[Tweeters] Westport Seabirds Trip Report Saturday, September 7, 2019
cmborre1 at gmail.com
Sun Sep 8 14:23:13 PDT 2019
Westport Seabirds opened September, arguably the best month for seabird
diversity, with a successful trip yesterday. As I write in the wake of a
pretty severe rain and electrical storm overnight in Western Washington, I
must check myself before using the adjectives "calm" and "balmy" to
describe the conditions out of Westport yesterday, but that’s exactly what
we experienced. A windless day poses certain challenges to pelagic birds,
and potentially for pelagic bird enthusiasts, but our tallied species did
We began our seabirding inshore with countable numbers of Sooty Shearwater
(818 - all numbers in parentheses are for the day) as they begin to head
south to their breeding grounds in Australia/New Zealand and southern South
America. They managed just fine without the wind due to their fast, deep
wingbeats followed by a short glide. We would see no high arcing
exhibitions of dynamic soaring from any of the tubenoses we observed, but
the lack of wind and waves made for exceptional on the water as well as in
flight viewing. Continuing with the shearwaters, we soon added Pink-footed
(620) whose numbers rose as we moved further offshore. This shearwater has
a more relaxed flight style with much slower wingbeats when compared to
Sooty Shearwater. We steadily made our way to distant shrimpers while
adding our third shearwater for the day, the stunning (for a seabird)
Buller’s Shearwater (10). Buller’s is a buoyant, light bodied bird with
shallow, quick wingbeats. Despite its gleaming white underparts sharply set
apart from a dark cap and bold “M” pattern on the back, this bird can be
hard to follow when in flight. This was not the case yesterday as we could
track this bird with relative ease.
We collected our fourth shearwater, Short-tailed (19) at the shrimpers and
again at our chum spot. This Sooty Shearwater look-a-like admittedly takes
study, and for some, faith in your spotters as we review the field marks to
consider when discerning the two species. With experience we can recognize
its unique flight style which has been described as rapid, snappy, erratic,
and maneuverable. The key is that it is wholly different from the
consistent 3-7 quick, stiff-winged flaps followed by a glide that is
characteristic of Sooty Shearwater.
If you are keeping count, by now you are wondering if we saw the highly
sought after Flesh-footed Shearwater, thereby completing the “Shearwater
Five in Fall” (yes, I am attempting to coin a new phrase), the answer is
yes, we had two of them, both giving excellent views on the water in rafts
with other shearwaters. Flesh-footed has a similar build and flight style
to Pink-footed, but is entirely dark with a pink bill tipped with black.
There’s only one other "regular" shearwater that is rarely found in our
waters. If we are lucky enough to find Manx Shearwater, that would be a
“Shearwater Six in ALL”, we weren’t that lucky.
Black-footed Albatross (31) were fairly "grounded" in these conditions but
we did see them in flight, in a large raft on the water, and sadly
attempting to get airborne with a much longer than excepted taxi before
take off. Northern Fulmar (23) had a good showing, for this low number year.
Birders love goals. Late summer-early fall is a great time to look for all
four species of Skua for the “Skua Slam”. Skua is the term the rest of the
world uses to describe what we call Jaegers. If you see reference to an
Arctic Skua this is simply another name for a Parasitic Jaeger. We
achieved the Skua Slam with excellent looks at Long-tailed Jaeger (2 - with
and without tail, or adult and JV), Parasitic Jaeger (1 - showing off its
maneuverability harassing gulls), Pomarine Jaeger (2 - with and without
“spoon” tipped tail, or adult and jv), and South Polar Skua (4 - both in
flight and on the water).
We had excellent Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel (80) viewing throughout our trip
and fellow spotter Bill Tweit even got a brief look at a Leach’s
Storm-Petrel (1). Alcids ranged from the tiny offshore Cassin’s Auklet
(80), Rhinoceros Auklet (62), a relaxed feeding/bathing Tufted Puffin (1),
Common Murre (487 + 18 chicks) and a Pigeon Guillemot (1). As expected,
phalarope numbers have diminished, but both Red-necked (31) and Red (1)
were seen. Our pelagic gull, Sabine’s (43) was seen well both in flight and
on the water and brief looks were had at Arctic Tern (2).
Mammals included many Harbor Porpoise (49), an all too brief explosion,
with great underwater views for those on the port side, of Dall's Porpoise
(3), Humpback Whale (4), both Northern (1) and Guadalupe (1) Fur Seal,
Harbor Seal (1), Northern Elephant Seal (1), and both California (2) and
Steller’s (18) Sea Lion. Blue Sharks (37) ruled the chum spot likely in
record numbers for us. Calm waters allowed good Ocean Sunfish (13) viewing
with one extremely large individual.
I shared the smooth ride with spotters Scott Mills, Bill Tweit, Captain
Phil Anderson, First Mate Chris Anderson, and 20 happy birders. If anyone
on the trip would like to share your images with me at the listed email
address, I would be happy to make a compilation to share with others.
I believe the last trip of the season still has space available if you’d
like to come sea what you’re missing. Please visit www.westportseabirds.com
for more information.
Hope to sea you out there,
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