[Tweeters] 8/5/17 Pelagic trip out of Neah Bay

B Boekelheide bboek at olympus.net
Sun Aug 6 12:49:54 PDT 2017

Hello, Tweeters,

26 hardy souls had an excellent pelagic trip out of Neah Bay yesterday, 8/5/17, on the M/V WindSong, organized by Denny Van Horn. Our route traveled 1) west through the entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca between Neah Bay and Tatoosh Island, 2) further west offshore to Swiftsure Bank, 3) south along the upper part of the Juan de Fuca Canyon, 4) inshore to Point of Arches off Shi Shi Beach, 5) north along the outer coast to Tatoosh Island, then 6) back to Neah Bay. Conditions were superb, with high overcast, light winds and seas, and visibilities 3+ miles all day. Onshore winds picked up enough to clear the smoky haze from offshore areas.

The most unusual bird for the day was one of the first birds we saw after leaving the marina at Neah Bay, the Horned Puffin first spotted by Jon Scordino in July (assuming it is the same bird). Offshore, the greatest concentrations of birds were at two places, first along the southern margins of Swiftsure Bank and second at the “Prairie,” a table-top area beside the Juan de Fuca Canyon. Pink-footed Shearwaters were most numerous at Swiftsure, with about 750 for the day, whereas Sooty Shearwaters were much more abundant at the Prairie, numbering 6000+ for the day. We followed a trawler for awhile and searched through birds attracted to its offal, finding good numbers of fulmars and shearwaters, a few Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, and one Black-footed Albatross much closer to shore than typical. Among offshore alcids, murres and rhino auklets were everywhere, whereas Cassin’s Auklets concentrated at Swiftsure, likely finding the same krill that attracted several humpback whales to the same area. A small flock of 4 Ancient Murrelets also flew by at Swiftsure, another sighting of this species off the Olympic coast during the breeding season. We spotted at least 17 Tufted Puffins along the coast and off Tatoosh Island. We estimated about 2500 Common Murres at Tatoosh Island, split between a large raft sitting on the water near the island and nesting birds occupying cliff ledges. Among offshore gulls, California Gulls were most abundant, including many hatching-year birds, along with lesser numbers of Glaucous-winged types, a few Westerns, and 2 Sabine’s Gulls. Offshore birds also included 2 Parasitic Jaegers and 15 Red-necked Phalaropes, but the only tern was a Caspian flying by Tatoosh Island. Other curiosity items included a tight flock of over 100 Pacific Loons just off the breakers at Shi Shi Beach in various plumages from basic to almost-alternate, a roosting flock of Black Oystercatchers at Tatoosh Island numbering over 60 birds, and at least 3 gray whales diving in foam lines just off Shi Shi and Cape Flattery. Excluding landbirds at Tatoosh Island and Neah Bay, we tallied 33 species for the day. It was a lovely day on the ocean.

The September 9th Neah Bay pelagic trip is currently filled up, but check with Denny Van Horn (dennyvanhorn at gmail.com <mailto:dennyvanhorn at gmail.com>) for the wait list, just in case some room opens up between now and then.

Bob Boekelheide

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