Monday, August 31, 2015

Newport Pelagic Aug 30, 2015: Jaegers

It has been a bouncy ocean this year for pelagic trips.  Weather has cancelled a few already.  I went on my fourth trip this past Sunday (second one out of Newport, two from Westport).  The gale that hit just the day before was working its way out of the area.  We had a dry trip except for one rain cloud that hit us on the way out,  And to tell the truth, I liked it since it washed all the salt off that had gathered on my pelagic rain gear the past few trips

First a bit off-topic.  The small fin is a Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola).  I learned from a cousin this summer of a website where you can report sightings of these fish.  The link is up top on my header.  But here it is again:

I entered the sighting.  It looked as if these California Gulls were cleaning parasites off this rather small version of these cool fish. Mola mola are the largest boney fish in the world. This one has a lot of growing to do.  I assume it is a mola mola and not one of its cousins.

The normal group of albatross, shearwater (Pink-footed, Sooty and a few Buller's) and storm-petrel (Fork-tailed) were found.  Not as many as expected by me, but enough of all species seen to have good views. Here is a Black-footed Albatross hanging out in our chum slick.

Young California Gull. 

I was bummed this turned out blurry.  It is a nice Arctic Turn showing its well defined black primary tips.  Arctic Terns heads do not project out as far as Common Terns. Sort of like Sharpies compared to Cooper's Hawks.  It is not always easy to separate Common and Arctic terns.  Some terns went unidentified, they were classified as "Comic"  Terns.

My favorite part of the trip was all the great views of the jaegers.  My normal view is of a bird high in the sky flying by the boat, or a quick low fly-by that gives one only a brief glimpse.

We saw all three, the Pomarine Jaeger we had best views of was a fly-by on the way home, I was sitting trying to rest my back and missed a photo.  But the Long-tailed and Parasitic put on a nice show.

This is a Long-tailed Jaeger.  The black cap is neatly defined.  No breast band in summer. The outer  primary shafts on jaegers are white.  Because of the way the feathers overlap, only the outermost white shaft can be seen from below. From the topside the shafts can be seen. Long-tail usually show two white shafts.

But they can show more.  P8-P10 can be white. You can see how far up the gray comes on the belly yet the chest is bright white, a mark seen from a long way off.  I read Long-tailed can develop a breast band in winter, but that plumage would be rare in N America.

This Long-tailed appeared to be an adult that had molted its ornamental tail feathers. I thought it was adult due to the lack of barring on the underwing coverts.

I tried to get a photo showing the contrast between the gray coverts and darker flight feathers,  The dark secondaries on Long-tailed are supposed to show more of an obvious black trailing edge.   I can see contrast here but no great photo of a trailing edge.

I just looked at Jen's photos of the trip, she caught the trailing edge of the Long-tailed in the 14th photo down.  Here you go :  tales-from-Oregon-pelagic

Kind of a fun shot with a long-tailed Long-Tailed Jaeger in the background and a short-tailed Long-tailed Jaeger in front.

It is always fun to see how skilled at flying birds are.  The jaegers have the power to chase down a tern for its food, and yet can come into a slick like a Storm-Petrel and carefully pluck a bit of food off the surface.  I wonder if a Pomarine Jaeger would do this.

I think this is either a second-year or third-year bird.  Seems the primaries have distinct white bases and the thin outer webs do not seem to have any markings.  The barred underwing coverts are not present in adult plumage.

Ah, an obvious nice calm ocean in the background :).

I also was trying to get a photo of a Parasitic and a Long-tailed in the same position as seen from below so I could compare structure.  Long-tailed are slimmer and even with their ornamental feathers lacking, they appear to be long tailed. Between the Long-tailed below and the Parasitic underneath it, seems the Long-tailed is less robust in the neck and chest.

In Pyle's Identification Guide to North American Birds Part II, he gives the length of the forearm of the two species.  The Long-tailed has a shorter forearm length. He mentions proportion of forearm length to wingcord is likely diagnostic.  I looked for the short inner wing of Long-tailed.  It seems the Parasitic below does have a longer inner wing.  More study needed before I can tell if I can see this in field or is it a feature only a bander with bird in hand can see.

Note on this Parasitic Jaeger the less well defined cap, the white mark above the bill, and the pointed ornamental tail feathers. The breast band seems smooth as is all the coloring on the undersides. Pomarines have a larger hood, wider wings, a scruffier appearance to undersides and a pale base to bill. Also no barring on the underwing coverts, so it is an adult.

Here you can see the white crescent above the bill.  Seems like the white primary shafts are probably not a good way to separate jaegers. Not sure if in the field you could tell this upperwing from a Long-tailed.  Seems better to watch for the contrast on Long-tailed.  I see less contrast between the upper back and primaries and secondaries.

The day before I was at the mud flats behind the Hatfield Marine Science Center, the HMSC is a very fun place to visit BTW. In the heavy wind I saw this bill as very short and pointed.  All I saw was the shiny top of bill, the bill appeared to end where that  grass is stuck on the outer half.  Plus its head had a very clear split supercilium.  I did notice the lack of longer primaries and everything else looked fine for a young Least, so I was well into the Least Sandpiper camp.  It flew like a Least and sounded like a Least.  But that pointed bill and head pattern had me wondering. Not until I hunkered down behind a pine tree to send a photo of it to Alan C did I clearly see the photo and the entire bill.  Perfectly normal Least Sandpiper.

Many thanks to Tim, Shawneen, Tom, Jim and Dave. Also thanks to Enterprise ,  Dave and crew.

Three more pelagics to go for me this year, two out of Newport on Sept. 19th and Oct 3 and one out of Westport this Labor Day Sunday (6th).  

Thanks for visiting.

The eBird reports:

Newport pelagic--Yaquina Bay, Lincoln, Oregon, USAug 30, 2015 7:13 AM - 7:38 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.5 mile(s)
Comments:     Oregon Pelagic Tours 8 hour pelagic.Mammals: California sea lion (2); harbor seal (25).
17 species

Surf Scoter  1
Western Grebe  1
Brandt's Cormorant  25
Double-crested Cormorant  10
Pelagic Cormorant  40
Great Blue Heron  1
Osprey  1
Wandering Tattler  2
Whimbrel  1
Least Sandpiper  10
Western Sandpiper  20
Common Murre  4
Pigeon Guillemot  6
Heermann's Gull  1
Western Gull  30
California Gull  50
Caspian Tern  1

Newport pelagic--northwest route 0-5 miles offshore, Lincoln, Oregon, USAug 30, 2015 7:38 AM - 8:45 AM
Protocol: Traveling
7.0 mile(s)
Comments:     OPT pelagic.  North toward lighthouse looking for murrelets, then out.  Mammals: gray whale (2, one close); harbor porpoise (2).
14 species

Surf Scoter  15
Pacific Loon  5
Common Loon  1
Pink-footed Shearwater  4
Sooty Shearwater  10
Brandt's Cormorant  20
Pelagic Cormorant  35
Red-necked Phalarope  8
Common Murre  20
Pigeon Guillemot  6
Marbled Murrelet  1     1, seen by few.
Rhinoceros Auklet  1
Western Gull  5
California Gull  40

Aug 30, 2015 8:45 AM - 10:55 AM
Protocol: Traveling
16.5 mile(s)
Comments:     Oregon Pelagic Tours 8 hour pelagic.  5 miles to chum stop at 21.6 miles offshore. Other fauna: Steller's sea lion (1), northern fur seal (1); ocean sunfish (1, seen by few).
18 species

Pacific Loon  1
Black-footed Albatross  5     1st one seen about six miles offshore.
Northern Fulmar  2
Pink-footed Shearwater  40
Buller's Shearwater  8
Sooty Shearwater  10
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel  4
Red-necked Phalarope  16
Red Phalarope  3
South Polar Skua  1
Parasitic Jaeger  1
Long-tailed Jaeger  2
Common Murre  6
Cassin's Auklet  2
Rhinoceros Auklet  5
Sabine's Gull  2
California Gull  15
Arctic Tern  6     Some very close views.

Newport pelagic -- NW route (combined locations), Lincoln, Oregon, US
Aug 30, 2015 10:55 AM - 12:05 PM
Protocol: Stationary
Comments:     OPT 8 hour pelagic -- chum stop at furthest point offshore (21.6 miles).  GPS: 45.61121 N, 123.40031 W. Great views of most species. Other fauna: ocean sunfish (1, small, seen by few).
15 species

Black-footed Albatross  16
Northern Fulmar  10
Pink-footed Shearwater  20
Buller's Shearwater  2
Sooty Shearwater  4
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel  25
Red Phalarope  2
South Polar Skua  1
Parasitic Jaeger  1
Long-tailed Jaeger  5     Mostly adults (7/8), several had molted streamers.
Rhinoceros Auklet  1
Sabine's Gull  2
Western Gull  2
California Gull  30
Arctic Tern  1

Newport pelagic--northwest route 5-22 miles offshore, Lincoln, Oregon, US
Aug 30, 2015 12:05 PM - 2:10 PM
Protocol: Traveling
16.5 mile(s)
Comments:     OPT 8 hour pelagic.  Return from chum spot to 5 miles offshore. Other fauna: Steller's sea lion (1);  northern fur seal (1); blue shark (1, seen by few), ocean sunfish (1, seen by few).
16 species

Black-footed Albatross  10
Northern Fulmar  3
Pink-footed Shearwater  35
Buller's Shearwater  7
Sooty Shearwater  15
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel  8
Red-necked Phalarope  4
Red Phalarope  16     Nice comparisons of both pelagic phalarope species in mixed flocks.
South Polar Skua  1
Pomarine Jaeger  2
Parasitic Jaeger  1
Long-tailed Jaeger  4
Cassin's Auklet  2
Rhinoceros Auklet  4
California Gull  20
Common Tern  3

Newport pelagic--northwest route 0-5 miles offshore, Lincoln, Oregon, US
Aug 30, 2015 2:10 PM - 2:38 PM
Protocol: Traveling
5.0 mile(s)
Comments:     OPT pelagic, returning. Mammals: Steller's sea lion (1).
10 species

Pink-footed Shearwater  6
Sooty Shearwater  25
Brandt's Cormorant  20
Pelagic Cormorant  10
Red-necked Phalarope  20
Common Murre  10
Marbled Murrelet  2     Seen by few.
Cassin's Auklet  2     Seen by few.
Western Gull  20
California Gull  30

Newport pelagic--Yaquina Bay, Lincoln, Oregon, US
Aug 30, 2015 2:38 PM - 3:00 PM
Protocol: Stationary
Comments:     Oregon Pelagic Tours -- return.  Mammals: gray whale (1 in channel, seen by 1); harbor seal (2).
13 species

Harlequin Duck  2     Females.
Brandt's Cormorant  40
Double-crested Cormorant  15
Pelagic Cormorant  30
Turkey Vulture  3
Wandering Tattler  1
Black Turnstone  5
Surfbird  0
Common Murre  4
Pigeon Guillemot  4
Heermann's Gull  1
Mew Gull  1
Western Gull  35
California Gull  50

Monday, August 17, 2015

Golden-Plover, Tattlers and things

Here are my pictures of the  Pacific Golden-Plover found a few days ago along Marine Dr on the Columbia River near the Portland Airport.  It is a probable second-year bird (hatched 2014).  On my OBOL post I simply said I saw the plover.  I was not sure what I was looking at along the river.  Others had ID'ed it as a Pacific. I have not seen enough of these two plovers in the past few years to know all their ins-and-outs. After studying my photos, it does seem within range of a Pacific Golden-Plover. 

Based on the 2004 Johnson and Johnson paper (link below) :

Golden-Plover link

Pacific Golden-Plover:

2-3 primary tips past the tertials
distance primary tips past the tail  0-9 mm
primary projection past tail < 1/2 bill length
tertial length relative to tail length :  extend to distal third of tail, many end at tail

Other points in O'Brien, Crossley, and Karlson compared to American:

more front-heavy, more upright, with rounder body, larger head  and bill, longer legs, and heavier chest

American Golden-Plover

4-5 primary tips past the tertials
distance primary tips past the tail 12-22 mm
primary projection past tail > 1/2 bill length
tertial length relative to tail length :  variable from half to distal third of tail

I have been wanting to read Jaramillo's 2004 paper but could not find it on-line.

Understanding molt sure increases the pleasure of studying birds.

I have received some private emails about this bird. Not sure if I am at liberty to cite the folks who helped me, but thanks much. I have also read some online opinions on the subject of large plovers and their wings.  One needs to be careful with counting the primaries past the tertials.  In spring, birds might be replacing tertials but not primaries.  So more primaries would be exposed.  Seems tertials are replaced in a few of the plover's molts, while primaries are not.  So care must be used with this id mark. Also the outer primary (P10) could be growing in and thus hidden behind it's neighbor (P9). 

Everyone seems to agree that extremely long pimaries indicate American.

One thing I noticed about this bird are its very worn primaries.  (See below) What does that mean?  It was explained to me that American Golden-Plover  molt their primaries in their first winter, Pacific-Golden-Plover do not.  So this bird's very worn primaries indicate that it could be a bird that was hatched in 2014, it just entered its second-life year. This will be the first winter that it molts its primaries.  An American Golden-Plover would not have such old worn primaries.

 A good way to separate first-spring birds, worn primaries: Pacific, new primaries: American.

Another hint that it could be a second-year bird is the greater coverts.  This is where I get a bit lost.  I was told the bird appears to have some retained greater coverts and they are basic looking. Possible evidence  that this bird had a mixture of breeding and non-breeding appearing feathers in its first spring.  The area of the greater coverts is forward of the tertials on a folded wing. I assume we are talking about the two brown and white feathers seen below? 

I took this shot to show the drooping supercilium behind the eye.  Pale face with bold eye.  Supercilium is brightest above the eye.  All marks for Pacific Golden-Plover as mentioned in O'Brien, Crossley and Karlson.

First-summer Pacific Golden-Plover, as with many shorebirds, can show an aspect that appears to be a mix of basic and alternate plumage.  It was suggested that the extent of black on this bird might have been the most it achieved in its first summer.  You can see the extent of black on the belly in both photos below..

The drooping supercilium  creates a wider dark  nape than on American.

I was supposed to go on a Newport pelagic trip this weekend, it was cancelled due to high winds. It would have been too rough and windy to be out on the deck of a boat trying to watch birds.  I tried to get out on the Westport trip but the last few spots were filled just a few hours before I discovered the Newport trip was cancelled.  SO a big skunk on my ocean efforts.  Another trip to Clatsop county was my third option.

Banded Snowy Plover seen on 8/16/2015 about 6 miles north of the 10th St access at Gearhart.  It is a hatch-year bird from the North Spit of Coos Bay, Oregon. Sorry for fuzzy picture, I finally figured out my viewfinder was not adjusted correctly, but that was after I left the bird.

One of a group of Spotted Sandpiper along the rocky coast at Seaside Cove.

One of a number of Wandering Tattler seen.  On OBOL I said 8, I trimmed that down to 6 in eBird, I think two got back in front of me.

A Black-bellied Plover on the Clatsop beach to compare to the Pacific Golden-Plover above.

This gull confused me a bit, it is a young Western Gull.  Wings not long enough for a dark California.  It was small , so I was thinking California, but was mistaken.

The fire at Parking Lot C burned the woods that abut the shorebird flats.  They should have let it burn out all the thick vegetation that has covered the spit in my opinion.

Photo of the shorebird flats, not much here is there?

Upon closer inspection the area is covered in Western Sandpipers.

A Gray Whale was working the area just beyond the surf Sunday morning.

Note Gray Whales do not have a dorsal fin, they have a bump that is followed by a series of ridges.  Bump has yet to pop out of water here.  A good tip when viewing whales from afar.

On my Tattler hunt along the rocky shore at Seaside Cove this seal kept an eye on me. It followed me along the beach.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Snowy Plover in Clatsop County

Once again I wandered down to Clatsop County to escape the heat of Portland and to hunt for shorebirds.  It was foggy on the beach but I found the usual Western Sandpipers (mainly juvenile), Least Sandpipers, Sanderlings and Semipalmated Plovers.  I did see two Snowy Plover, my first for the Clatsop County beaches.  I thought I would post the photos for those that research and protect these little birds.

If you want to see another "beach" plover, check out my previous blog I posted at end of July "Where in the World".

I think the first three photos are of a hatch-year.  Fresh feathers and buff edges to coverts.

I think the next two are photos of adult female. Seems to have worn feathers and lack buff edging. Sexing these birds this time of year based on plumage is not always reliable.

Back to a hatch-year.  Not sure if this is same hatch-year as the bird above.  If not, then I saw three plover.

The adult with the hatch-year.

The juvenile Western Sandpipers were on the beach in force.  Clean neat feathers clearly show this to be a juvenile.  The rufous-edged upper scapulars are an easy spot as well.

The crouched down eating style of a Least Sandpiper.

After finding zilch on the river beach, I went to Parking Lot D to see if I could find any odd terns, tons of Caspian, lots of California Gulls and one Black-bellied Plover.  A flock of peeps flew in and landed across the water.  Before going on down blog, can you spot the Baird's?

This rather pale plover ( hatch-year Semipalmated) looked very long-winged to me. I could not get a real good look at it except with this photo. 

Crazy bright rufous on this Least.

This one looked larger than the rest and I could just make out the long wing tips past the tertials. Baird's Sandpiper. 

I deleted a section of my previous blog about feather tracts, I decided it was rather sloppy.  I hope to get photos of sandpipers with different feather tracts exposed on the wing.   Here are some wing shots I'll just throw out there.  See if you can figure out the tracts.

I decided Black Turnstones are a nice bird to show how the scapulars flip up to cover the wing. They are always stretching their wings.

I think this one is missing some primary coverts.

One of these days I'll repost these with the tracts correctly marked. My problem is figuring out where the lower scapulars end and the greater coverts begin.  And if the wing is messy with molt it is even tougher.

Heermann's Gulls are gradually losing their white heads.  

Thanks for visiting.