[Tweeters] September 29 Westport seabirds trip report

Jim Danzenbaker jdanzenbaker at gmail.com
Thu Oct 3 19:58:17 PDT 2019

Hi Tweeters,

Sealife enthusiasts from as far as England and Pennsylvania assembled on
the *Monte Carlo* for Westport Seabirds' 9 hour pelagic trip on Sunday. We
were fortunate to find that the pelagic trip was "a go" since Saturday's
trip was weathered out and the pelagic trip scheduled out of Garibaldi,
Oregon on the same day was also weathered out! Introductions and briefings
completed, we motored our way to the open ocean. Brandt's and Pelagic
Cormorants, Western and Glaucous-winged Gulls and those befitting the term
"gull soup" winged their way over as we bounced our way over "the bar".
Fall pelagic trips have a unique opportunity to study many flocks of
waterfowl flying south so we enjoyed the numerous White-winged and Surf
Scoters and many Common Loons and lesser number of Pacific Loons. One
flock of dabblers included Green-winged Teal and Wigeon. Soon, Sooty
Shearwaters took over the avian stage and, in amongst these Southern
Hemisphere visitors, was our first highlight, a Manx Shearwater that zoomed
by so quickly that only a few were able to see it well enough to get a
positive identification. Manx Shearwater sightings are uncommon along the
west coast from California all the way to British Columbia even though they
probably breed on islands off BC and maybe Tatoosh Island off the
northwestern tip of Washington. We were fortunate to catch a view of this
species as it winged its way south. A strange site was a Northern Flicker
flying low - at least it was flying back to shore and we felt that it would
probably make it since we were only about 4 miles offshore. Good luck!

The seas calmed down a bit after the rocky ride across the bar that was
brought on by Friday's west wind blow and today's easterlies. Captain Phil
masterfully navigated westward and kept us quite comfortable. Sea legs
engaged, we pointed our binoculars to the horizon and were soon sighting
pelagic species such as Rhinoceros Auklet, Common Murre, and the season's
first Black-legged Kittiwake.

We began seeing flashes of white over the water which, upon closer
inspection, were Buller's and Pink-footed Shearwaters. These visitors from
thousands of miles to our south are always sought after species and we were
thrilled to note that Buller's were as common as they were. We tallied 75
for the day which is a season high count. In some years, 75 Buller's is
the count for the entire season so we were quite fortunate to have many
opportunities to study this beautifully plumaged species. Side by side
comparisons with Pink-footed Shearwaters were also much appreciated.
Northern Fulmars were also flying about giving us great looks. Dwarfing
all the other species we saw and were going to see, Black-footed Albatross
soared over the horizon and slowly made their way closer to the boat. At
one point, our attention was diverted by that beautiful sound that every
pelagic birder wants to hear - S-K-U-A! A South Polar Skua silently flew
by, not as interested in seeing us and we were of seeing it! We passed
through a patch that held numerous Cassin's Auklets and a few Humpback
Whales as well!

We arrived at the edge of Grays Harbor Canyon and decided that the
conditions were right for creating a chum slick. The fresh breeze wafted
the scent of oil and fish and was soon attracting California Gulls and
quite a few Northern Fulmars. This marine meal attracted many Northern
Fulmars and we were treated to up close and personal views (almost at arm's
length) at these sometimes squabbling but always appreciated visitors from
our north. They were joined by Sooty, Pink-footed, and Buller's
Shearwaters. We certainly gave a valiant effort at finding a Short-tailed
Shearwater but it would not show up on this day. Given the breeze, we
were thrilled to sometimes look *up* at albatrosses and fulmars - a special
treat not enjoyed when the seas are calm. Another South Polar Skua flew
through the mix but apparently had other thoughts as it continued on
without stopping for photos. An immaculate adult Parasitic Jaeger also
winged through but had the same idea as the skua. On the horizon, several
late Sabine's Gulls were spotted. A single Red Phalarope was found fairly
close to the boat which was a good addition to the list. Several diminutive
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels checked out our slick but never came close enough
for soul satisfying views

Eventually, Phil turned the *Monte Carlo* in the direction of home base and
we enjoyed the memories of all the great views of the birds that came to
the chum slick. Soon, we spotted whale blows on the horizon and, before
long, we were among at least 9 Humpback Whales feeding in apparent food
rich waters. In typical fashion, several pods of Dall's Porpoises also
sped by, their distinctive black and white pattern and telltale rooster
tail splash ensuring the identification.

The flow of loons and scoters continued just offshore and the jetty greeted
us with Brown Pelicans and numerous gulls and cormorants. Our final
highlight was the immense flock of Marbled Godwits inside the harbor - the
flock had swollen to about 1078 individuals and carpeted the platform that
they had chosen as their high tide roost. A final species was a single
Wandering Tattler that flew nearby for everyone to see.

Special thanks to Captain Phil and first mate Chris who make the trips the
delight that they are, fellow guides Bill Tweet and Scott Mills who called
out identifications right and left, and to all the participants who made
the trip possible.

The season is nearing an end (last trip is this weekend) but its not too
early to start thinking about your 2020 pelagic plans. Keep visiting the
https://westportseabirds.com website for next year's schedule which will be
posted next year.

Jim for Westport Seabirds.
Jim Danzenbaker
Battle Ground, WA
jdanzenbaker at gmail.com
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