[Tweeters] Westport Seabirds September 4th Trip Report
grevelas at integral-corp.com
Thu Sep 6 07:12:11 PDT 2018
Twenty birders joined us for a fun Westport Seabirds pelagic trip on Tuesday, September 4th. Customers included a group from Massachusetts Audubon on their Northwest birding tour, folks from New Mexico, Michigan, and Florida, and a contingent of both new and regular customers from Washington. We left the dock at 6:00 am and headed west on our route to Grays Canyon. Light winds were conducive to a relatively smooth ride but fog reduced visibility for the first two hours along the inner shelf to as little as a few hundred yards. While this made counting birds easy, it was not what we had hoped for. Fortunately, as we got further offshore, the fog lifted and viewing conditions were optimal for the rest of the day with light cloud cover and smooth seas.
The inshore fog kept numbers of Sooty Shearwaters and Common Murres atypically low. Once the fog lifted, we picked up our first Northern Fulmars, Pink-footed Shearwaters, and more Sootys. We also observed a South Polar Skua and Pomarine Jaeger at a distance. The real star of the morning, however, was a Humpback Whale that we first saw breach about one mile ahead of the boat. Captain Phil slowed our approach towards this animal and somewhat uncharacteristically, it continued to breach and flipper slap every 30-60 seconds for a good 15 minutes. This allowed for great photos and lots of "oohs and aahs". We actually motored away from this active mammal to get on with our birding. The next waypoint was our only shrimper of the day actively hauling its net in the company of about 400 birds. Half of our 60 Black-footed Albatross for the day were in this group, as were many California Gulls, a Herring Gull, more Pink-foots, and our first Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, Short-tailed Shearwaters, and Buller's Shearwaters. A more cooperative Pomarine Jaeger also made an appearance.
We continued on our track west into deeper water and picked up a few Red Phalaropes, and Cassin's and Rhinoceros Auklets on the way to our chum at about 125° west. The chum took a good 10-15 minutes to work, but eventually brought in most of the offshore species we had already seen, such as Black-footed Albatross, Fulmars, the four shearwater species, for closer and more prolonged looks. It also added Sabine's Gulls and Red-necked Phalaropes to our trip list. As noon approached, we left the chum spot and turned back towards Westport, now 40 miles away. Our next encounter was with three Northern Fur Seals who put on a great show near the boat floating at the surface and watching us as intently as we were watching them. A Parasitic Jaeger flew by quickly and a distant, possible Long-tailed Jaeger could only be recorded as Jaeger sp. In contrast to these elusive birds, our next new bird was a beautiful adult, Arctic Tern that flew up our wake, right over us, and then circled the boat for all to see displaying its distinctive shape (short-necked, small head), buoyant flight style, and thin black-edged underwings.
No new bird species were added on the way home, another Skua made a quick pass in the distance. But the mammal show continued with groups of both Dall's Porpoise and Pacific White-sided Dolphins taking turns coming in close and riding our bow and stern wakes. Close to the harbor under clear skies, we encountered the large, summer flock of Sooty Shearwaters that visit our coast. We estimated about 10,000 Sootys on the approach to and just outside the Westport jetty. Species observed in the harbor and marina included all three cormorants, many Brown Pelicans and Heerman's Gulls, some Black Turnstones, and the large (now about 700 birds) flock of Marbled Godwits that frequent the marina.
We ended up with about 13,000 total birds for the day due in large part to the 10,000 Sooty Shearwaters just outside the harbor, but the combination of both birds and mammals kept us entertained all day. As always, Captain Phil Anderson and first mate Chris Anderson made sure everyone had both a fun and safe trip. The final numbers and complete species list will be posted soon on Westport Seabirds.com and on ebird. The ebird checklists will include photos of some of the birds and mammals mentioned here. Spotters for the trip were Scott Mills, Gene Revelas, and Michael Donahue. Please check the Westport Seabirds website for information on upcoming trips and availability. http://westportseabirds.com/. Trips run from now through mid-October and this is a great season for pelagic birding off our coast.
Happy fall birding!
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