[Tweeters] Westport Seabirds Trip Report July 30, 2022

Cara Borre cmborre1 at gmail.com
Thu Aug 4 17:08:57 PDT 2022

Taking full advantage of midsummer's early daybreak, the Monte Carlo left
Westport at 5:30am with an excited group of birders, many having traveled
across the country to join us. To borrow Jim Danzenbaker’s alliteration
describing the midweek trip, “the fickle fingers of fog” unfortunately held
a tight grip on us for most of our outing. It wasn't until the end of the
voyage that fog's fingers finally relaxed and allowed some sunshine to
brighten the scene. Despite the constant fog, air temperature and sea
conditions couldn’t have been better.

Fog will affect bird numbers as the “horizon” isn’t visible and you are
confined to whatever small area of “clearing” the conditions afford you.
Our plan was to motor far offshore to intersect the shrimp fleet in hopes
of catching them hauling in their nets. No luck with net timing, though we
still enjoyed our greatest diversity of species, including the “gorilla in
the mist”, Black-footed Albatross (12 - day totals), Northern Fulmar (16),
Sooty (2110), Pink-footed (385), and Short-tailed (10) Shearwaters, as well
as Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels (14). We were able to point out
distinguishing field marks despite the poor contrast conditions, as the sea
and sky would at times blur into a single grayish void.

Red (28) and Red-necked (6) Phalaropes put in brief showings throughout the
day, with Reds still sporting a bit of that fantastic breeding plumage. As
we departed the shrimpers heading further west for our chum attempt, we
encountered a very close Humpback Whale and stayed to watch and listen to
it surfacing multiple times. While Humpback sightings are not uncommon on
our journeys, seeing this creature through the eyes of travelers without an
ocean coast made us appreciate how fortunate we are to be able to visit
this pelagic realm.

Moving on to our chum attempt, we were able to attract in a brief, but well
seen Leach’s Storm-Petrel (1), a deep water target at this time of the
year. That bird would be joined by a single Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel
leaving a windless chum stop less than climactic. We had come to the
midpoint of our trip, but the adventure was far from over as we turned and
headed home.

Alcids had been scarce, though we got looks at Cassin’s Auklet (12) and
good looks at Rhinoceros Auklet (21) with full plumes and horn. Pigeon
Guillemot (2) is typically seen close to shore and we usually have good
numbers of Common Murre (383) on the way out and back. Tufted Puffin (1)
is by no means a guarantee, but we are seeing them more reliably and
today’s bird was very cooperative sitting on the water a good while, diving
and resurfacing for all to see well. During our puffin stop we had a close
bow visitation from a juvenile Long-tailed Jaeger (1). Far from the “Skua
Slam” earlier in the week, this would be the only “skua” seen by all for
the day, apart from a “Pom(1) on a log” seen by few in the distance. So
many of our Jaeger/Skua sightings are distant birds in flight and today’s
conditions just weren’t going to allow that possibility. Indeed we were
lucky to eke out a few close flying Sabine’s Gull (5), their strikingly
patterned backs still showing well despite the gray surroundings.

If the constant mist was dampening any spirits, there was no sign of it
once we were joined by a large pod of Pacific White-sided Dolphins (89).
These charismatic animals are often the highlight of our trips and today
they certainly didn’t disappoint. At first it was a few dolphins
porpoising and approaching the boat, then their numbers increased as Phil
slowed the boat inviting them to ride along with us. Visibility was no
longer a problem. The dolphins were mere feet from us, on all sides of the
boat. While the air held a veil we would be straining all day to see
beyond, the water near the boat possessed magnificent clarity. We marveled
as the dolphins sliced through the surface again and again. We could
easily appreciate the intricate pattern of dark gray backs with lighter
gray patches on the sides and a thin racing stripe extending from the back
of the eye, widening to a larger patch on the flank. The caudal half of
the dorsal fin is also this lighter gray color, while the belly is whiter
still. The Pacific White-sided Dolphin is as handsome as it is
entertaining to watch. It was truly a delightful encounter for everyone on

Other highlights included a rare sighting of a Guadalupe Fur Seal and many
Blue Sharks along the way with occasional Ocean Sunfish.

Thanks to Captain Phil Anderson and First Mate Chris Anderson for another
excellent trip into the big blue, despite its grayness today. Bruce LaBar,
Scott Mills, and I were on board to assist our participants with
identification and natural history information. Thanks to all near and far
travelers for sharing this offshore adventure with us.

Hope to sea you out there!

Cara Borre
Gig Harbor
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