Three summer 2013 pelagic cruises summary: n. CA, OR, WA, BC, se. AK
wagtail at sounddsl.com
Sun Aug 11 09:13:11 PDT 2013
I know some of you folks on tweeters have expressed interest in doing
some pelagic birding via the use of cruise ships. Here is a forwarded
message from Paul Lehman which goes a long way in describing the
scenario and the great pelagic possibilities. I have also joined Paul,
and a few other Washington birders, on a few spring repositioning
cruises that have turned out to be quite successful. Though as noted by
Paul, Washington waters seem to get the short end of the stick on these
trips. But, if you care not as much about state or county lines for your
birds, this is a great way to see some interesting pelagic birds,
especially a few pterodroma species that would be difficult to observe
any other way.
Cheers and good birding,
Bainbridge Island, Washington
mailto:wagtail at sounddsl.com
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: three summer 2013 pelagic cruises summary: n. CA, OR, WA, BC,
Date: Sat, 10 Aug 2013 18:08:39 -0700
From: Paul Lehman <lehman.paul1 at verizon.net>
To: lehman.paul at verizon.net <lehman.paul at verizon.net>,Barbara Carlson
<barbarac2003 at yahoo.com>,Brad Waggoner <wagtail at sounddsl.com>,Shawneen
Finnegan <shawneenfinnegan at gmail.com>
During the summer of 2013 I took the same 10-day round-trip cruise three
times between San Francisco and southeast Alaska and back. These trips
are offered continuously between about mid-May and early/mid- September
by Princess Cruises and cost about $1500 to share an interior room
(includes most shipboard activities and limitless good food--burp!),
more for balcony suites, etc. The avian advantage of taking this routing
is that the ship spends at least two full days going both northbound and
then again going southbound WELL OFFSHORE, which the many cruises doing
the "Inside Passage" to/from Alaska from Seattle or Vancouver do not do.
On the northbound leg, we were often well over 100 miles offshore (up to
180 miles), whereas on the southbound leg we were typically 30-60 miles
offshore. About half of the Princess ships have excellent vantage points
near or right at the bow, so viewing (much of it with scopes given the
steadiness of the ride) and even photographic opportunities are good.
The ship scheduled to be used in 2014 also has the same good
observational deck plan as the vessel used this year.
Unfortunately, given that these cruise ships go full speed ahead even at
night, we "missed" a lot of great water in the darkness. Most of the
pelagic waters off Washington and the pelagic waters off extreme
southeast Alaska regularly got such a raw deal both going and coming.
These trips are also excellent for a variety of marine mammals.
Thanks to Larry Peavler, Steve Ritt, Dona Coates and group, Jeff
Gilligan, Owen Schmidt, Barbara Carlson, and my Wings tour group for
each joining on one of the cruises this year.
The waters FAR off the coasts of northwest CA, OR, WA, and BC are not
well covered, and relatively little coverage occurs in most regions at
all in summer. Thus, I was especially interested in what we would see,
and here is a summary for those interested in what was out there during
only three trips during one year, and often with only one or a very few
observers doing much of the looking. So who knows what we missed!!
The three trips I took were as follows:
TRIP 1: 30 May - 8 June 2013
TRIP 2: 9 - 18 July 2013
TRIP 3: 29 July - 7 August 2013
Pacific Loon: uncommon in early June, none thereafter except for
surprising alternate bird well at sea off Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte
Islands) and basic bird well off Vancouver Island, BC, both on 16 Jul;
seems odd to have birds well offshore in mid-summer.
Yellow-billed Loon: 1 off Sitka, AK, on 2 Jun.
LAYSAN ALBATROSS: 2 off n. CA on 31 May, 1 off s. OR on 8 Jun, and 2
off n. CA on 7 Aug; summer is not a great time of year for this
species, so the total of 5 is perhaps on par.
Black-footed Albatross: fairly common to common throughout, with high
counts of 225 off s. OR on 8 Jun and 600 off BC on 5 Aug.
Northern Fulmar: small to moderate numbers south to Sonoma County CA in
early summer, increasing in Aug to a high of 70 off BC on 16 Jul and 325
there 5 Aug.
MURPHY'S PETREL: it is mostly thought that this species is 'expected'
in spring as late perhaps as early June, and sure enough, 1 was off n CA
and 7 were off OR on 31 May, with 1 rarer still off s. BC on 1 Jun; but
less expected were the 5 off n. CA and 5 off OR on 10 Jul.
HAWAIIAN/DARK-RUMPED PETREL: the substantial increase in records of
this species was particularly evident in 2013, with over 10 birds seen
on spring repositioning cruises off CA and OR, and then 1 off n. CA on
10 Jul, exceptionally 1 off s. BC on 11 Jul (where only a couple
records, perhaps), a high total of 11 birds off s. OR and n. CA under
windy conditions on 18 Jul, and finally 1 bird off extreme s. OR on 30
Jul (for photos, see:
COOK'S PETREL: only individual seen was off n. CA on 30 Jul; clearly an
"off" year for this species, as also evidenced by just a few seen this
past spring from several repositioning cruises.
Pink-footed Shearwater: increasingly common as the season progressed,
as expected in this species, with birds also spreading farther and
farther north (i.e., northernmost off cen. Vancouver Island on Trip 1,
off n. Vancouver Island on Trip 2, and off Haida Gwaii on Trip 3;
largest concentration was 5000 birds off nw. WA on 17 Jul.
FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER: singles were off OR on 8 Jun and off s. BC on
16 Jul; very rare in summer.
GREAT SHEARWATER: the second or third record for BC was established by
a bird photo'd (see
http://oschmidt.net/OwenLSchmidtLLC/GRSH.html) between Haida Gwaii and
n. Vancouver Is. on 5 Aug.
BULLER'S SHEARWATER: very unusual was 1 off OR on 8 Jun, the earliest
record for that state by over a month; then 1 off BC on 31 Jul and total
of 12 off OR and n. CA on 7 Aug were more typical.
Sooty Shearwater: uncommon to fairly common (well offshore) to common
(nearshore), as expected, but with no one-day total exceeding 800 birds
(but see Short-tailed, below).
SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATER: one of the more surprising and sobering events
was the early-morning sailing through a huge concentration of 80,000
dark shearwaters in Hecate Strait (east of Haida Gwaii), BC, on 6 Jun;
near the end of the masses, with better light and closer birds, I could
tell that a substantial percent were Short-tailed Shearwaters (!), a
species which is thought of as rare to casual after early spring off the
West Coast east of the western Gulf of Alaska. How many birds of the
80,000 were Short-taileds, I don't know. One problem of being on a large
cruise ship is that you can't ask them to turn around to re-investigate
birds! Hopefully somebody will be able to check this area next year at
this time.... And then on 16 Jul I saw 5 Short-taileds in this same
general area. Also unusual was 1 in well inshore marine waters inside
Glacier Bay, AK, on 14 Jul.
MANX SHEARWATER: 1 off s. BC on 6 Jun and 3 separate birds s. of Haida
Gwaii, BC, on 16 Jul.
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel: common throughout; many single-day totals of
up to 250, with 700 off BC on both 6 Jun and 16 Jul and a mass of 10,000
off the n. end of Vancouver Island on 5 Aug.
Leach's Storm-Petrel: very common well offshore; in fact, often the
most common and widespread species over deep water throughout route,
with high counts of 2600 off BC on 6 Jun and 7200 there on 5 Aug.
Ashy Storm-Petrel: 30 at Cordell Bank, CA, on 29 Jul--where
expected--were the only ones seen.
Black Storm-Petrel: 1 at Cordell Bank, CA--near the usual northern
limit of its range--on 29 Jul was the only one seen.
Pelagic Cormorant: this generally not very 'pelagic' species was seen
several times 37-40 miles offshore off n. BC
Marbled Godwit: flock of 22 some 34 miles offshore off n. CA on 18 Jul
was somewhat entertaining.
Red-necked Phalarope: rare on Trip 1, but fairly common on Trips 2 & 3,
with a high count of 700 off nw. WA on 17 Jul.
Red Phalarope: uncommon on Trips 1 & 2, fairly common on Trip 3, with a
high count of 200 off n. CA on 7 Aug.
Black-legged Kittiwake: none seen south of Sitka, AK.
Sabine's Gull: 30 off BC on 1 Jun was a good count for the date, as
were the 20 off OR on 18 Jul; 1 off n CA on 10 Jul and 4 off BC on 11
Jul; uncommon and widespread on Trip 3.
California Gull: just a few seen offshore during the three trips,
probably because it was summer.
Glaucous-winged Gull: ditto
Aleutian Tern: 4 at Glacier Bay, AK, on 14 July were at the
southeasternmost known nesting locale.
Arctic Tern: uncommon (early summer) to fairly common (late summer) and
widespread offshore, with 7 off BC on 1 Jun, 7 there on 6 Jun, and 4 off
n. CA on 8 Jun being slightly more unusual; high count of 40 off OR on 7
South Polar Skua: more numerous than expected, widespread along route
in small numbers, with the 'hot-spot' on all three cruises being the
waters well off the BC coast west of between Vancouver Island and Haida
Gwaii where up to 6/trip seen; the actual one-day high was 10 birds off
n. CA on 7 Aug.
Pomarine Jaeger: less numerous than expected, even given time of year,
with fewer than 5 on both Trips 1 & 2, and 26 seen on Trip 3.
Parasitic Jaeger: uncommon throughout, with one-day high of 8 on 7 Aug
off OR and n. CA; this species is scarce in deep water far offshore.
Long-tailed Jaeger: the dominant jaeger in deep waters well offshore,
with the early-summer hot-spot the same BC area as for South Polar Skua,
with 11 there on 1 Jun; Trips 2 & 3 recorded them throughout and were
uncommon to fairly common, with a high count on Trip 2 of 10 off BC on
11 Jul, and on Trip 3 of 22 off OR on 30 Jul and 53 off OR on 7 Aug.
Common Murre: fairly common close to shore; not found far offshore;
farthest out were several on several dates to 55 miles offshore.
THICK-BILLED MURRE: 1 off n. BC on 6 Jun.
Marbled Murrelet: a notable concentration was 5000 birds in the Glacier
Bay/Icy Strait area, AK, on 3 Aug; none seen south of Alaska, as
expected, when offshore.
Kittlitz's Murrelet: common in Glacier Bay, AK, with 800 there on 3
Jun, 300 there 14 Jul, and 55 on 3 Aug (it is typical for numbers to
wane as the late summer approaches)
SCRIPPS'S MURRELET: northerly were 1 off BC on 31 Jul, 2 off OR on 7
Aug, and 1 off n. CA on 7 Aug. Guadalupe Murrelets are also possible here.
Ancient Murrelet: common early in season off BC and se. AK, with a high
count of 300 off se. AK on 2 Jun and 630 off BC on 6 Jun; numbers much
reduced on later cruises.
Cassin's Auklet: fairly common to common throughout, with a high count
of 11,000 off BC on 6 Jun.
PARAKEET AUKLET: a residual of the winter and spring 'invasion' were
the 7 off Haida Gwaii, BC, on 1 Jun.
LEAST AUKLET: probably the top 'shocker' of the three cruises was this
adult, with Cassin's Auklets, between Haida Gwaii and n. Vancouver
Island on 6 Jun, establishing perhaps the second BC record.
Rhinoceros Auklet: fairly common to common throughout, with the largest
count being 675 off BC on 5 Aug.
Horned Puffin: none seen south of Glacier Bay, AK.
Tufted Puffin: uncommon to fairly common throughout, with surprisingly
none in CA waters, a high of 4 off OR, 6 off WA, and 85 off BC (and
locally common in AK).
Eurasian Collared-Dove: 1 was 46 miles off OR on 8 Jun.
Peregrine Falcon: 1 was 42 miles off n. BC on 5 Aug.
--PAUL LEHMAN, San Diego (lehman.paul at verizon.net)
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