[Tweeters] Westport Seabirds Trip Report May 8, 2021

Cara Borre cmborre1 at gmail.com
Sun May 9 11:03:11 PDT 2021

Westport Seabirds contributed significantly to the eBird Global Big day,
however due to the nature of our reporting, our unique additions for
Washington will be delayed getting on the ebird.org/globalbigday
tally. Exploring
that site and participating in the Global Big day can be fun and
informative. Please forgive that short plug for eBird which for those not
familiar, is a free bird tracking resource to manage your bird sighting
lists and much more.

Now on to our trip. We had a great mix of veteran pelagic birders and
first timers who dealt with drizzle at times, a “snotty” bar crossing (Bill
Tweit’s adjective), and some early swells, with the hardiness that is
sometimes required of seafarers. As we worked our way to the chum spot, we
had the usual suspects, Gray Whales, Sooty Shearwater, and Common Murre,
but also an unexpected treat of migrating flocks of Common Tern. During
the day we had good sized flocks of phalaropes to work through, but
couldn’t come up with a Red, finding nothing but beautiful breeding plumage
Red-necks. The one or two good looks at Pink-footed Shearwater were
greatly appreciated as we had exceptionally low numbers of them for the day.

Rhinoceros Auklet and Cassin’s Auklet were very cooperative with an unusual
finding of about 5 standing Rhinos on a floating log. As the boat
approached we could tell they were exhibiting posturing and sky pointing,
actively involved in courtship. They are really magnificent this time of
year with their white plumed racing stripes and name-defining yellow horn
rising vertically from the bill. You will see a lovely picture of this
bird, taken by Eric Ellingson, who happened to be on our trip yesterday, if
you search the species in Cornell’s Birds of The World website.

Now for the main event, the chum stop. Numbers in parentheses are at the
chum stop only, not for the day. We started with virtually no birds and
dispersed a fishy, oily cocktail into the sea. As the wind was Goldilocks
perfect, not too strong to increase wave height interfering with our
viewing ability, and not too weak to prevent our bird attractant from
traveling, the birds soon began arriving. Black-footed Albatross (50) was
seen well soaring by and sitting on the water eating our thrown suet
offerings. We were fortunate to be able to compare the size of our largest
tubenose, the albatross, to our smallest, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel (200+)
who were actively feeding and very plentiful. The feeding frenzy continued
with Sabine’s Gull (100), Arctic Tern (20), and our only skua, a distant,
but clearly seen and definitive Long-tailed Jaeger. Long-tailed Jaeger can
be difficult to see well as it often gracefully, yet quickly sails by and
doesn’t linger to pirate other birds as the other skuas do. Other
participants in the chum event included the ever present Sooty Shearwater,
a few Northern Fulmar, and Red-necked Phalaropes.

Whale blows attracted our attention and their presence likely added to the
bird concentration at the site. As two whales approached, I was viewing
them using my phone attached to a new gimbal device to improve the quality
of my videos. I watched them on the phone thrilled with the video I was
capturing as they surfaced close to the bow, blew and dove. Soon after,
Captain Phil pointed out that these were not the Humpback Whales we
expected, as they had a falcate or sickle-shaped dorsal fin. We are
presuming for now these were Sei Whale as the size, color, and fieldmarks
fit best with that species. I regret that during the excitement I looked
down at the phone and realized what I had been viewing was NOT being
recorded. I would have loved to share that with you, however we are hopeful
those onboard have pictures to share and they will be included in a trip
compilation video soon.

The trip also included a couple brief visits from a few Pacific White-sided
Dolphins and several Humpback Whales resulting in a rare three whale day.
To cap the day, the jetty produced good looks at several Wandering Tattler
and Ruddy Turnstone.

Captain Phil Anderson and First Mate Chris Anderson continue to make these
journeys possible. Bill Tweit and Bruce LaBar shared years of knowledge,
while helping those onboard view and identify the birds as did I.

With our reduced capacity due to Covid safety measures, spots are filling
fast on future trips. Please consult the website at westportseabirds.com
for an up to date schedule.

Hope to sea you out there!

Cara Borre

Gig Harbor
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