[Tweeters] Red-hot Clallam Co birding: GREAT(ER) SHEARWATER, SB GULL, TB MURRE

Scott scottratkinson at hotmail.com
Tue Sep 8 16:58:39 PDT 2015


Neah Bay birding over the last days has been incredible. Amazingly, I see on Ebird that a Snowy Plover was at Hobuck Beach yesterday--I was there at first light this morn, had no shorebirds, but had a SLATY-BACKED GULL (adult). With my limited setup and photographer ability, I was unfortunately unable to capture a photo of the "string of pearls" in flight, but did see just one white pearl above when the bird took off, given a molt there (the bird had a missing "patch" in the primaries). From below, however, this bird had the classic pearl-gray and a couple pearls; the bold wide white trailing edge of the wing from above was also obvious. These photos are all I could manage:


The very dark mantle, eye details, slimmer build, thinner bill with less-pronounced gonys, and pinker legs are captured here. While these are the stereotype SB Gull details, please note that there are SB Gulls out there that are not quite this dark in the mantle, and have less pink legs. The string of pearls may also not be readily visible above at times. While in Kamchatka last May, I had some very good discussion with Yura Gerasimov, who is on the equivalent of an "all-Russia" Rare Birds Committee, is a Kamchatka Academy of Sciences member, and birds continually Kamchatka and north as part of his work. He said that while hybrids do occur with Vega, they are exceedingly rare--even though the species do nest side-by-side in a few places to the north.

But the gull was exceeded in a big way by birds at Cape Flattery yesterday, where I did a 3.5 hour telescope sea-watch yesterday. I had 434 SOOTY SHEARWATERS, PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER (15), and four N. FULMAR (one light morph), but was stunned by a brief appearance of a GREATER SHEARWATER. I had two PINK-FOOTED heading north when suddenly a third bird--about the same length and general pattern (dark above, white below)--emerged from behind a swell. At first glance I thought Pink-foot, but when one Pink-footed rose for a wheeling arc, the mystery shearwater rose to meet it. There was a bit of a melee and both birds went down to the surface of the ocean. When the mystery third bird rose, I distinctly saw a little white tail band--very sharply contrasting with an all-black tail tip! For a moment the pattern suggested Laysan Albatross, but this was obviously a very small white band and of course the bird was nowhere near albatross-sized. The brown upperparts were very close to the same as Pink-footed, but I did definitely note more white on the side of the neck, and again--a sharply-defined edge between light and dark brown. Alas, after this brief study, the group disappeared behind the swells; owing to the brevity of the sighting and distance, no photo was possible. I have seen this species previously on pelagic trips off VA and NC.

But if this wasn't enough, I later had a long study of a THICK-BILLED MURRE in the tide rips to the west. This bird only dove a couple times. Specifically, it was about 50 yards north of the first seastack south of Tatoosh I. I could not make out a white gape, but a winter (or young) bird's white gape can be hard to see. This photo (not my own) is a dead match for the bird:


The shorter, stouter bill, jet-black head and overall plumage above (blacker than Common) were noted on this bird. This is in fact my second for CLALLAM. Last month I found a dead bird at Ocean Shores and have seen many on both sides of the Bering Sea in fishing operations.

Full EBird list for Cape Flattery to be forthcoming.

Scott Atkinson
Lake Stevens
mail to: scottratkinson at hotmail.com

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