Sunday, May 17, 2015

Westport Pelagic May 16, 2015

 I was hoping to go on a petrel hunt out of Newport, OR on May 17th, but that trip did not work out so I managed to get on the May 16th trip out of Westport, WA.   I had never been to Westport so I was looking forward to the trip. So a non-Oregon blog but close enough.

The Westport pelagic trips are the oldest continuous seabird survey in the world, very cool to know.  I think they said it has been going since the early 70's. 

The weather was very gray and some mist when we left the dock at 5:30 am.  The goal was to head straight offshore about 40 miles to see what was out there. I went looking for petrel.  The first great bird we saw was in the early morning light, a skua just outside the channel.  As we headed offshore we started seeing Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels and Sooty Shearwater.  At about 24 miles out we stopped near a fishing boat that had attracted a few birds.

Black-footed Albatross on the water.  These were waiting for food, but the winds were light as well.  There are studies showing how much wind is needed to give these birds the advantage of dynamic soaring.  It is about 7-10 knots of wind.  Otherwise they might just as well sit on the surface and wait for the wind to kick up a bit.  Lack of wind makes for a nice trip but you need some wind to get the birds up and flying so you can spot them.  Still it is nice to get so close to great birds.

Another Black-footed.

The calm conditions are great for studying storm-petrels.  There were a few pure flocks of the birds out on the water.  If I am seeing this bird correctly and those are worn flight feathers since it is May, this is probably a first-summer bird?  I had a tough time checking the wings out on the birds since the kept fanning them and it was hard to see if feathers were worn or just spread out.  Problem is I would think a first summer bird would be more brown with wear than this one, so I am not sure.  I always  try to concentrate on relative bill sizes, flight styles and structure on these buggers.  Sometimes best to just put the binos down and watch the birds.

UPDATE: I decided this shows little wear and is in fresh plumage, I looked at my photos and I did not get a photo of any in worn plumage, maybe all these were past their first summer. 

I think since this bird looks fresh, it is not a first summer bird.

Storm-Petrels pattering on the surface on a peaceful ocean away from those  pesky shearwaters.

When we were 40 miles out we found more storm-petrels.  We were watching a flock of Fork-tailed when we saw a small group of Leach's Storm-Petrels fly into the chum slick.

Fork-tailed on left Leach's on the right.  You can see the small dark bar up middle of white rump.

Blurry picture but was trying to get the rumps on all the Leach's present and also compare them to Fork-tailed in shape.

After seeing Leach's flying with Fork-tailed yesterday and Wilson's flying with Fork-tailed off Newport last year, I will make the bold statement that I will not confuse the two species again.  Wilson's wing shape is more tri-angular than the long winged Leach's.

No dark band on this nicely forked tailed, long narrow winged Leach's.

Leach's Storm-Petrel

We we also had a large group of shearwater and gulls at a fishing boat; we threw out or own supply of suet and all the birds rushed over to us.  Adult Sooty Shearwater and Pink-footed Shearwater are under heavy molt now.  The clean fresh looking Sooty Shearwaters are thus birds that were hatched this nesting season.  I assumed this one was a young bird.  Not sure if it hatched in late 2014 or early 2015, so is it first-year or second-year :).

 I think this is the wing of an ASY Sooty Shearwater.  Looks to me that it is molting secondary coverts and primaries.  By the way, feel free to correct any errors!

Not a first year bird.


Recently fledged Sooty Shearwater.


Wing of a recently fledged Sooty, no signs of molt.


All the photos I have show molting Pink-footed Shearwater,  I thought I had a few fresh birds, rats.

Sometimes I wonder how they manage to fly, this was not as ratty as some.

Well if you had looked a second sooner you would have seen a Cassin's Auklet.

There were many Red-necked Phalarope on the ocean , a few Red Phalarope as well.  Red-necked show very dark upperparts with a narrow but bold white stripe. The Red Phalarope seem to show more white but not as contrasting a pattern.

We saw lots of Common Tern in the channel and a few flying out in the near shore waters.

The wider black tips to the primaries of a Common Tern are seen here.  We saw one Arctic Tern offshore, where they usually hang out.  

White-winged Scoter in the channel

Rhinoceros Auklet were everywhere.

Coming into the channel we  encountered a huge mixed flock of birds (terns gulls and loon).  I was in the stern hoping for some decent pictures, the folks in the bow saw a Manx Shearwater in the flock, I missed it.  But I was on the bow out on the ocean when I saw but missed a picture of a Black-legged Kittiwake that flew in over the stern, so I could not win.

Tattler on the rocks.

I was hoping to get a nice shot of a Steller Sea Lion (Northern Sea Lion), but they dove off the can as the boat passed.  This one tried to get back on. It would wait for a wave then take a leap up on can. In the calm seas it took a few efforts, it failed on this one.

More Steller's, you can see the more pushed in bear like face compared to California Sea Lions.

Narrow face and bump on head of a full on male California Sea Lion.  We had a few Harbor Porpoise and some Humpback Whales on the trip.

Here is a list of the birds seen as provided by Bruce through ebird.  Comments are by Bruce and I'll need to delete the Manx, otherwise I managed to see all birds.

Westport pelagic, inshore, Grays Harbor, US-WA
May 16, 2015 5:54 AM - 6:20 AM
Protocol: Traveling
2.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Westport pelagic deep water trip. cloudy, 52 degrees
19 species (+1 other taxa)

Surf Scoter  26
White-winged Scoter  18
Red-throated Loon  4
Pacific Loon  4
Common Loon  1
Sooty Shearwater  5
Brandt's Cormorant  9
Double-crested Cormorant  50
Pelagic Cormorant  6
Brown Pelican  1
Red-necked Phalarope  8
South Polar Skua  1     incrediable sighting as we headed out. 1 mile past jetty before offshore leg. closest I've ever seen to shore. Good looks by many including leaders and Phil.
Common Murre  20
Pigeon Guillemot  25
Marbled Murrelet  1
Rhinoceros Auklet  5
Bonaparte's Gull  2
California Gull  1
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  14
Common Tern  12

Westport--Offshore waters, Grays Harbor, US-WA
May 16, 2015 6:55 AM - 10:55 AM
Protocol: Traveling
40.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Westport seabirds deep water trip. cloudy, 55 degrees. Mammal highlight- 2 Humpback Whales
14 species (+1 other taxa)

Pacific Loon  2
Black-footed Albatross  114     Large number behind a long liner boat
Northern Fulmar  5
Pink-footed Shearwater  55
Sooty Shearwater  193
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel  103
Leach's Storm-Petrel  1
Red-necked Phalarope  43
Common Murre  64
Cassin's Auklet  5
Rhinoceros Auklet  56
Sabine's Gull  29
California Gull  15
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  71
Arctic Tern  1

Westport--Offshore waters, Grays Harbor, US-WAMay 16, 2015 11:30 AM - 3:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
40.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Westport seabird deep water trip, return leg.
21 species (+1 other taxa)

White-winged Scoter  58
Pacific Loon  2
Black-footed Albatross  25
Northern Fulmar  6
Pink-footed Shearwater  212     many at boats
Sooty Shearwater  780
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel  157
Leach's Storm-Petrel  5
Brandt's Cormorant  4
Red-necked Phalarope  382
Red Phalarope  6
Parasitic Jaeger  2
Common Murre  17
Cassin's Auklet  18
Rhinoceros Auklet  51
Tufted Puffin  2
Black-legged Kittiwake  1
Sabine's Gull  28
California Gull  35
Herring Gull  1
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  180
Common Tern  28

Westport pelagic, inshore, Grays Harbor, US-WAMay 16, 2015 3:15 PM - 3:45 PM
Protocol: Traveling
3.0 mile(s)
Comments:     return inshore leg.
19 species (+1 other taxa)Surf Scoter  41
Red-throated Loon  3
Pacific Loon  210
Common Loon  4
Western Grebe  2
Manx Shearwater  1     on water, just taking off when spotted by several of us up front. excellent looks, black and white, small shearwater.
Brandt's Cormorant  90
Double-crested Cormorant  5
Pelagic Cormorant  45
Brown Pelican  5
Wandering Tattler  3
Ruddy Turnstone  2
Surfbird  1
Common Murre  3
Pigeon Guillemot  8
Rhinoceros Auklet  20
Black-legged Kittiwake  1
Bonaparte's Gull  10
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  50
Common Tern  410     huge migrating flock near jetty.

Finally I would like to thank the Monte Carlo, its crew, skipper and the guides, Bill, Bruce and Mike.  

I have enjoyed pelagic trips out of both Newport and Westport.  Try these links for more info:


Thanks for visiting.

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