[Tweeters] Neah Bay Pelagic Trip preliminary report

B Boekelheide bboek at olympus.net
Sat Sep 10 22:50:03 PDT 2016

Hello, Tweeters,

15 birders joined our September pelagic trip on the M/V Windsong out of Neah Bay today, organized by Denny Van Horn. Our route went from Neah Bay through the west entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, then continued west across Juan de Fuca Canyon to Swiftsure Bank. On the return trip we passed close by Tatoosh Island.

Most impressive was flocks of thousands of seabirds feeding along the southern margins of Swiftsure Bank, spread over many square miles. From our vantage point on the boat it was difficult to grasp the magnitude of their flocks. Consequently our numbers are just estimates of birds visible within the vicinity of the boat. Most numerous species were California Gull (estimate 10,000), Pink-footed Shearwater (7,000), Sooty Shearwater (6,500), Sabine’s Gull (5,100), Red-necked Phalarope (1,700), and Cassin’s Auklet (379). There may be a substantial portion of the Pacific population of Sabine’s Gulls around Swiftsure Bank right now.

The most unusual bird sighting was two Brown Boobies participating in a feeding flock with shearwaters and gulls, plunging into the water close by the other feeding birds. Also good numbers of pirates, including at least two South Polar Skuas, seven Pomarine Jaegers, five Parasitic Jaegers, and three jaeger sp. Also a few Arctic Terns and Black-legged Kittiwakes. Other than Cassin’s Auklets, other alcids were relatively few in the offshore feeding flocks, but murres and rhinos were more abundant closer to shore. Another surprise was we didn’t see any albatrosses or storm-petrels all day. One likely Short-tailed Shearwater with almost all dark underwings, but all the rest were either Sooties or Pink-footeds.

There are lots of Humpback Whales actively feeding both at the mouth of the Strait and at Swiftsure Bank. Their numbers are similarly hard to estimate, but at times we had 40 to 50 whales spouting and feeding in one view. Our total was at least 75 whales, likely more. We watched them feeding together, breeching, splashing, waving, and lunging, apparently feeding on small fish. Surprisingly the only other cetaceans were Harbor Porpoises.

We are planning one more pelagic trip this fall out of Neah Bay, on Saturday, October 8. Contact Denny for more info and to sign up at dennyvanhorn at gmail.com <mailto:dennyvanhorn at gmail.com>.

Bob Boekelheide
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