[Tweeters] NOT 4 Black-footed Albatross at Neah Bay on 4/25/16

Sharon Cormier-Aagaard scormieraa001 at hotmail.com
Mon May 9 16:14:13 PDT 2016


Hi Tweets,

After returning from Neah Bay in late April of this year, I sent a brief Tweeters note to highlight the birds that others might want to know about, especially since many birders would be going there right after us. Within a couple days after I sent my Tweeters note, I got an email from Ryan Merrill, eBird reviewer, asking for more information about the 4 Black-footed Albatross sighting I had reported in my 4/25/16 eBird list. After several email conversations back and forth between me, Ryan and my sisters, and us removing the 4 Black-footed Albatross from our eBird list, here is the final email I received from Ryan (I asked and he said it would be okay to copy and share this with you). We so appreciate Ryan for patiently and kindly sharing his time, experience and knowledge in such a teachable way with us, and hope you'll find what he's written as helpful as we have:

Thanks a lot for all the detailed replies. I've been thinking a lot
about it. Short answer is that I think your description of the birds
and their behavior eliminates any species of albatross from being a
possibility. I'm not sure what that leaves us with, other than an
intriguing mystery?!

I really don't think it's physically
possible for Black-footed Albatrosses to fly as high as you describe
without it being incredibly windy. They're just too heavy without
having the wing surface area to be capable of such flight. On days that
are relatively calm you really don't see them more than about ten feet
above the water. Despite seeing thousands of albatross in a wide
variety of conditions including some quite windy days, I've only seen
them more than maybe 30 feet off the water a few times and distinctly
remember the couple times I've seen them 60+ feet off the water - it was
blowing 35-45 knots and the seas were 20+ feet! When they get up that
high they're also at the peak of their arc, so don't remain at that
height but rather drop back to the water and then launch up again. I
found this video interesting. It demonstrates dynamic flight with some
Wandering Albatrosses. Black-footeds fly the same way, though are much
smaller overall.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMX2wCJga8g

Other
possibilities? Well, really none that are likely, but a Sulid of some
sort (Brown Booby or Northern Gannet) could possibly come close and
would be more believable than an albatross, even though any species
would be very rare in in the Pacific Northwest. It sounds like you
considered and ruled out pelicans. Jaegers shouldn't seem that
long-winged or large. Cormorants will fly like you're describing
sometimes and is a bird that's in the area. They can be seen very
strange if taken out of context, though they only sort of match the
birds you're describing, don't have extremely long wings, and I wouldn't
think you'd get the impression of them being as large as they seemed?
Just in case, here's a picture of soaring cormorants:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/108755156@N05/25388536520/

Other
than a mystery bird I'm not really sure? I did check with Brad
Waggoner and Charlie Wright for their thoughts in case I was overlooking
something but they didn't have any better ideas. Sounds like a fun
sighting even if a bit frustrating.



Happy Trails,
Sharon Aagaard
Bellevue WA
scormieraa001 at hotmail.com


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