Hatteras Pelagic Trip (August 1998)

On August 8, Dalcio Dacol and I took one of Brian Patteson’s pelagic trips out of Hatteras, North Carolina. It was the first pelagic trip off the east coast for both of us. On the drive down from the DC area, we had our fingers crossed that the weather would be favorable because I had tried to go out the previous week and ended up driving 700 miles for nothing. This time, the weather was excellent. I was hoping to add several of the following species to my list:

Black-capped Petrel (Code 3)
Cory’s Shearwater
Greater Shearwater
Audubon’s Shearwater
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (Code 4)
Bridled Tern (Code 3)
Sooty Tern

We managed to get excellent views of them all. I would have been thrilled with those birds but was hoping to get lucky and see one of the following:

Herald Petrel (Code 5)
White-tailed Tropicbird (Code 4)
South Polar Skua (Code 3)

It turned out that we saw all three of them plus a totally unexpected rarity, Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel, which would be the first North American record if confirmed by the photos that were taken. The dark morph Herald Petrel circled the boat to provide excellent views. We also got excellent views of the dark morph South Polar Skua, which had really striking white markings on the tops of the wings. We saw the Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel shortly after starting to head back. We followed it for several miles and got excellent views of its dark rump. Hopefully, the photographs will be conclusive. I decided to take a nap after seeing this bird and was awakened when the Tropicbird was sighted. It also provided excellent views. It was hard to believe that this bird showed up since we were well inside the Gulf Stream and had already had far more than our share of luck. It was amazing to see two Code 5 birds, two Code 4 birds, and three Code 3 birds in one day. We also saw a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron more than 20 miles out that was headed in to shore as well as the following species:

Leach’s Storm-Petrel
Red-necked Phalorope
Pomarine Jaeger
Royal Tern
Common Tern
Bottlenose Dolphin
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin
Cuvier’s Beaked Whale
Pilot Whale
Portugese Man-o-War

Other birds seen on the trip, which included a stop at Chincoteague NWR on August 9, include the following:

Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, American Black Duck, Mallard, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Northern Bobwhite, Clapper Rail, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Willet, Spotted Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Sandwich Tern, Forster’s Tern, Least Tern, Black Skimmer, Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Chimney Swift, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Northern Flicker, Eastern Kingbird, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Yellow Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Salt-marsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Seaside Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Boat-tailed Grackle, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Sparrow