[Tweeters] Westport Seabirds Trip Report for August 24, 2022
jdanzenbaker at gmail.com
Tue Aug 30 10:56:32 PDT 2022
The breezy, foggy start to the Westport Seabirds trip on Wednesday didn't
dampen the spirits of the 18 participants who came from as far away as
Ontario, Florida, Wisconsin, Maine, and Ohio. We welcomed Steve Shunk's
group as well as Kirk Zufelt, author of "Oceanic Birds of the World: A
Photo Guide". The fog filled air and the bumpy crossing of the bar gave
way to a generally overcast day with a light breeze and surprisingly calm
Birds were surprisingly few and far between as we passed over the
Continental Shelf although COMMON MURREs (445), RHINOCEROS AUKLETs (46),
and SOOTY SHEARWATERs (3395) punctuated those first several hours.
Eventually, we encountered flocks of shearwaters loafing on the water -
Sooty Shearwaters with a few PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATERs (672) added for direct
comparison. As we neared the shrimp boats, several BLACK-FOOTED
winged by, a favorite of many of those onboard. This species, a traveler
from breeding grounds off Hawaii, showed variations in plumage which
distinguished young birds from those which were probably of breeding age.
SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATERs (109) provided excellent views and the direct
comparison with Sooty Shearwaters was much appreciated. A few beautiful
BULLER'S SHEARWATERs (18) were also present. Of the four regularly
occurring shearwater species at this time of year, Buller's is by far my
favorite! A few NORTHERN FULMARs (26) joined the flocks of shearwaters.
Several strikingly plumaged SABINE'S GULLs (46) winged by on their way
from their arctic breeding grounds to their wintering patches as far south
as the Humboldt Current off western South America.
We headed to deep water in the hopes of scoring a few additional species.
It proved to be surprisingly calm and wind free at our chum spot, great for
our stomachs but not so great for attracting birds. A few FORK-TAILED
STORM-PETRELs (2) were in the area but not the numbers that we always hope
for in this area. One surprise to me was the number of CASSIN'S
Groups of this diminutive alcid flew by in small flocks of 2-8. It was
good to see so many. A few of us managed views of them on the water noting
the round head and eye marks which separate this species from other alcids.
On our way back to the Continental Shelf and the shrimp fleet, we were
aware of our goal of getting the skua slam. We had already managed a
PARASITIC JAEGER (4) and a LONG-TAILED JAEGER (4) so we were half way.
Scott spotted a SOUTH POLAR SKUA (1) flying low and away which everyone was
able to see. A few POMARINE JAEGERs (3) were also seen including a few
with maximum spoonage (full tailed adults) which is always great to see!
Skua slam achieved! Several small flocks of PHALAROPEs included both RED (28)
and RED-NECKED (36).
The weirdest thing about our pelagic trip near the shrimp fleet was the
almost total lack of gulls. California Gulls and "big guys"
(Glaucous-winged, Western, and assorted hybrids) are usually in this area
in the 100s. Today, one could almost count all the gulls in this area on
one hand. At one point, the jaegers were outnumbering the gulls! Such are
the vagaries of a pelagic trip - you never know what you'll see!
Marine mammals were evident with several pods of DALL'S PORPOISEs (22)
coming close to the *Monte Carlo* including one pod that was bow riding for
about 5 minutes. Thanks Captain Phil for your expertise in handling the
boat for sustained viewing of these beautiful black and white marine
speedsters! One highlight was a fur seal that turned out to be the highly
pelagic GUADALUPE FUR SEAL (1), a life mammal for me and for probably most
of us on board! The snout and forehead shape were key identifying marks
for species determination. A NORTHERN FUR SEAL (1) was also found, its
telltale long flippers and whiskers clearly seen. Several HARBOR PORPOISE (2)
at the shelf edge had me scratching my head wondering what they were doing
so far offshore. They are usually seen within a mile of shore. A single
HUMPBACK WHALE (1) was in view for all. BLUE SHARKs (11) and MOLA MOLAs (3)
(including one breaching) were also seen by all. How a Mola Mola can get
airborn is still a mystery to me.
The trip back to shore gave us final chances to study shearwaters and
murres and auklets. A large swath of Common Murres were encouraging to
see. The jetty was crammed with all three Cormorant species and Brown
Pelicans. As always, our trip back was under the watchful eyes of
lumbering STELLER'S SEA-LIONs (6) on the channel markers and the HARBOR
SEALs (4) inside the harbor. The MARBLED GODWIT flock inside the harbor
has grown to 800.
Westport Seabirds thanks all of the enthusiastic participants who make
these trips a success. Also, thanks to Captain Phil and first mate Chris
and a shout out to our guides Bruce Labar, Scott Mills, and me.
Even though the Westport Seabirds schedule (
http://westportseabirds.com/2022-schedule/) shows all trips as full, it's
always a good idea to get on a waitlist and hope.
I hope to see you onboard!
Jim Danzenbaker for Westport Seabirds.
Battle Ground, WA
jdanzenbaker at gmail.com
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