[Tweeters] Westport Seabirds Trip Report Saturday, August 18

B B birder4184 at yahoo.com
Mon Aug 20 12:35:47 PDT 2018

Really enjoyed reading Cara's great report of what sounds like another terrific trip with Westport Seabirds.  At that time I was on my first pelagic trip out of San Diego.  There were 5 other Washington birders on board, joining at least 35 to 40 others including birders from all over the U.S. and some foreign countries.  Washington birders were Scott and Sierra Downes, Shelli and Meghin Spencer and John Bjorkman.  Many of the birders were doing Big Years of one sort or another.
This trip had to be considered a great success because of some really nice birds but I was frustrated with distant only views of the specialty storm petrels (Black, Ashy and maybe a Least) and the Craveri's Murrelets.  Great to find them but especially with such a crowd, the views and especially photo ops were challenging.  There were many experts on board, but I don't think anyone is better at getting birds on the birds than Captain Phil and the Westport spotters.  Another major difference is that unlike Westport, there are no massive collections of birds behind shrimpers to help get great looks.
For most onboard, the highlight were good to excellent views of Red Footed, Brown and Masked Boobies and a Laysan Albatross.  Apparently this has been an excellent year for Boobies here.  The Laysan Albatross, however, was a surprise and was a County first for many of the really serious San Diego County listers on board.  Of particular interest was that this bird had a leg band that identified it as coming from the newly established breeding population from Guadalupe Island off the Mexican Coast.  On the Westport trip a week ago where we also had a Laysan, this new colony was suggested as a probable reason for the increased Laysan observations on the Westport trips - evidenced by the two seen on the trip reported by Cara.
Such a contrast with the Westpot trips.  Maybe two Sooty Shearwaters, 50 Pink Footed Shearwaters, no Fulmars and a single Black Footed Albatross.  There were many fewer individual birds all in all - certainly less than 1000 and maybe not even half that.
And somehow chumming with popcorn just seems weird.  But happy for the Boobies, Craveri's and Storm Petrels.

Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

On Mon, Aug 20, 2018 at 8:04 AM, Cara Borre<cmborre1 at gmail.com> wrote:
Hi Tweets,

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 appearances.

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’ beauty.

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!
Cara BorreGig Harbor WA_______________________________________________
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Tweeters at u.washington.edu

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