[Tweeters] Westport Seabirds Trip Report 09112017
georn1 at hotmail.com
Wed Sep 13 20:46:08 PDT 2017
Mondays pelagic trip with Westport Seabirds was simply fantastic; good birds, good people, and great conditions. Highlights included: Laysan Albatross, Flesh-footed Shearwater, Buller’s Shearwater, and Tufted Puffin.
We headed out of the harbor at 0600, still fairly dark. A beautiful sunrise and Mount Rainier to our backs, we headed NW toward Whiting Boats fishing near the edge of the continental shelf. This is north of our usual Grays Canyon destination, but an area of active fishing where the trip the previous day had found success and many birds.
Crossing the bar was a non-issue, much to the relief of many as the previous day’s trip encountered “bumpy conditions”. On the long run toward the fishing boats there were minimal stops along the way. As we approached the outer shelf we found our first concentrations of birds feeding at schools of baitfish. A nice mix of species were here including numbers of Pink-footed and Sooty Shearwaters, California Gulls, and Red-necked Phalarope. Our first Buller’s Shearwaters and Pomarine Jaeger and our only Tufted Puffin of the day were in this area.
Further offshore the sea surface smoothed and the low swell made ideal conditions for finding birds sitting on the water. Soon we were into more phalaropes, and our first Fork-tailed Storm Petrels and Cassin’s Auklets. As we approached the Whiting boats, the first Black-footed Albatross appeared, shortly after our first Laysan. Seen well by all, this bird maintained its distance. Later we would get up close and personal with this or another Laysan. We recorded Laysan Albatross on three transects over the course of the day. Photos reviewed after the trip suggest three different individuals.
At the fishing boats we laid out our chum slick. A very friendly and curious Northern Fur Seal frolicked around the boat. The species mix in order of abundance included Northern Fulmar (including many light phase), California Gull, Pink-footed Shearwater, Black-footed Albatross, Fork-tailed Storm Petrel, Sabine's Gull, Large Gulls, Sooty and Buller’s Shearwater. Pomarine and Parasitic Jaegers made brief appearances, but throughout the day the jaeger clan was decidedly elusive.
The return trip continued with good birds. Approaching the edge of Grays Canyon Phil slowed the boat to point out a distant Northern Elephant Seal. Groups of Shearwaters and Fulmar were distributed along the canyon edge/ drop-off in this area as well. Checking a nearby flock of about a dozen shearwaters we noted a Buller’s sitting on the water. As we approached slowly we could see a Flesh-footed Shearwater in the mix, it’s bright pink bill with black tip standing out in perfect light. Everyone on board got excellent looks as we studied the group at close range. Later as the birds took flight with the light at our backs all of the field marks were seen well. It was great to see all 4 of the days’ shearwater together in a small group. No problem sorting things out and getting on birds here.
After that the rest of the return trip was a bit anticlimactic. Great company, calm seas, and incredible views of the Olympic Mountains however continued. Spotters for the trip were Scott Mills and Bill Shelmerdine. Phil and Chris Anderson provided expert boat handling and first class customer service as well as expert spotting skills. The season is winding down but there are still more scheduled trips remaining. Check the Westport Seabirds website if interested. Hope to see you on the water.
Bill Shelmerdine 9/12/2017
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