[Tweeters] Pelagic trip to Swiftsure Bank and Juan de Fuca Canyon, Aug 13, 2016

B Boekelheide bboek at olympus.net
Sun Aug 14 12:12:48 PDT 2016

Hello, Tweeters,

Yesterday, Aug 13, a group of us traveled on the M/V Windsong out of Neah Bay through the west entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Swiftsure Bank, then south over the Juan de Fuca Canyon and back inshore by Tatoosh Island. Denny Van Horn ably organized the trip, which we hope to do again on September 10. For more information or to sign up with Denny for Sept 10, write to him at dennyvanhorn at gmail.com <mailto:dennyvanhorn at gmail.com>.

The highlight of our day was at the southern margins of Swiftsure Bank, where we found thousands of birds and many humpback whales feeding at a huge patch of krill and baitfish extending over a wide area. Krill darkened the water and small silvery baitfish jumped everywhere around us. Humpbacks plowed sideways through the middle of the swarm, mouths wide open, inhaling everything in their paths. One humpback let out a big red poo, telltale sign of krill for breakfast. Shearwaters and gulls made up the bulk of the flocks, wheeling back and forth, plunging into the water, and sitting in large flocks nearby. Several times we watched jaegers and a skua chase down gulls and shearwaters, and in turn watched gulls chase the jaegers. One of our lingering images is seeing hundreds of beautiful Sabine’s Gulls all taking flight at once, like snowflakes fluttering over the dark water. There were small numbers of sealions and harbor porpoises in the area, but surprisingly no other cetaceans joining the group.

Here are our conservative counts and estimates of the flocks at Swiftsure Bank and upper Juan de Fuca Canyon. We tried our best to stay on the US side of the border, which goes right thru this area.
Pink-footed Shearwater - 6800
Sooty Shearwater - 1850
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel - 4
Red-necked Phalarope - 48
South Polar Skua - 1
Pomarine Jaeger - 3
Parasitic Jaeger - 2
Common Murre - 750
Cassin’s Auklet - 86
Rhinoceros Auklet - 470
Tufted Puffin - 57
Sabine’s Gull - 1900 (in several tight flocks)
California Gull - 3000
Glaucous-winged/Western Gull - 225
Arctic Tern - 2
Barn Swallow - 1
Humpback Whale - our estimate somewhere between 30-50

We also passed close by Tatoosh Island and Cape Flattery, where we tried to count and estimate birds visible on the island and nearby waters:
Brown Pelican - 1 immature
Great Blue Heron - 1
Brandt’s Cormorant - 250, nearly all immatures roosting together
Double-crested Cormorant - 2
Pelagic Cormorant - 300, with chicks of various sizes at nest sites
Bald Eagle - 1
Black Oystercatcher - 6
Red Phalarope - 3
Common Murre - 1350, no large chicks visible at nest sites, just adults either incubating or brooding small chicks
Pigeon Guillemot - 80, including a few fledglings on the water
Marbled Murrelet - 2
Rhinoceros Auklet - 200, including a few fledglings on the water
Tufted Puffin - 36
Heermann’s Gull - 75
California Gull - 200
Glaucous-winged Gull - 3000

Bob Boekelheide

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