[Tweeters] Westport Seabirds Trip Report, September 5, 2021

Cara Borre cmborre1 at gmail.com
Thu Sep 9 13:07:35 PDT 2021

Despite weather conditions that forced a rescheduling of Saturday’s trip to
Sunday, Westport Seabirds kicked off September in high fashion with the
great diversity of birds this month has become known for. Day totals are
in parentheses.

We experienced an optic coating nuisance drizzle until mid-day, then
conditions cleared until fog hit us again on the way in. On the return,
fog scrubbed any attempt for rock bird sightings and Phil helped prevent a
smaller boat from having a really bad day as that skipper was headed
straight into the fog shrouded jetty. Sea conditions were nearly perfect
for pelagic birding, gentle swells with long periods between them. There
was enough wind to allow us to see what these birds are best at, taking
full advantage of wind and wave lift while expending little energy flapping.

Our first highlight was mammal related as we paused to relish five humpback
whales lazily surfacing with repeated shallow dives. We suspected they
were feeding as Sooty and Pink-footed Shearwater, as well as Fork-tailed
Storm-Petrel (77), seemed attracted to their activity and perhaps the smell
of their “whale breath” during blows.

Our next encounter was a hake boat where we got our first indication of how
the shearwater distribution was going to end up for the day. Pink-footed
Shearwater was the dominant species today at 4382 total. We had excellent
opportunities throughout the day to see them on the water and in flight.
Perhaps it was their sheer numbers, but the “baby wah” call they made was
quite evident during our outing. I was also getting a “kazoo” vibe when
hearing them and decided I may settle on a “baby playing a kazoo” as a
description of their call. They were very attentive to the herring Phil
tossed from the stern which attracted other shearwater species and
strangely, very few gulls. It’s always fun to see them dive just below the
surface to retrieve the spoils.

Staying on the topic of shearwaters, we have 6 possibilities here in
Washington. We saw 5 of them on this trip. The aforementioned Pink-footed
Shearwater (4382), Sooty Shearwater (965), Short-tailed Shearwater (469),
Buller’s Shearwater (8), and 1 Flesh-footed Shearwater who was seen well
sitting on the water and several other times swirling around another boat.
Manx Shearwater is the sixth species and certainly the most difficult to
see as our few annual sightings, often nearer shore, are usually fleeting

Moving on to the jaegers, we had all three, but no skua for the enviable
skua slam. We had a great look at a Pomarine Jaeger (4 for day) who took a
¾ circle around the Monte Carlo, showing full spoon tail, before heading
away. We had three Long-tailed Jaegers in different areas unlike a few of
our Long-tailed jamborees as of late. Lastly we had three Parasitic
Jaegers, one exhibiting its typical piratic pursuit of a juvenile
California Gull we had near the boats. I should mention along with the
hake boat, we encountered a few shrimpers who really concentrated our bird
totals. Three stops at shrimpers yielded 468, 1120, and 3014 total birds,
and as mentioned very few were gulls.

Other tubenoses included Black-footed Albatross (24), seen in various
places, usually around the boats, and Northern Fulmar (36).

September is a great month for looking for Scripps’s, and if the stars
align, Guadalupe Murrelet. We did spot our first Scripps’s Murrelet of the
season, quite close to the boat while underway. We will always circle back
for this bird to give everyone any opportunity to view and snap some
photos. They are often cooperative, and such was the case for this lone
bird who dove a few times but soon surfaced again remaining close to the
boat. Continuing with the alcid group I think I was the only one to spot a
fast winging Pigeon Guillemot (1) offshore. There was also a single flying
Tufted Puffin (1) that crossed our bow during the humpback viewing, though
I think most managed a view of this bird. We had a couple good looks at
Cassin’s Auklet (17) on the water and of course Rhinoceros Auklet (37) and
Common Murre (641) were seen well.

Adding to our migrating pelagic species we saw 2 Arctic Tern, 15 Red-necked
and 1 Red Phalarope, and a great showing for Sabine’s Gull (63) with large
flocks on the water.

Other highlights were 4 Northern Fur Seal, 4 Blue Sharks, and 4 Ocean

Though the fog cleared once in the marina, the tide was high and the
"godwit docks" were covered in California Sealions. The godwit flock
resorted to roosting on the rocks near the marina cottages so we were
unable to see them well, though several of our birders onboard may have got
decent views as they trekked back to get their scopes.

Keep a September trip in mind for next year as the diversity can be
exciting and the weather/sea conditions are usually quite favorable.

Hope to sea you out there!

Cara Borre

Gig Harbor
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