[Tweeters] Westport Seabirds September 22 pelagic trip report
jdanzenbaker at gmail.com
Mon Sep 27 16:22:55 PDT 2021
The adage "what a difference a day makes" could not have been more true.
Tuesday's trip was wrapped in sunshine throughout the day. Wednesday's
trip, well, the liquid kind of sunshine spit on our optics for some periods
on the way out and transitioned to a beautiful overcast day with
surprisingly calm seas. The weather contrast was sharp and the wildlife
didn't disappoint. I will remember Wednesday's trip as being one of the
best of the season!
Pelagic enthusiasts from as far as Massachusetts boarded the *Monte Carlo*
for the Westport Seabirds trip to Grays Canyon. As is sometimes the case,
the trip across the bar was memorable and was a good chance to test our sea
legs and stomachs. Captain Phil expertly navigated through these big
rolling mixed swells and the sea soon calmed as we ventured further
offshore. Binoculars in position and wildlife awaiting, it was time to
head west and get out of the light rain of the first hour of the trip.
Just as forecasted, the weather improved and so did the outlook of all on
Staples of the inner Continental Shelf, Sooty Shearwaters (149), Common
Murres (53) and some Rhinoceros Auklets (63) appeared which provided
baselines from which to compare tubenoses and alcids for the remainder of
the trip. Lumbering Pink-footed Shearwaters (3,567) showed early and we
were all quite surprised that one of the early groups of Pink-foots had a
dark one in tow - a Flesh-footed Shearwater (5!!!)! It's pretty unusual to
have one of these visitors from the south appear so early - we were still
about 8-10 miles from the shrimp boats! This was definitely a good sign of
great things to come. Bouncing Cassin's Auklets (120), overloaded from
their last meal, put an exclamation point on the avian show. Northern
Fulmars (133) vied for attention. Short-tailed Shearwater (753), the
breakout star of the 2021 season, started to appear everywhere and I
believe everybody on board was soon able to separate this species from
Sooty Shearwater. As we neared the shrimp fleet, strikingly plumaged
Buller's Shearwaters (43) started to appear although one had to search
through the hundreds of Pink-foots to find one. No problem, everyone was
able to! The shrimp boat fleet held a few Black-footed Albatross (107) but
we all wondered where the big number of albatross were hanging. Several
more Flesh-footed Shearwaters were icing on the cake and I heard many
camera clicks! A South Polar Skua (7!!!) made the rounds and was a
harbinger of the rest of the day's trip. Crowd pleasing Sabine's Gulls
(139) started to appear. California Gulls (2,724) and a few Herring Gulls
(6) were everywhere.
We headed to deep water where we hoped to encounter some other species.
Phil had a particular spot in mind - a boat that was deep sea fishing and
wow, we were all delighted that the birds had the same thought in mind. We
answered the question about where the albatrosses were as well as quite a
few other species. The following is a list of birds around this one boat
over 75 minutes:
Black-footed Albatross - 100!
Northern Fulmar - 22
Sooty Shearwater - 2
Short-tailed Shearwater - 15
Pink-footed Shearwater - 15
Flesh-footed Shearwater - 1
Buller's Shearwater - 30 (commonest shearwater!)
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel - 2.
South Polar Skua (2) - killer views including one that stayed in view the
Parasitic Jaeger - 4 - killer views. Day's total was 5.
Long-tailed Jaeger - 2 (adults) - killer views
Sabine's Gull - 100 (included first year birds)
Bonaparte's Gull - 1 (FOS)
California Gull - 2
Herring Gull - 1
Greater White-fronted Goose - 35 (one distant flock)
That was a totally awesome experience (can't believe I just wrote that).
What a thrill to see this variety of species with only 3 large gulls.
Shortly after we left that trawler, another two Long-tailed Jaegers (5!)
including a dark morph flew over - Wow!
Upon our return to the shrimp boats, we chummed a bit and were mobbed by
hundreds of squeaking Pink-footed Shearwaters, gurgling Northern Fulmars,
Short-tailed Shearwaters and loads of California Gulls. Of course there
was another Flesh-footed Shearwater, several Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels (5)
and South Polar Skua there too! Highlights during our return to Westport
included a Tufted Puffin (1), several more South Polar Skuas and a Pomarine
Jaeger (3) which everyone saw. This gave everyone the coveted skua slam!
Non pelagic species were many and included immense Humpback Whales (2),
Gray Whale (5), many Northern Fur Seals (13) which delighted us all,
Northern Elephant Seal (1), California and Steller's Sea Lions (9) and
Harbor Porpoise (6). Quite a few migrating waterfowl were seen including
Northern Shoveller (31), American Wigeon (53), Northern Pintail (3) and
Green-winged Teal (9). 5 Mola Molas (Ocean Sunfish) and 2 Blue Sharks were
seen quite well. Several Common Loons (2), Surf (47) and White-winged
(2) Scoters were migrating closer to shore. My first pelagic passerines of
the year included a Yellow-rumped Warbler and a passerine which, upon photo
capture and professional review (thanks Dan and Ryan and others), turned
out to be a Lapland Longspur, a new pelagic passerine for Westport Seabirds
and for me!
The tide was too high and the crashing waves were too large to allow
shorebirds to hang out on the jetty coming in so we motored back to the
dock, all of us filled with great memories of this incredible day.
Captain Phil and first mate Chris Anderson as well as the three guides
today, Bill Shelmerdine, Gene Revelas, and me, thank all the participants
today for your patience during the outbound showers and the great
enthusiasm and camera clicks and smiling faces during the albatross-jaeger
All the remaining Westport Seabirds trips this year are full but keep
checking the website (https://westportseabirds.com/2021-schedule-new/) for
any last minute openings (especially with the changing weather which has
led to cancellations and hopefully rescheduled trips). I hope to see you on
a future Westport Seabirds trip!
Jim Danzenbaker for Westport Seabirds.
Battle Ground, WA
jdanzenbaker at gmail.com
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