[Tweeters] Westport Seabirds Trip Report Saturday,
August 18: Five Shearwater Day!
cmborre1 at gmail.com
Mon Aug 20 08:02:58 PDT 2018
Westport Seabirds headed out on another great excursion Saturday, August
18th. We left the dock at 6am and crossed the bar with a favorable
outgoing tide. The weather was overcast most of the day which made for a
glare free bird viewing experience. Sea conditions included some rolling
swells out the way out and as is typical, a smoother return trip.
“The bird diversity on the West coast”, as a East coast birder onboard
remarked, “is incredible”. This journey was a shining example of his
observation. Not far out to sea we encountered a couple phalaropes who
cooperatively stayed in the water near the boat as we stopped to study
them. We had the good fortune to have one of each Red, and Red-necked
within a single binocular view for a good period of time. It’s always a
treat to be able to study similar species in this fashion as fellow
spotter, Scott Mills, explains the distinguishing field marks of each.
Shortly after our short course in phalaropes, we were treated to a very
close surfacing of two Gray Whales which stayed briefly for several more
With the delight of the phalarope and Gray Whale encounters behind us, we
made a our way to the shrimping fleet about 20 miles overshore. Here we
found nine boats, two of which shared thousands of birds between them. We
had good numbers of Black-footed Albatross and Pink-footed Shearwater,
along with Sooty Shearwater and Northern Fulmar. There are always gulls to
sort through at these boats as well. Not long after our arrival, the call
of “LAYSAN ALBATROSS” was echoed by Captain Phil Anderson over the boat’s
speaker and we all shifted our positions to watch this charismatic bird
wheeling between our boat and the shrimpers. Later in the day we would be
treated to a lone Laysan sitting lazily on the water posing for
photographers. We stayed at the shrimpers soaking up the birds for a good
while, then decided to make our way into deeper waters with hopes of
storm-petrels and more diversity. On the way we enjoyed a great viewing of
Cassin’s Auklet who cooperatively sat a while on the water.
We arrived in the deep waters off Grays Canyon and set out our fish oil
slick hoping to attract hungry tube-noses. It wasn’t long before several
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels took us up on our offer. In the distance we had
our first glimpse of a Sabine’s Gull. As we waited for more birds to catch
our fish oil scent, much closer Sabine’s Gull fly bys were seen well by
all. Later in our trip, we were granted a close on the water viewing of 5
Sabine’s Gull, all adult in breeding plumage. This species really needs to
be viewed both at rest on the water and in flight to truly appreciate its’
As we turned for home our understanding of the dynamic environment pelagic
birds enjoy motivated us to take another look at the birds surrounding the
shrimpers. This second pass enabled fellow spotter Bill Shelmerdine to
pick out a FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER on the water amid a huge flock of
resting birds. This species is always the proverbial needle in the
haystack, but today it was found sitting stationary on the edge of a
flock. A very satisfying Flesh-foot viewing! We had fleeting glimpses of
BULLER’S SHEARWATER, but during the Flesh-foot viewing a very cooperative
Buller’s decided to cause a quandry to those onboard, who to watch? A great
dilemma to have, but everyone got good looks at both. Next we wanted to
pick out a SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATER to compete a rare FIVE SHEARWATER DAY .
The odds were in our favor as this normally late season bird had been seen
unusually early this year on past trips. We were able to pick out several
smaller, dark shearwaters, with their smaller heads and bills and darker
underwings to achieve our goal.
Truly a great birding outing, exemplifying our West coast diversity to a
diversity onboard from near and distant Washington, the United States, and
the other side of the world. Scott, Bill and I were supported by our
trusty Captain, Phil Anderson and helpful first mate, Chris Anderson, both
of whom are invaluable in finding birds in this vast environment. In
addition to the Gray Whale, other mammal highlights included Northern Fur
Seal and a very large vertical “dead head” (reference to a typical sighting
of this species resembling a log in the water) from an Elephant Seal.
The complete trip list, as well as the rest of our schedule for the season,
can be found on westportseabirds.com
Hope to sea you out there!
Gig Harbor WA
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