[Tweeters] Westport Seabirds Trip Report Saturday 10-6-18
cmborre1 at gmail.com
Sun Oct 7 19:45:20 PDT 2018
Westport Seabirds brought its NW pelagic season to a spectacular finale
yesterday with exceptional weather and wildlife to view. We were again
joined by a diverse group of birders including veteran pelagic birders,
first timers, as well as two impressive young birders independently doing
ABA big years.
As we were admiring the beautiful sunrise behind us, we spotted a Peregrine
Falcon speeding toward shore. We passed the usual Sooty Shearwater and
Common Murre zones with good numbers and orientation looks for those
onboard new to pelagic birding. As we continued farther from shore, we
picked up Pink-footed Shearwater and were able to continue working with new
pelagic birders to now recognize our next most common shearwater as a
“white-bellied”, larger bird with a relaxed flight style. While Sooty and
Pink-footed Shearwaters might be as different as night and day, you add in
the snappy “white(r)-bellied” Buller’s Shearwater, and it becomes a bit
more frustrating for those still developing their sea-legs and pelagic
viewing skills. Fortunately Buller’s was present in good numbers, 61 birds
for the day, so everyone got good views of this beautiful bird.
Arriving in the deep water of Gray’s Canyon, we set out our cod-liver oil
slick and tossed suet to the gulls. In the distance we could see a large
number of birds circling to the south. Wisely we have learned to
investigate these congregations as they often mean something of interest is
attracting these birds. Sure enough the highlight yesterday, and the best
bird viewing opportunity we could have hoped for, was not self-derived at
our chum spot, not at the good fortune of finding a fishing vessel hauling
in a net, but was at the natural Orca feeding event we happened upon.
We conservatively counted five whale as we watched this group of
“Transients or Biggs” as they are known and the 750 (over half were gulls)
birds they attracted for the next 90 minutes. This was one of those
natural spectacles where your brain becomes so overwhelmed it doesn’t know
where to begin to direct your eyes, there is simply too much to take in. We
had encountered our first Black-footed Albatross on the way to the chum
spot so that bird was already seen by all, but now we had 30 to study both
feeding on the water and in flight. As Northern Fulmar was present in
smaller than usual numbers, we worked to get those interested on that bird.
We had fabulous looks at a South Polar Skua who circled the area for a good
while, going to the water at times to get a bite of whatever the whales
were feeding on. We had excellent looks at 3 passing Pomarine Jaegers and a
Parasitic Jaeger. We even had a close Rhinoceros Auklet and a couple Common
Murre (unusual this far offshore), joining the scene. While we cataloged
the birds, watched the whales and speculated on what they were feeding
(remains unknown), fellow spotter Bill Shelmerdine called out the words
many on board were hoping to hear, “I’ve got a Flesh-footed Shearwater”. So
began the scanning and location describing frustration that can
characterize looking for this one bird among hundreds of others. In the
end, all those that wanted or “needed” views of this rarity got them with
patience and perseverance.
As time necessitated a turn for home, we reluctantly left this thrilling
scene but not before we were treated to a close Orca jumping entirely out
of the water before diving below us. Just jaw dropping! On our way home we
were granted close, on the water views of Cassin’s Auklet who, though in
good numbers for the day, had shown itself only in quick flybys earlier.
We also had nice looks a several Ocean Sunfish and a couple of Fur Seals
during our trip.
As we approached Westport and were welcomed back by the buoy lounging
Steller’s Sea Lions, we noticed high surf conditions with waves reminiscent
of the Hawaii 5-0 opener. The Coast Guard was practicing towing exercises
as we passed the “shorebirdless” jetty. Pausing at the roosting dock of the
Marbled Godwit flock, we departed the Monte Carlo for the last time this
season with memories of another fabulous day at sea. Spotters for this
trip were Scott Mills and Bill Shelmerdine, and I was only too happy to tag
along. Thank you Captain Phil Anderson and First Mate Chris Anderson for
getting those of us interested in exploring pelagic birds and other sea
life out on the water this year.
Here’s a link to a short video with images from this trip:
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