[Tweeters] Westport Seabirds trip report Saturday, July 13, 2019

Cara Borre cmborre1 at gmail.com
Mon Jul 15 06:05:48 PDT 2019

Westport Seabirds enjoyed another fabulous day on the water Saturday with a
great group of enthusiastic birders. We left the dock at 5:30am in
comfortable temps and overcast skies. The Grays Harbor bar crossing was
quite smooth as we made our way due west to a day of exciting birds,
mammals, and fish. As we had visitors from the eastern side of our state
and the country, we thought it fitting they got to enjoy the “full Pacific
Northwest experience” which has to include a little bit of rain. The brief
drizzle brought reduced visibility, but quickly transformed into a
beautifully sunny day where we could literally see for miles and miles. The
following species numbers in parentheses are all totals for the day.

Several onboard were new to pelagic birding so they began readying their
sea eyes on our largest alcid, Common Murre (1961) and most common
tubenose, Sooty Shearwater (2837). As is often the case, frustration over
the new challenge of focusing binoculars or a camera on moving, similarly
plumaged birds, from a moving boat, soon gave way to excitement to learn
new species and add to one’s life list. They were ready to see Pink-footed
Shearwater (73), Rhinoceros Auklet (63), and were treated to incredible
numbers of Cassin’s Auklet (959!). This little “tennis ball” with wings can
normally be difficult to get any features on as it bounces quickly away
from the approaching boat, but on this day, rafts of 100+ birds were the
norm. We had ample opportunity to view Cassin’s Auklet up close and
stationary, truly a special day.

On our way to intersect a group of shrimp boats, which for our purposes
concentrate birds, we got to experience incredibly close views of several
Humpback Whale (7) as they lazily lingered at the surface. At the boats we
added the show-stopper Black-footed Albatross (102) which with a wingspan
of 6.5 feet, certainly contrasts the smaller pelagic species we encountered
such as Red-necked (72) and Red (4) Phalarope. During our stop we added
fantastic views of Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel (204) and Northern Fulmar
(22-notably low number), as well as, the seasonal speciality Leach’s
Storm-Petrel (20) before heading further west to our chum spot.

The “chum spot” can be an exciting moment when birds materialize out of
nowhere once we put a fishy oil attractant in the water. On this day
however, the weather would produce none of the desired effect as there
simply was not enough wind to carry our offerings to the tubenoses. We
were able to add a distant Arctic Tern (1) to our list due to the keen eye
of a young birder onboard so our pause at this turn-around point was not in

We took our time on the journey back, stopping near shrimp boats when the
numbers of birds warranted closer inspection. At one such stop, Captain
Phil seized a moment to cut the engine and started throwing out bait fish
at the stern. Suddenly birds were flocking to us offering magnificent
viewing and photo ops. It was delightful to see shearwaters plunging into
the clear water to retrieve the fish and albatross lumbered in for a free
meal. Ultimately for the day we added spectacular views of two Tufted
Puffin, and exciting views of South Polar Skua (3) and Pomarine Jaeger (2)
as they harassed the feeding gulls and tubenoses.

A bit closer to Westport we happened upon a flotilla of Sabine’s Gull (11)
which were cooperative for viewing on the water, then lifted individually
showing their stunning upper wing pattern in flight. Interestingly the
jetty contained quite a variety of shorebirds including Black (1) and Ruddy
(2) Turnstones, Wandering Tattler (1) and Surfbird (3). Other notable
species for the day were Pacific White-sided Dolphin (45), Northern
Elephant Seal (2), Northern Fur Seal (2), Blue Shark (6), and Ocean Sunfish

Please check the website which is current with available space on future
outings at www.westportseabirds.com

Hope to sea you out there!

Cara Borre

Gig Harbor
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