[Tweeters] Westport Seabirds August 4 Trip Report

bill shelmerdine georn1 at hotmail.com
Fri Aug 10 06:56:15 PDT 2018

Greetings all,

Last Saturday Westport Seabirds conducted another successful pelagic trip out of Westport. Highlights included: Short-tailed Shearwater, Scripps Murrelet and great looks at South-Polar Skua.

Conditions were mostly overcast in the morning, with clearing in the afternoon and light winds through the day. Some wet stuff, perhaps qualifying as light drizzle was encountered at the chum stop. The swell was low, but weather from the previous days resulted in somewhat choppy conditions on both the outbound and inbound legs. The trip headed west to Grays Canyon then on to the deeper waters off the shelf edge.

The first part of the trip was fairly quiet with a lack of concentrated feeding activity near the harbor mouth, resulting in rather low Sooty Shearwater numbers for the trip. The outbound leg found birds scattered and in generally low numbers. Sooty and Pink-footed Shearwaters, a few Northern Fulmar, and Common Murre and Rhinoceros Auklet made up most of the species encountered. An adult Parasitic Jaeger on this section was the only one encountered on the trip.

As we approached the outer shelf we encountered several shrimp boats fishing near Grays Canyon. Not surprisingly, most of the birds in the area were concentrated around the boats and helped explain a general lack of activity for several miles east of that location. It was in this location that we encountered our first Black-footed Albatross with good numbers of Northern Fulmar, Pink-footed and Sooty Shearwaters, and California Gulls. Smaller numbers of Fork-tailed Storm Petrels and a few Sabines Gulls added to the variety. Scott Mills picked out a South-Polar Skua on the water with two Albatross. This bird turned out to be very accommodating, flying directly to the back of the boat for great views by all on board and good photo opportunities for some. Both Skua for the day showed up in all the activity around the boats.

One of the big surprises of the day was the continuing presence of Short-tailed Shearwaters mixed in with the more common Sooties. We recorded 15-20 around the shrimp boats, an unprecedented number for this time of year. Many were in immaculate/ fresh plumage and several sat on the water or passed close providing excellent views. It was a great opportunity to study the species at length and often side-by-side with the very similar Sooty Shearwater.

With all of the concentrated activity around the shrimp fleet it was difficult depart to check the deeper water areas for species more characteristic of that zone. The trip into deeper waters off the shelf edge provided better looks at Cassin’s Auklet and added numbers to the trip list. Our deep water chum stop provided an interesting experience. Our chum attracted a few Black-footed Albatross and Northern Fulmar, while a good variety of other species cruised by though most did not linger. By the end of the stop numbers of Fork-tailed Storm Petrel were on the slick, while Leaches Storm-Petrel proved elusive with only two passing by without stopping. Probably the best bird of the day was Scripp’s Murrelet; two birds flew past the bow at relatively close range but unfortunately did not stop. We also encountered sterna terns and phalarope in the distance, but they could not be pinned down to species.

The return trip added to our numbers but produced few new birds. We passed back through the fishing fleet where more fun was had with the concentrated feeding activity. A boat fishing sablefish proved more interesting to Albatross than the nearby shrimp boats more than doubling the days numbers for that species. The numbers of Pink-footed Shearwaters at the shrimp fleet were remarkable, numbers for the day exceeded 2300 out numbering the usually more common Sooty Shearwaters. The return trip to the harbor was rather quite by comparison, though we did add several Pomarine Jaeger including close views of a couple of sub-adults. Overall it was a rather slow day for mammals, with only a single Humpback Whale breaching in the distance, and a few Sea-lions, Seal and Harbor Porpoise in the nearshore areas. Fish species recorded for the day included Blue Shark and Mola Mola (Ocean Sunfish).

Spotters for the trip were Bill Tweit, Scott Mills and Bill Shelmerdine. Phil and Chris Anderson provided expert boat handling and first class customer service as well as expert spotting skills. We are just getting into the peak of the pelagic season, check out the Westport Seabirds website if interested in taking a trip. Hope to see you on the water.

B Shelmerdine


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