[Tweeters] Westport Seabirds 4-23-16 Trip Report: Laysan Albatross, Orca

Gene Revelas grevelas at integral-corp.com
Sun Apr 24 16:16:14 PDT 2016


Hi Tweets -

On Saturday, a great group of local and visiting birders joined us for the April Westport Seabirds trip. The weather and seas were accommodating with just a few, brief showers, sun breaks, and light winds on top of a comfortable, long period swell that laid down as the day progressed. We left the dock at 0600 and headed due west to Grays Canyon. There was lots of migration activity in the harbor and nearshore zone with 1000s of migrating geese (Cacklers mostly with smaller flocks of Brant and White-Fronts mixed in), Surf and Wing-winged Scoters, single Harlequin and Long-tailed Ducks, and numbers of Common, Red-throated, and especially Pacific Loons, mostly in breeding plumaged. Good numbers of Sooty Shearwaters and Common Murres were on the shelf. Farther out we picked up Pink-footed Shearwaters, some Cassin's Auklets, and many Rhinoceros Auklets showing their horns and facial plumes. Incredible numbers (billions?) of tiny Velella or by-the-wind sailors, the small, bluish, jellyfish-like creature, collected in long convergence cells as far as the eye could see. Large flocks of Red-necked Phalaropes swirled around these areas. The next excitement was produced by Humpback whales, which only spouted in the distance at first, but eventually a group of three animals put on a nearby show, with one animal doing several, full body rolling breaches and flipper slapping for all to see.

As we approached the shelf break, Captain Phil detoured several miles south to a shrimp boat working the shelf edge between Grays and Willapa Canyons. This moved us into Pacific County for most of the mid-day hours, an unexpected bonus for any county listers hiding among us. The shrimper had "only" Black-footed Albatross in tow as it had just started fishing and had not yet processed a catch, apparently the Albatross know to anticipate that. So we redirected west again for deep water and stopped to chum at a depth of about 3000 ft. The chum quickly attracted more Black-foots and a few gulls, followed by Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels and a Northern Fulmar. A tall, straight dorsal fin was noted heading right for the boat and we watched in amazement as a large male Orca and two smaller Orca swam directly towards us, then under the boat and up and away on the other side! To top it off, a beautiful Laysan Albatross picked up the chum scent from a distance and made a slow, meandering fly-by of the stern of the boat with all on deck. This was an ABA lifer for more than a few on board. On the way home, we picked up much better looks of a few species, such as Sabine's Gulls, Pomarine Jaeger, and Cassin's Auklets, that had been frustratingly distant in the morning. We also added Common Tern to the trip list and on the Grays's Harbor Jetty picked up Black-legged Kittiwake and Surfbirds to cap off a truly fun day at sea.

The complete trip list will be posted on ebird soon as well as on the Westport Seabirds website: http://westportseabirds.com/. Leaders for this trip included Scott Mills and me. Phil and Chris Anderson did their usual incredible great job running the boat, managing logistics, and getting folks great looks at the birds and mammals. The next Westport pelagic trip with spaces available is May 15th. Please check out the website for the complete 2016 trip schedule, other information, and sign-up details.

Gene Revelas
Olympia, WA
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