[Tweeters] Westport Seabirds Trip Report Saturday September 29th

Cara Borre cmborre1 at gmail.com
Mon Oct 1 15:55:40 PDT 2018

Last Saturday, at O-dark 30, Westport Seabirds and hardy birders from near
and far, headed out on what would be our penultimate trip this season.
With winds perpendicular to our direction of travel, the conditions were
less than ideal but better than predicted for Sunday which had just been
cancelled. As the dark lifted to dusk, we saw our first Sooty Shearwaters
followed shortly by the “shearwater parade” which is often viewable from
shore. This time of year large numbers of Sooty Shearwater can be seen
streaming by on their way to southern hemisphere breeding grounds off South
America and New Zealand/Australia.

We headed toward a known shrimper in the area only to find it alone,
without birds. Such would be our day with the few boats we found either
too distant and headed away from us, or passive in the water without bird
activity. With our hopes still high, as pelagic birders have within their
power the means to summons tube-noses at will, we continued on to the
deeper waters at the continental shelf. On the way we were able to pick up
Pink-footed and Buller’s Shearwater with good looks at both. We had very
good numbers of Cassin’s Auklet and decent numbers of Rhinoceros Auklet,
another pair of species that can be difficult to distinguish even under the
best of conditions for those new to pelagic birding.

We arrived at the chum spot off the shelf and Captain Phil kept the boat
directed into the swells as First Mate Chris set out our cod-liver oil
slick. If you have never experienced this demonstration of “tube-nose
calling” where you arrive at a spot devoid of birds, drop a couple cups of
fishy bird attractant in the water and wait… well, you’ve got to join us
sometime to marvel at this adaptation for a pelagic life, it’s simply
amazing! The first to arrive usually aren’t tube-noses, but immature
California Gulls who have learned that a boat means food. Chris welcomed
them with bait fish as they could help us attract more of our targets. Not
much time passed before we had a few Northern Fulmars joining the gulls
with shearwaters zipping by, but we still were without an albatross for the
day. The “chum spot” marks our turn around point for the voyage and is a
good time to eat lunch or use the head as it’s easier than when underway. I
joked to fellow spotter Bruce LaBar that I was going to the bathroom so
they could find a good bird. This had happened on my last trip when all
aboard (except me) were treated to an Arctic Tern “flying right over the
boat”. Sure enough, during my time in the head I heard Phil’s voice on the
speaker announcing something good. I arrived back on deck to happy birders
and our first (of only two for the day) Black-footed Albatross. This is the
show stopper bird and it would have been very disappointing for a first
pelagic, or a first western pelagic, conditions which applied to some
onboard, to have missed seeing one. After holding out for a visit from a
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, we accepted what birds we were granted and turned
“storm-petreless” for home.

On the way back we had a few Dall’s Porpoise, one of which paralleled the
boat a bit giving those on the port side a great, barely underwater view.
We did have a couple jaeger sightings both on the way out and back. Several
of us on the port side encountered a jaeger-like bird coming straight at us
at tremendous speed. We began yelling “jaeger, jaeger”, and as this bulky
bird got closer we realized it was a Peregrine Falcon! Very exciting 20
miles from shore.

Sea and weather conditions improved as we neared Westport so Phil slowed
the boat and we enjoyed some inshore sightings of Pacific Loons still in
breeding plumage and other expected waterfowl. Back at the dock, Captain
Phil Anderson, First Mate Chris Anderson, and my fellow spotters, Bruce
LaBar and Scott Mills, thanked this enthusiastic group for joining us and
having great spirits despite less than optimal conditions.

The last pelagic outing this year is scheduled for Saturday, October 6th
with good weather forecasted, space available, and probably a Laysan
Albatross lurking out there somewhere. Here’s hoping you’re not in the
head when it’s sighted! Booking information is available at

Happy birding,

Cara Borre

Gig Harbor
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