[Tweeters] Westport Seabirds Trip Report for September 6, 2022
jdanzenbaker at gmail.com
Wed Sep 14 15:26:16 PDT 2022
Even though the weather forecast called for bumpy seas and a consistent
breeze, we boarded the *Monte Carlo* in anticipation of another memorable
Westport Seabirds bird and wildlife watching trip to Gray's Canyon. Upon
clearing the tips of the jetty, we soon realized that the seasons were
changing - southbound LOONs including RED-THROATED (7), COMMON (1), and
PACIFIC (2), were obvious as were a few SURF (14) and WHITE-WINGED SCOTERs
(5) and dabbling ducks (29). After reaching the other side of the "loon
belt", SOOTY SHEARWATERs (2895) and COMMON MURREs (233) took over which was
a great way for novice and experienced participants to get (re)acquainted
with these common pelagic species. These species are good to know well
since we compare many other species to these. The seas surprisingly
settled down alot and we enjoyed a white-cap free trip which made viewing
of seabirds fairly easy.
Soon we encountered mixed shearwater flocks which included both SOOTY and
PINK-FOOTED (901). A few strikingly plumaged BULLER'S SHEARWATERs (21)
were found - a crowd favorite! Buller's is a species that will continue to
grow in number in Washington waters until late-October when they will leave
for their breeding grounds in New Zealand. A POMARINE JAEGER (3) and at
least 1 PARASITIC JAEGER (3) flew by but not close enough for a great
study. Later perhaps! A FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER (1) was seen by the folks
on the bow but was unfortunately missed by those at the stern - a
pelagic conundrum of where to position yourself on a pelagic trip! Several
mixed flocks of RED (13) and RED-NECKED PHALAROPE (4) were seen - an
appreciated comparison. Red outnumbered the usually more common Red-necked
which continued this unusual trend this year.
The hoped for fleet of shrimp boats never materialized. However, there were
shearwaters which included SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATERs (11-great to see so
well) and NORTHERN FULMARs (26) in the area along with BLACK-FOOTED
ALBATROSS (14). A point of pride on Westport Seabirds trip is that we will
usually find albatross within 2hrs, 45 minutes from our dock departure.
Today, we spied the first one at 2 hrs and 47 minutes. We were off by two
minutes which was probably the two minute detour that we took to see a
Humpback Whale. In other words, the albatross-Westport Seabirds timing
agreement was spot on! Keeping an eye on our trip were several beautiful
SABINE'S GULLs (17) which were winging their way south to wintering grounds
off Central and northern South America. A young BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD
wasn't having a good day.
On to deep water.
At our intended spot off the Continental Shelf, we were rewarded with two
LONG-TAILED JAEGERs which flew right over the boat to the delight of all.
For those keeping count, this was the third prong in the hoped for skua
slam. A single NORTHERN ELEPHANT SEAL (1) bobbed on the surface but too
far for much detail. Several albatross, a few diminutive FORK-TAILED
STORM-PETRELs (87), and Sabine's Gulls accompanied us as Captain Phil
turned the bow of the Monte Carlo towards home. Soon, we started to see
many more Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels - maybe attracted to the area by a
feeding Humpback Whale. Shortly after returning to the Continental Shelf,
the call came out of TUFTED PUFFIN (1), a beautiful bird enjoyed by all.
Minutes later, a powerful SOUTH POLAR SKUA (3) made a close flyby. Skua
slam achieved! This was not the only skua that we saw. Another chose to
klepto-parasitize a Pink-footed Shearwater for us all to view and (for
some) admire. Gotta love skuas!
A big surprise was a MANX SHEARWATER (1 - shearwater species #6) that was
in a mixed flock of shearwaters 24 miles from shore. This species is
occasionally encountered within two miles of shore so seeing one so far
offshore wasn't anticipated. Several CASSIN'S AUKLETs (7) were seen
although not as well as we had hoped. RHINOCEROS AUKLETs (19) were
scattered throughout the trip.
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
several minutes. Gone are the days of calling all fur seals northern since
we know that Guadalupe Fur Seals occur in Washington waters. However, the
one cooperative individual that we found was a NORTHERN FUR SEAL (1) which
was showing off its long flippers, whiskers, and ears and telltale less
elongated snout. 8 HUMPBACK WHALEs were encountered. BLUE SHARKs (1) and
MOLA MOLAs (14) were seen. We literally saw a ton+ of mola mola which
included two enormous ones that we estimated to be over 450 pounds each.
With the addition of other mola molas seen, we easily surpassed 2000 pounds
of mola mola.
The trip back to shore gave us final chances to study shearwaters and
murres and auklets. 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 (8) and CALIFORNIA SEA-LIONs (6) on the
channel markers and the HARBOR SEALs (4) inside the harbor. Several
WANDERING TATTLERs (3) were seen. The MARBLED GODWIT flock inside the
harbor has grown to 1000 and included several WHIMBREL (2), WILLET (2),
BLACK TURNSTONE (16), and SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (2)..
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 Bill Shelmerdine, 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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