day. She’d driven all the way from Ohio with her remarkably supportive husband – though he did draw the line re getting on the boat. Laura stayed another day – will be interesting to see what extra species she managed to see.
I’m now on flight from Dallas to Anchorage ahead of a week in Gambell and Nome.
Photos that follow: The good ship Stormy Petrel II cruises back to Port Hatteras, White-tailed Tropicbird, Fea’s Petrel, Cory’s Shearwater, Black-capped Petrel, Great Shearwater, South Polar Skua hassles Great Shearwater, Wilson’s Storm-petrels dancing on the water.