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

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