[Tweeters] Westport Seabirds July 27 pelagic trip report
jdanzenbaker at gmail.com
Fri Jul 29 10:57:50 PDT 2022
Experience has shown that the cure for the common heat wave is to go
coastal and beyond. With that in mind and expectations of pelagic wildlife
at the forefront, we gathered on the *Monte Carlo* in Westport for what
would prove to be a great day at sea. Briefings completed, we headed out
of the inner harbor under a flock of Marbled Godwits overhead and Pigeon
Guillemots (24) leading the way.
The fickle fingers of fog which seem to appear when it's very hot inland
were trying their best to form but never materialized enough to adversely
affect viewing so we were able to see what lay ahead. Large flocks of
Common Murres (881) were great to see as were Rhinoceros Auklets (69) and
Sooty Shearwaters (707).
The first highlight of the day cut the surface of the water for all to see
- a pod of 7 Orca(!), probably of the transient population which travels
along the Pacific Coast. The pod included one very young one - maybe a
first year Orca! Many photos were taken and instructions circulated to
send the photos to Orca researchers to determine their lineage and to add
them to the library of Orca photos. We motored onwards but not without a
brief stop for a Humpback Whale (3) and to view Red Phalaropes (78), some
showing quite a bit of rusty plumage. A far off South Polar Skua (6) was a
portent of things to come and a pair of fast moving sleek Dall's Porpoises
(9) raced in front of our bow.
We approached the shrimp fleet that had set their nets but were not yet
hauling them in so the Pink-footed (203), Sooty (707), and surprisingly
numerous Short-tailed Shearwaters (84) were mostly on the water waiting for
their meals to eventually be brought to the surface. We estimated that the
dark shearwaters were split 2/3 Sooty and 1/3 Short-tailed. Those of you
who were on Westport Seabirds trips last season might recognize this as a
repeat of the standout performance of Short-tailed Shearwaters.
Ordinarily, they should be in the Beaufort Sea right now so their
appearance off Washington in this quantity this early is great for birders
but probably doesn't bode well for the shearwaters. Hunger may have caused
their departure from Alaskan waters. Ordinarily, we might see a couple on
a late July trip. Black-footed Albatross (53) and Northern Fulmar (79)
rounded out the tubenose show which afforded excellent comparisons of size,
flight style, and plumage. Maybe the most unusual bird at the shrimp fleet
was a very fresh first cycle Heermann's Gull. This is a species that
usually doesn't wander more than a mile or so off shore so to see one, a
first cycle no less, at about 26 miles out was truly unusual. A variety of
California and Western/Glaucous-winged/gull soup gulls rounded out the show.
Our foray into the deep water off the edge of the Continental Shelf netted
our goal of Leach's Storm-Petrel (24) and a few Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels
(15) but the lack of a good breeze prevented our chum spot from attracting
very many birds. A beautiful adult Tufted Puffin (2) flew by close to the
delight of all but it didn't stop for a prolonged visit. A few Blue Sharks
(37) circled the boat while several Sabine's Gulls flew overhead. We
decided to return to the shelf. That's when things started to pop! A
flock of Sabine's Gulls (8) on the water included one first year bird.
Soon after, someone spied a bird on a log which turned out to be an
alternate plumaged Arctic Tern (1) - a great bird to see well. Then the
jaeger dam broke.
On our trip out, our only jaegers were very distant and unsatisfactory.
Now the fun was upped to another level. First a flock of 3 Long-tailed
Jaegers (12) were seen which was great but they didn't come close enough
for good photos. Then, the call of incoming jaeger had us looking upwards
and 1 Long-tailed Jaeger overhead turned into 2, then 3 then 4 then 5!
Many pixels were spent solidifying these memories. Not to be outdone, a
few Parasitic Jaegers (5) were also in the area. Finally, the seminal call
of "South Polar Skua" (6) was heard and we watched as it flew by - very
much the flying tank that separates it from all other species in the
marine realm. We were on the cusp of the skua slam which made the two
Pomarine Jaegers (1-2) seen a bit later even more appreciated. A few
jaegers were too distant to be identified (5). Not to be outdone, we
circled an adult Tufted Puffin on the water, more pixels being spent to
cement another memory.
Our trip back to shore had us motoring through mixed phalarope flocks with
a chance to compare Red-necked Phalarope (43) to Red Phalarope (78). A
surprising number of Mola Molas (8) were seen - all of them on the larger
side of the size spectrum. A Northern Elephant Seal corked on the water
for most to see and a Northern Fur Seal waved at us for a bit before
submerging. Diminutive Cassin's Auklets (33) were present but in a limited
quantity. Within about 5 miles of the jetties, we found a group of Gray
Whales (8) in an area where we've encountered them in previous years. A
few channel markers were draped with Steller's Sea Lions (4). The south
jetty held both Wandering Tattler (3) and Surfbird (1) as well as all three
cormorants (Double-crested - 8, Pelagic - 24, Brandt's - 92) and Brown
Pelicans (142). The inner harbor added Black Turnstone (4) and a view of
the growing flock of Marbled Godwits (157) and Whimbrel (5) on one of the
floats. As always, our return was noted by the watchful eyes of the
Westport Seabirds thanks all of the enthusiastic participants who make
these trips a success. Also, accolades to Phil and Chris Anderson whose
professional, courteous, and friendly persona make everyone feel at ease.
Thanks also to our guides today who were Bill "hey, there's another South
Polar Skua" Shelmerdine, Bill Tweit, and yours truly. Bill Tweit is a
wealth of Washington marine life knowledge and I always feel privileged to
be on a boat with him.
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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