In order to reach the goal of 700 North American species, I knew that I had to endure one (in my case, two) of the legendary 12 hour pelagic trips off Hatteras, NC …with famed skipper Brian Patteson…to see the rare Black-capped Petrel and Band-rumped Storm-Petrel. These birds are rarely seen from shore and breed on Cuba, the Azores and the Canary Islands. 30 miles off the port of Hatteras on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, still in North American territory, the Continental Shelf drops off and meets the Gulf Stream. This combination of deep and warm water creates a dynamic ecosystem teeming with fish and birds. Brian took out our group from the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology (PSO) two consecutive days. Eight foot swells and thunderstorms did not deter him…as a matter of fact it increased our chances for not only the two target birds but also a rarity from the south. Black-capped Petrels were in abundance but the little Band-rumped Storm-Petrel only made a couple of fleeting appearances. HOWEVER, our sighting of the RARE Herald (Trindade) Petrel, a breeder on islands off Brazil!, caused quite a stir on the boat….yes, even the 5 or 6 sea-sick birders scrambled off their berths and stumbled to the stern. This bird immediately made the National Rare Bird alerts.
Note: when driving from Philadelphia, consult a map…don’t rely on GPS. The trip took 11 hours (649 miles, a new personal one day driving record not to be broadcast beyond YOU) as the GPS led me to the Okracoke ferry….100 miles off course. Apparently the GPS considers ferry crossings as pavement and thus uses it in its calculations for “fastest” mode. The ferry ticket taker is still laughing at my question: “where is the bridge?”.