[Tweeters] April 20, 2019 Trip Report Westport Seabirds

bill shelmerdine georn1 at hotmail.com
Thu Apr 25 20:09:28 PDT 2019

April 20, 2019 Trip Report Westport Seabirds. Highlights include Laysan Albatross, Manx Shearwater, Ancient Murrelets, and Tufted Puffin.

Saturday was another exciting trip with Westport Seabirds. The weather was mild and as we lingered at the dock, waiting for conditions on the bar to improve we were treated to thousands of White-fronted Geese passing overhead. Coastal migration was in full swing with waterfowl and loons passing through in good numbers. As skipper Phil Anderson provided the pre-trip briefing, we were treated to a new nautical term. Conditions on the bar would be “chunky”.

As we cleared the bar we began to encounter our first Sooty Shearwaters. Not long after we sighted the small black-and-white Manx Shearwater passing swiftly to the south a few swells out. This species has been fairly regular in the past few years on early season trips.

We headed northwest into the swell, hoping to find fishing boats on the outer shelf north of Grays Canyon. Irregular sea conditions on the outbound trip made for slow going. Sooties, Common Murres, and Pacific Loons were among the most common species through the nearshore areas. An adult Tufted Puffin on the water provided good views for all, though conditions were a challenge for photographers early on. Further out we found our first and only Jaeger of the day, an adult light-phased Pomarine in very clean plumage and full tail “spoons”. Soon we were adding Pink-footed Shearwaters, Rhinoceros Auklets, a small flock of Boneparte’s Gulls and our first Red and Red-necked Phalaropes to the days list. As we approached the outer shelf, the only fishing boats were still many miles to the north, a long slow haul against the prevailing sea conditions/swell. Instead we turned west and a bit south to deeper water near the north edge of Grays Canyon. Here we added the first Black-footed Albatross, Northern Fulmar, Fork-tailed Storm Petrels, and Cassin’s Auklets.

Around 1100 we stopped to lay out a chum slick in hopes of attracting some of the deep-water specialties close in to the boat. We were not disappointed. Perhaps the new formula, adding Menhaden Oil to the mix was the key. It did not take long for the first Fork-tailed Storm Petrels find us. Soon there were many, appearing out of nowhere and working the chum slick. Numbers of Black-footed Albatross came in to the slick, though did not linger. Two Laysan Albatross came in close with one landing at the edge of stick and sticking around a while. Later encounters with 2 together and 2 singles left us wondering whether we had seen 2, 3, 4 or 6 individuals. We settled on 3 Laysans for the day as a rather conservative estimate. The slick attracted the regular gull species along with a juvenile Black-legged Kittiwake and several Sabines gulls. Pink-footed and Sooty Shearwaters rounded out most of the activity.

As is typical, the return trip was smooth, going with the swell and improving weather. More Phalaropes, Cassin’s and Rhinoceros Auklets and another Tufted Puffin added to the fun. A cooperative pair of Ancient Murrelets in crisp spring plumage was a nice addition to the days list. Continuing into the near shore zone the number loons, especially Pacific, was impressive. Crossing the bar at high tide made for a smooth ride with thousands of shorebirds roosting on the jetty. Unfortunately none of the hoped for rockpipers could be found.

All in all, in was a great trip with a wonderful group of participants. The mammal list included Humpback Whales, Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Dall’s and Harbor Porpoise, Harbor and Northern Fur Seals, and California and Steller’s Sea Lions. The full trip list will be posted to ebird.

Spotters for the trip were Scott Mills and Bill Shelmerdine. As usual Skipper Phil Anderson provided expert boat handling while Chris Anderson provided first class customer service as well as expert spotting skills. The pelagic season is just getting started and it’s been great so far. Check out the Westport Seabirds website if interested in taking a trip. Hope to see you on the water.

B Shelmerdine


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