[Tweeters] Westport Seabirds trip report for September 7

bill shelmerdine georn1 at hotmail.com
Tue Sep 9 08:30:57 PDT 2014

Greetings All,
Last Sunday we had another great trip with Westport Seabirds. It was a long weekend for Phil and company, with three trips in a row Friday through Sunday. Since I only attended the Sunday trip, I do not have too much to offer with regards to comparisons and will only provide a quick summary of Sundays Trip. Interested individuals are encouraged to check the Westport Seabirds Webpage or ebird lists in the coming weeks for a comparison between successive trips.

We left the dock shortly after 0600, a little after 0-dark hundred. Conditions for the day were calm and overcast, excellent viewing conditions for spotting birds on the water and for discerning pattern details. We took a northerly route to Grays Canyon in order to pass through the shrimping fleet near the outer edge of the shelf. They were fishing to the north and we were only able to work the boats on the south end of the fleet. Let me just say, there were a lot of birds out there and while we had great views, diversity, and good numbers, there were also large concentrations in the distance and out of reach. Interestingly we continued to encounter numbers of birds away from the fleet, out across the canyon edge and out to the chum spot just beyond the outer part of the canyon.

Now for the highlights… Probably the top avian highlight was 2 pairs of Scripp’s Murrelets, one just beyond the canyon edge, and one pair at the Chum Spot. They were very cooperative, providing excellent and sustained views, unlike many encounters with this species. Yesterday also marked the first day this season where we had the coveted “Skua Slam”, encountering 7 Pomerine Jeager, 6 Parasitic Jeager, 1 Long-tailed Jeager, and 1 South Polar Skua seen as we passed back through the shrimp fleet on the return. Most were seen well, though the Skua was distant and was too busy causing trouble and chasing Pink-foots to pay any attention to us. Sabine’s Gulls showed in good numbers (268) offshore, and both Arctic (9) and Common (12) were moving through.

Tubenoses put on a good show from the outer shelf inshore of the shrimp fleet, all the way to the chum spot. Noteworthy were 28 Black-footed Albatross, over 2000 Pink-footed Shearwaters, 29 Buller’s Shearwaters (awesome views), and over 21,000 Sooty Shearwaters. Near the edge of the canyon we encountered numbers of Fork-tailed Storm Petrels (1400+) and Cassin’s Auklets (79). By contrast, Northern Fulmar numbers continue to be on the low side, with only 10-15 recorded for the day. Rounding out the alcids were a cooperative adult Tufted Puffin on the water in deep water, Rhinoceros Auklets scattered throughout, large numbers of Common Murre inshore, and a few Pigeon Guillemots several miles out. Both Red-necked and Red Phalarope were around, though the latter was only represented by a single individual that was seen well.

If the birds weren’t enough, the mammal show was top notch. The highlight for me was a Minke Whale showing a couple of times close to the boat. However, I suspect it was the very acrobatic and fin-slapping Humpback Whale NW of the harbor that stole the show for most. Eleven Humpback Whales for the day was a good number. Rounding out the list were Dall’s and Harbor Porpoise; Northern Elephant (Chum Spot) and Harbor Seals; Steller’s and California Sea Lions (Harbor). Many Ocean Sunfish (29) were encountered throughout the day.

And finally back at the boat basin, a Willet in with few hundred Marbled Godwits was a very nice surprise and a fitting end to a great trip. The numbers above a preliminary, look for final numbers to be posted on Westport Seabirds Website and on ebird. Spotters for the trip were Bruce Labar, Jim Danzenbaker and Bill Shelmerdine. As usual Skipper Phil Anderson and Chris Anderson (deckhand, crew, and jack of all trades) provided outstanding service and made for a great trip.

Bill Shelmerdine
Westport Seabirds.

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