[Tweeters] Offshore LaPush in Mid-July

Boekelheide bboek at olympus.net
Tue Jul 15 22:49:03 PDT 2014

Hello, Tweeters,

This week Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary is providing “Thank You” cruises for their volunteers, on the R/V Tatoosh out of La Push. Yesterday and today (7/14 & 7/15) I was lucky to go along as naturalist/bird spotter. Our cruise-track both days was to head north from La Push past Cake Rock to Sea Lion Rock, around Carroll Island and Jagged Island, then south of La Push to the Quillayute Needles. We were never more than about three miles offshore. Weather was overcast with calm winds. These islands include substantial nesting colonies of several seabird species in WA, so always interesting to see up-close in mid-nesting season.

We saw several very active feeding flocks of gulls, alcids, cormorants, shearwaters and pelicans, suggesting forage fish are doing well this year. But most of the birds we saw were just loafing on the water, looking like they had their fill of fish and were simply hanging out. Most nesting species are probably on eggs right now; we only saw a couple puffins carrying small fish, and no murres carrying fish. Nesting colonies were very busy, with lots of bird activity.

Some items of interest:
White-winged and Surf Scoter — scattered small flocks flying south, all males.
Sooty Shearwater - regular, but not abundant. Some were mixed in with feeding flocks, but most lazily flying north.
Manx Shearwater - two birds on 7/15. One was in a feeding flock between Cake Island and Sea Lion Rock, and another soaring by with Sooties near Carroll Island.
Brandt’s Cormorant - didn’t see any nest sites. Several hundred mostly one-year-olds roosting on various islands, undoubtedly from colonies down south.
Double-crested Cormorant - approx. 30 DCCO nests at the very top of Jagged Island.
Pelagic Cormorant - nests on all the islands with suitable cliff ledges.
Brown Pelican - scattered, all immatures except one adult. Joined in feeding flocks and flew by in small flocks.
Bald Eagle - Only one immature on offshore rocks, at Quillayute Needles
Greater Yellowlegs - 2 near the mouth of the Quillayute River, near where Denny Van Horn found adults with chicks 2 or 3 years ago.
Black Turnstone - 6 on Sea Lion Rock.
Heermann’s Gull - numerous, mixed in with feeding flocks and flying by.
Common Murre - several thousand, mostly in large rafts near islands, but also in feeding flocks. The largest nesting colonies we saw were at Carroll Island and Quillayute Needles.
Pigeon Guillemot, Rhino Auklet, and Marbled Murrelet - scattered individuals, nowhere common.
Cassin’s Auklet - several individuals and small rafts, total number ~40-50 each day, mostly in the vicinity of Carroll and Jagged Islands, where thousands apparently nest.
Ancient Murrelet - 1 lone adult on 7/14 near Carroll Island. Curiously, Carroll Island is the only spot in WA where Ancients were confirmed nesting (in 1924!), so is it still being used?
Tufted Puffin - common both on the water and on nesting islands, several hundred total. We saw many puffins standing at nesting burrows in the big grassy areas on Carroll and Jagged Islands, where thousands apparently nest.
Peregrine Falcon - single individuals perched at Cake Island and Quillayute Needles, likely Peale’s Falcons.

Bob Boekelheide

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