[Tweeters] Westport Seabirds Trip Report August 7, 2021

Cara Borre cmborre1 at gmail.com
Wed Aug 11 07:01:18 PDT 2021

Despite a day of on and off drizzle, Westport Seabirds had another
successful outing on Saturday, August 7th with a whopping nine Long-tailed
Jaegers as a highlight.

As we departed the harbor into the awaiting adventures beyond, we looked
behind us to view a blow from a surfacing Gray Whale. Gray Whales have a
unique feeding strategy which ties them to coastal waters. Unlike the
dramatic lunge feeding of Humpback Whales and other rorquals, Gray Whale
filter bottom dwelling crustaceans through their proportionally smaller
baleen plates. In addition to this single Gray Whale, our trip included
excellent looks at 12 Humpback Whales, including a pair breaching together
and several surfacing multiple times before showing us a giant fluke
proceeding their departure dive. Other mammal highlights for the day
included a small group of Pacific White-sided Dolphin which joined us
briefly for underwater and porpoising views and a single Northern Fur Seal.

Bird numbers were low on the way out, though we had all the expected
species including tubenoses Sooty Shearwater, Pink-footed Shearwater,
Northern Fulmar, Black-footed Albatross and Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel.
Alcids included Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot (near shore), Tufted Puffin,
Rhinoceros Auklet, and Cassin’s Auklet.

Once off the continental shelf into deeper waters, we added Leach’s
Storm-Petrel, South Polar Skua, Sabine’s Gull, Arctic Tern, and Pomarine
Jaeger. This is where a clown car full of Long-tailed Jaegers began to
unload with 6 of the birds seen within 40 minutes of each other. At least
4 of our total 9 Long-tailed Jaegers were adults with “textbook” tails, not
the frustratingly difficult to ID juvenile birds in various plumages.
Speaking of “textbook” tails, our lone Pomarine Jaeger was also an adult
with trailing “full spoons”.

Cruising back over the continental shelf we spotted several birds on a log.
Approaching, we discovered 2 logs. One supporting 3 Arctic Terns, the other
with an Arctic Tern and Sabine’s Gull. It was interesting to note the
“smaller” size of Arctic Tern compared to Sabine’s Gull. Sibley lists
length and wingspan nearly identical for these two species, but the gull
weighs almost twice as much as the tern which really increased it’s
apparent size.

Continuing east we were fortunate to encounter increased bird activity near
several shrimp boats. Here we were able to get the group their best looks
at Sooty vs Pink-footed Shearwater as we added our own fishy offerings
thrown from the stern of the Monte Carlo. The Sootys were diving after the
fish and it was exciting, and surprising at times, to watch them surface
from below. You can see them just below the surface swimming, then up they
pop like corks to the surface. Equally fun at these feeding opportunities,
particularly if Phil cuts the engine, are some of the sounds of the scene.
The characteristic "baby wah" call of Pink-footed Shearwater and the
surface paddling of the shearwater feet as they run during take off from
the water. Albatross do a similar run for take off, but it’s a splashing,
pounding sound rather than a petite paddle. While watching the birds
behind the boats, we noticed a crew member working to free a tangle from
the end of one of the large trolling booms. Another crew member carefully
walked out on the boom to assist. We felt we were watching an episode of
“Deadliest Catch” live.

Our journey ended as it began, in Westport, in drizzle, but in the company
of some 1000+ Marbled Godwits and one Black Turnstone. We have to remember
that these birds, as well as the Wandering Tattlers we saw on the jetty,
are also highly sought after by non-west coast birders.

My fellow spotters were Bill Tweit and Scott Mills. Captain Phil Anderson
piloted the Monte Carlo which was crewed by Todd Sawin filling in for
standing first mate Chris Anderson.

Though our season has yet to reach its peak, thanks to enthusiastic
seabirders we find most of our remaining trips are already full. You can
check availability by using the contact methods under the Reservations
section of our website westportseabirds.com

Hope to sea you out there!

Cara Borre

Gig Harbor
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