Sunday, July 19, 2015

Westport Pelagic 7/18/15

I ventured northwest out of Portland again to Westport, WA. to participate in another Westport Seabirds trip.  We went about 39 miles offshore west of Westport.   I was and always am hoping for something rare to pop up, while nothing mega rare was found, I did have fun getting to study Sooty Shearwater and the other local birds.  I always try to take full advantage of these trips and study each bird I can carefully.  Why is every Pink-footed Shearwater a Pink-footed, while I watch a bird, I go through the process of eliminating the other more rare birds.

While the winds stayed light, the seas were still rocking from the hard NW winds that blew during the week.  The boat crashed over a few, but the skipper did a great job in keeping us all dry.

A highlight was seeing a number of South Polar Skuas.  I mentioned to a guide that if I was to draw a comic strip and had a skua in it, it would ride a Harley..without a helmet.  The guide, Mike, mentioned a Scottish proverb he read in a field guide once about skuas..something like  "when God gave humans the role of ruler of the animal kingdom the skuas lived too far away to ever get the news".  Something like that, in any case, they are hard not to admire.

The skua is in the back.  Those are Pink-footed Shearwater in front for a size comparison.

Close up.  I think the pale brown plumage and the gray in the bill means this is hatch-year bird? I do not see the golden-brown hackles.

Same bird after it launched into the air.  I think that is shadow, not the gold hackles.

Hatch-year skuas  start a primary  molt about this time of year.  It occurs distally, from the inner primaries to the outer, starting in about July and lasting out until January (if I am reading Pyle correctly).  I think this bird shows just that, there is an obvious gap where P1 and P2 should be and maybe a few secondaries as well?  Love to know if I am seeing this correctly.  I think older birds start primary molt earlier and thus the P1 and P2 should be grown in by now.  But molt is complex and other factors in the bird's life can impact the timing of the molts.  Would love to know if I am on the right track here.

I lightened up one of the photos to show pattern on back better.

Another close up we got was of the Black-legged Kittiwake.

It was going through some primary molt as well.

You can see the new feather growing in here.

As you can see there were some nice swells rolling by, The Northern Fur Seal watching us go by is obvious.

Close up of a female Northern Fur Seal, note the ears.  It swam under our boat, I would guess it was three feet or so long, maybe a tad larger.  Females when fully grown are about five feet long.  If they have pups, they should be up north closer to the breeding grounds.  Maybe she is one or two years old and did not breed this year?   Need an expert opinion.

Ten Humpback Whales were spotted.  Their dorsal fins can vary in shape and size. Often the fins sit on a bump on the back.

You will just need to trust me that those are Pacific White-sided Dolphin.

And a few of the usual suspects.

A fun trip. Thanks to the Monte Carlo , her crew, and the spotters.

Thanks for visiting.

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