[Tweeters] WESTPORT PELAGIC TRIPS, SEPT. 15 and 16, 2018
blabar at harbornet.com
Mon Sep 17 20:01:08 PDT 2018
Bill Tweit’s summary (which follows this report) of Sept. 16th trip, pretty well sums up the two back to back trips this past weekend. Saturdays trip also met some weather situations that caused us not to get quite to our normal chum spot. However, we still got some excellent sightings. Because of no fishing boats, which attracts lots of seabirds, our Black-footed Albatross and Northern Fulmar numbers were very low with only 8 Albatross and 9 Fulmars observed. We had excellent looks at 6 Buller’s Shearwaters. An awesome sighting of over 12,900 Sooty Shearwaters, many coming out of the harbor in the morning, was also a highlight.
Other notable sightings include: 1 Short-tailed Shearwater, 48 Fork-tailed Storm Petrels, 15 Red Phalaropes, 1 South Polar Skua, 6 Pomarine Jaegers, 2 Parasitic Jaegers, 10 Sabine’s Gulls and 2 Arctic Terns. Along the jetty coming back, we had 8 Wandering Tattlers and in the harbor over 800 Marbled Godwits.
The main highlight for most, was the incredible number of Humpback Whales! At times it felt like there were bombs exploding in the water with all the spouting going on. We estimated 51 Humpbacks were seen during this trip. Several breached which bought out exclamations from all. During this Humpback show, we were entertained by 112 Pacific White-sided Dolphins coming very close to our boat.
Leaders for this trip were Bill Shelmerdine, Cara Borre and myself. Boat personnel and spotters were Phil and Chris Anderson.
No two days are alike, but sometimes two adjacent days can be really different! Westport Seabirds got a sense of that last weekend, with trips on both Saturday and Sunday. The Saturday trip featured marine mammals, undoubtedly our best show ever of Humpback Whales. We found a few Humpbacks on Sunday, but it wasn’t close to the Saturday show, and instead we were treated to high numbers and great views of one of the most elegant seabirds in the world, Buller’s Shearwater, and an unusual southbound migration of Leach’s Storm-Petrel, which were totally absent on Saturday.
We were nervous about the Sunday trip, not sure if weather conditions would even permit a trip, and the hard showers and wind overnight weren’t reassuring. But, the Sunday participants all said they wanted to try, even if it might mean turning around before reaching Grays Canyon and not finding albatross. To our delight, after crossing a relatively smooth bar in the early morning, we were greeted by a remarkably calm looking ocean, so we made haste to get offshore, while enjoying the dense morning stream of Sooty Shearwaters heading south. Foreshadowing one of the day’s highlights, it wasn’t long before a Buller’s Shearwater showed up and gave reasonable looks. As we neared the area where the whales congregated on Saturday, a few Humpback spouts were seen and seabird diversity increased. Good looks at Pink-footed Shearwaters, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, Red Phalaropes, Cassin’s Auklet, and an unexpected Leach’s Storm Petrel flew quickly past. Since the weather prospects were still a bit uncertain, we headed further west towards Grays Canyon, and as forecast the seas became rougher making viewing more difficult. None the less, we found several Black-footed Albatross and had close views of Sabine’s Gull and Arctic Tern, and then a pair of Scripps’ Murrelet flushed in front of us. Figuring that the seas, and the seabird viewing, might have remained calmer behind us, we turned back east and tried a chum at the east end of Grays Canyon, well east of our normal chum spot at the west end. The chum worked well, providing good looks at a cooperative Short-tailed Shearwater that circled the boat, a gorgeous very light morph Northern Fulmar, quick but satisfying views of a South Polar Skua that bullied a few gulls and moved on, and great looks at several Pomarine Jaegers. And, a large Ocean Sunfish. After the chum, we revisited the whale area, and noted several more Leach’s Storm Petrels so that everyone onboard had good views and encountered several small flocks of Buller’s Shearwaters on the water, a real treat. A Gray Whale and Northern Fur Seal were both cooperative on our return trip. Leaders for the day were Bill Tweit and Scott Mills.
– There are still spaces left on the Sunday, September 23 pelagic. It’s a lively time on the ocean right now!;
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