[Tweeters] Westport Seabirds trip report Wednesday, July 24, 2019
jdanzenbaker at gmail.com
Fri Jul 26 06:28:29 PDT 2019
I was thrilled to be standing on the dock yesterday morning in Westport
next to the *Monte Carlo* and hearing that wonderful sound - of nothing
blowing around. Yes, it was a very calm morning and that bode well for the
day's Westport Seabirds pelagic trip. Together with birders from as far
away as Ohio, Virginia, and Chicago, we departed at 5:30 am. Many Brown
Pelicans and Gulls (Western/Glaucous-winged hybrids and Heermann’s), all
three Cormorants, and some Pigeon Guillemots greeted us as we made our way
out the harbor, between the jetties, through the very calm waters over the
bar and to the open sea. Not surprisingly, our constant avian companions
for the first several hours were Common Murres (940), Sooty Shearwaters
(6960) and, to a lesser extent, Rhinoceros Auklets (50).
Our first highlight was an immature Tufted Puffin. But this is July 24th -
why is there an immature Tufted Puffin anywhere away from its breeding
colony? It stayed on the water for everyone to leisurely study its field
marks. A good start and for many, a life bird! A little further ahead, a
lone Sabine's gull flew over. Woaw, rerun tape on that one - it has brown
on the wings - it is a first cycle bird (this year's young)! What the heck
is going on here? The first juvie Sabine's gulls usually don't show up
until mid August! Did the breeding season start several weeks early this
year in the high arctic?
We continued on.
The fishing fleet was operating and was our destination. As we approached,
new species such as Pink-footed Shearwater (65), Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel
(47), Northern Fulmar (7) and Black -footed Albatross (130) were called out
and seen by all. The first albatross sighting was one minute behind
schedule - still pretty good considering! Our next surprise was a small
jaeger that flew over - a Long-tailed Jaeger - first of the season and I
believe I heard the cha-ching of "life bird" hitting participant's lists.
A great sound with accompanying smiles throughout! We encountered a second
Long-tailed Jaeger in this area just before the call that every pelagic
birder wants to hear - S-K-U-A!!! Two of these marine pirates flew through
affording great views. There's something primal about a skua which makes
every encounter a memorable one. Additional small flocks of adult Sabine's
Gulls (35) flew through (including another first cycle bird) and a few Red
Phalaropes were spotted. Cassin's Auklets (515) were seemingly everywhere
and were apparently well fed as they whirred along the surface trying to
get out of the way.
Onwards to the deeper water beyond the edge of the continental shelf.
The deep water is the foraging area of the Leach's Storm-Petrel (18) and we
were fortunate to spot several of these fairly quickly even though there
was no help from the wind (or lack thereof). When Captain Phil turned the
engines off and we drifted, it was so quiet that it felt like one could
hear a pin drop - a rare pelagic moment! A brief glimpse of a group of
bushy blows caught all of us by surprise. One visible dorsal fin had us
thinking that this was a pod of Orcas which, just as quickly as they had
surfaced, descended into the depths never to be seen again. Another
surprise was the distinctive call of Whimbrel that we heard 40 miles from
shore. Three of these super migrators appeared from the north and
disappeared just as quickly to the south. We left the deep water opting to
spend more time with the fishing fleet. It was a wise choice.
As we neared the fleet, birds were evident and we started to see schools of
Pacific White-sided Dolphins - 3 here, 4 there, and 5 behind us. These
sightings accumulated and, eventually, Phil had us positioned on the edge
of a maelstrom of dolphin activity with attendant shearwaters dotted
throughout. The estimate was in the neighborhood of 550 dolphin and they
were in every direction - close, far, left, right, everywhere we looked we
saw these stunning playful dolphins, some of which had young ones in tow.
The Parasitic Jaeger and a third South Polar Skua were great too (bringing
us to 3/4 of the coveted skua slam - only Pomarine missing)! Phil once
again shut off the engines of the *Monte Carlo* and we were treated to the
sound of the pitter patter of tiny shearwater feet as they ran along the
surface of the water. If the dolphins weren't enough, we also had
sightings of 15 Humpback Whales - one of which afforded us the luxury of
experiencing that rare fragrance: "whale breath"! We managed to find all
the possible Pinnepeds - Northern Fur Seal, Northern Elephant Seal,
Steller's and California Sea Lions, and Harbor Seal. Several Dall's
Porpoise, Harbor Porpoise and Ocean Sunfish (Mola Mola) were also seen.
Our return to shore was punctuated by sightings of many Red (92) and
Red-necked Phalaropes (262) and continued bouncing Cassin's Auklets. The
south jetty held both turnstones and several Wandering Tattlers and 9 more
Whimbrel! The inner harbor had us looking at the building Marbled Godwit
flock - up to 100 now.
Thanks to spotters Scott Mills, Gene Revelas, and your current reporter and
our fantastic Captain Phil and ever smiling and helpful deckhand Chris who
are an amazing team to be with at sea.
Come join us on a future pelagic trip!
Jim for Westport Seabirds www.westportseabirds.com
Battle Ground, WA
jdanzenbaker at gmail.com
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