Sunday, August 21, 2016

Shorebirding Ft Stevens

The fog never burned off the beach at Ft Stevens St Park in Clatsop County on 8/20/16.  That kept the temps at a nice 55-60 degrees.  Far better than the near 100 degrees in the valley.  Low tide was at 8:30  am, my plan was to check out the mud flats at Parking Lot B rather than hit the low tide at the beach.  The problem was the very low tide had any peeps too far out in the bay and covered by the fog.  I did see little groups of  Marsh Wrens, a Virginia Rail, a few Purple Martin and some Common Yellowthroats, like the one below.

Discouraged by the lack of peeps, I went back to Pk Lot B and walked up the beach to Pk Lot C, hit the river beach, then walked the road back to Pk Lot B. A 5.5 mile loop including wandering the mud flats. Total peeps:  one Semipalmated Plover.

I started at 8 am, by now it was 11:30.   I decided to check out the mudflats again now that the tide had risen. This is a great place to bird with tide maybe 2-3 feet above mean low and rising.  That leaves a narrow strip of mud along the bay with shorebirds close to see. If you stand quietly at the last area of mud, the shorebirds will come into you.

A flock of 15 dowitchers were on the flats. Most were Short-billed Dowitchers.  I thought this big fat one was a Long-billed Dowitcher.  It was larger and was not as brightly patterned.  The fog made it tough to really see the color on the bird.

It has the grapefruit body shape of a Long-billed and lacks the bright pattern of a Short-billed. To me the grapefruit body is only reliable while the bird is feeding.

Here is a juvenile Short-billed.  The Pacific version of Short-billed has the least amount of pattern in the tertials and greater coverts out of the three subspecies.

This gull on the left had me wondering what it was.  The incoming feathers on the back looked dark.  When it flew I could gain no more information.  It was so worn and faded , I could not see any pattern in the wing.  The tail was light brown, that is, what was left of it..

It looked small for a Herring Gull, but could not go anywhere else based on bill and head.

I thought third-cycle Herring Gull?  The long wings are an issue.  In the fog, the legs looked  pinkish, but maybe not.

It was pointed out to me that it is the larger race of a California Gull.

The flats had 15 dowitchers  (13 Short-billed), 45 Least Sandpipers and 4 Greater Yellowlegs.

After a trip to Costco for hotdogs (Huck was hungry as well) and a quick trip to the airport to see nothing but mud, I waited for the high tide at 3 pm so I could wander the river beach.

Still very foggy, maybe thickest of the day,  my first bird was a juvenile Baird's Sandpiper.

On thing to look for on Baird's are the long wings.  They are so long, they cross at the back end of the bird.

Often the cross is not symmetric, so look carefully.

The birds also have a very oval body shape, they look flat on top and bottom.

Shorebirds do not always follow the shape in the field guide.  This Baird's was obviously fat and round. It must have stuffed itself on tasty bugs.

Flock of Baird's.

The beach was littered with resting Western Sandpipers.  This Least on the left was very large compared to the normal Least you see.

Semipalmated Plover, Baird's Sandpiper and Western Sandpiper.

The bird on the left had a smaller sharp pointed bill compared to the normal Western (but I thought within range)  It had a gray nape with a nice rufous back . The line between gray and rufous was very sharp.  I noticed the longer primaries. Rufous on the coverts and some tertials. White edged back and scaps.  And note the dark smudge on side of breast.  I did my best not to cause bird to move, they deserve the rest and not cater to an eager birder. Little Stint?

My reference I use to study these things  (it looked like bird on plate 2 c) :


I should add I did not see the feet.  It never moved, as you can see the sand was soft. 

UPDATE:  So far I have one strike against accepting it as a Little Stint since it lacks a split supercilium and not enough field marks are visible. Plus you would need to see the lack of webbed feet to lock this id. Another strike is the bird is too big compared to the Western, Little Stint are Semipalmated Sandpiper in size or smaller.  And the two white braces are not bold enough.

Shorebirds like to hide in tire tracks during high tide and at night.

Sanderlings running on the beach.  Fat, round, and note the thick bill that tapers to a blunt tip.  I rushed on a photo on-line of a Sanderling, thinking Baird's; but not a real challenge when seen live and next to each other.

Sanderling and Western Sandpiper.

I want to find a Common Ringed Plover.  None here, funny how peeps look up beach toward the dunes while resting.  I guess foxes come out of the grass rather than the ocean.

Birding at its best on the river beach.  If you go, try high tide.  Walk down the middle of the beach.  Birds will be in dry sand and feeding in surf.  Walk very slowly, They will stay put as long as you are quiet.  Watch in front of you, those blobs of seagrass will have peeps hiding next to them.  I stop to stretch like a runner every so often, amazing how it works.  It relaxes the birds to see you are not stalking them.  Stretch like you are about to run a 100 yd dash.

A huge flock of California Gulls were on the beach.  I scanned them for odd birds.  Nothing seen.  Heermman's Gulls, Westerns and Caspian Terns mixed in. This photo shows a small chunk of the flock.

After a great time at the river beach I headed toward home, jumping on to the ocean beach at Sunset. A Black Turnstone was lost in the fog.

This Pacific Golden-Plover was on beach as well.  The bill is too big for an American.  It had nice gold tones as compared to a Black-bellied.  

I think this is a molting adult.  Pacific do not shed their primaries in their first winter.  So if this was a second-year bird, the primaries would be worn (brownish and worn on edges).  Not all Pacific that look like molting adults are indeed molting adults.  They could be second-year birds that never developed their full adult plumage.  In order to be sure it is a molting adult, you need to verify the wings are not heavily worn.  American Golden-Plover molt their wings their first winter. 

Ruddy Turnstone at the cove was my last shorebird.

This photo was from Pk Lot B mudflats a few weeks ago.  It shows the nice difference between Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs,  The Lesser looks like its neck and head are a tad small for the body.  Bill is uniformly thin. 

I thought I would stick this in at the end for fun.  Bar-tailed Godwit at Westport WA last week on a pelagic..can you spot it?

Thanks much for the visit.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Westport Pelagic 8-13-16

Today, 8/13/16, I went out of Westport, WA with Westport Seabirds.  I drove up from Portland via Astoria.  This White-winged Scoter was along the jetty at Parking Lot C at Fort Stevens on Friday afternoon.

The trip left the dock at 6 am.  The morning was foggy.  It did not take long to get out of the fog and into the sunshine.

We saw a handful of Tufted Puffin.  Hatch-year Tufted Puffin have dark bills and a dark eye.  The puffin develop ornamental plates in Feb-Apr and shed them in Sept.  It takes three or four years to get the full adult bill and all the plates. Based on the sketches in Pyle's book, Vol II, page 788, this looks to me like a second-year or third-year bird.  It has a light eye and a bill that does not look as bulbous as an adult.  Please add any info or corrections.

An adult bill that, as far as  I can tell, has not shed any of its plates.

We spotted a number of Mola Mola.  They hold the record for the world's heaviest bony fish.

Website dedicated to these cool fish:  Ocean Sunfish

A face only a parent could love.

Fishing boats pulling in their nets are pelagic birdfeeders.  Only thing that compares on land is a yard full of hummingbird feeders.

 Most of the birds we saw were behind these shrimpers. The most common birds out there today were California Gulls and Sooty Shearwater.  Next in line was the Pink-footed Shearwater.

To be a successful shearwater you need to race to eat the chum before a California Gull lands on top of you and grabs the fish.

The dark-white-dark underside of a Pink-footed.  This one is racing along the water to launch into air. Today was another great day to study the flight differences between Sooty and Pink-footed.  You need to know these birds well to ever hope to find a rare one.

Most of the birds I saw appeared to be in nice new plumage.

A nice hatch-year California Gull.  All of the Cal Gulls we saw out there were hatch-year birds.  It was explained the older birds are molting and prefer to stay closer to shore.  This was verified on the way in where adult gulls were everywhere.

This gull ID was debated as to what it was.  The bird did not look bulky enough to be an Olympic Gull (Western x Glaucous-winged), it was thought to contain some Herring.

Bulbous bill and a pale eye.

My favorite bird was this Arctic Tern sitting on a log.  Often the only view you have is one flying overhead or far away.

It was still in alternate plumage.

Short legs, the wings were an even gray.

40-50 Black-footed Albatross were seen.  My streak of always seeing an albatross continues.

Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel were seen through-out the day.

Once we got offshore, about 40 miles or so, we stopped to chum. We hoped to draw in a good bird.  Only birds that appeared were Fork-tailed and Leach's Storm-Petrels.  It was a great chance to study the nighthawk-like flight style of a Leach's.  They were free from dodging the larger birds.

 Their shape is different than a Fork-tailed.  They have longer,  narrower wings.

You can see the line that divides the white patch. This line varies on Leach's, easy to see on some , impossible on others.

Nice open wing of a Leach's Storm-Petrel.

Back in the harbor we saw a flock of Marbled Godwits.  Kind of a pale photo, but can you see the other bird?

This Bar-tailed Godwit was known to be in the Marbled Godwit flock.  We thought the tide would be too far out and the birds would not have roosted in the harbor yet.  Good thing it was not a real low tide.  All the godwits were in the harbor.

It looked to me to be the same size as a Marbled but shorter legs, the bill looked short with binoculars, but I can see now it was very long. It looks streaked on the side, and pale gray in color.  I thought it was an adult in molt.

Tons of Heermann's Gulls were on the jetty and in the harbor.  No hatch-year birds.  How many nesting failures can they endure before we see a drop in population?  I was thinking maybe the nesting failures do not take such a toll on the adults as compared to raising a chick.  Maybe they live longer so the species will make it through these tough periods?   

Thanks to the Monte Carlo, the crew, and  the guides for another great trip.

eBird lists:

Westport pelagic--inshore, Grays Harbor, Washington, USAug 13, 2016 6:00 AM - 6:53 AM
Protocol: Traveling
7.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Foggy for a while in morning, then clear for most of the day, overcast as we came close to shore on way back. Winds were calm then picked up as we got further out. Beaufort 2-4 later. Lead was Scott Mills, Spot 1 was Jim Danzenbacker, Spot 2 was Cara Borre. Bruce LaBar was also spotting. Boat personal and spotters were Phil and Chris Anderson.
1 Humpback Whale
11 species (+1 other taxa)

Sooty Shearwater  2
Brandt's Cormorant  4
Brown Pelican  262
Red-necked Phalarope  17
Common Murre  340
Pigeon Guillemot  4
Marbled Murrelet  4
Rhinoceros Auklet  11
Heermann's Gull  700
California Gull  36
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  202
Caspian Tern  1

Westport--Offshore waters, Grays Harbor, Washington, US
Aug 13, 2016 6:53 AM - 8:55 AM
Protocol: eBird Pelagic Protocol
30.0 mile(s)

1 Humpback Whale
11 species (+1 other taxa)

Black-footed Albatross  1
Pink-footed Shearwater  34
Buller's Shearwater  1     Our first of the year
Sooty Shearwater  245
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel  5
Parasitic Jaeger  1
Common Murre  255
Cassin's Auklet  8
Rhinoceros Auklet  1
Tufted Puffin  2
California Gull  13
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  1

Westport pelagic--Offshore Pacific County, Pacific, Washington, US
Aug 13, 2016 8:55 AM - 9:55 AM
Protocol: eBird Pelagic Protocol
15.0 mile(s)

Encountered 3 shrimp boats. One Pacific Sun Fish.
11 species

Black-footed Albatross  10
Northern Fulmar  1
Pink-footed Shearwater  400
Buller's Shearwater  1
Sooty Shearwater  100
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel  20
Scripps's Murrelet  2     spotted by Scott Mills.
Cassin's Auklet  5
Rhinoceros Auklet  1
Sabine's Gull  6
California Gull  350

Westport pelagic--Offshore Pacific County, Pacific, Washington, USAug 13, 2016 9:55 AM - 12:10 PM
Protocol: eBird Pelagic Protocol
35.0 mile(s)
Comments:   This was a transect between Willapa and Grays Canyon in deep water to 125W. All in Pacific County. We also put out a chum at 125W. Two sun fish.
10 species

Black-footed Albatross  2
Northern Fulmar  1
Sooty Shearwater  33
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel  10
Leach's Storm-Petrel  8
Long-tailed Jaeger  1     Our first of the year
Cassin's Auklet  14
Rhinoceros Auklet  7
California Gull  3
Arctic Tern  2

Westport pelagic--Offshore Pacific County, Pacific, Washington, USAug 13, 2016 12:10 PM - 1:50 PM
Protocol: eBird Pelagic Protocol
25.0 mile(s)
Comments: Encountered three shrimp boats heading back. 1 sunfish.
9 species

Black-footed Albatross  30
Northern Fulmar  5
Pink-footed Shearwater  535
Sooty Shearwater  89
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel  18
Rhinoceros Auklet  7
Tufted Puffin  1
Sabine's Gull  3
California Gull  506

Westport--Offshore waters, Grays Harbor, Washington, USAug 13, 2016 1:50 PM - 3:00 PM
Protocol: eBird Pelagic Protocol
15.0 mile(s)
Comments: 7 species

Pink-footed Shearwater  2
Sooty Shearwater  619
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel  1
Common Murre  172
Rhinoceros Auklet  5
Tufted Puffin  2
California Gull  4

Westport pelagic--inshore, Grays Harbor, Washington, US
Aug 13, 2016 3:00 PM - 4:02 PM
Protocol: Traveling
7.0 mile(s)
Mammals seen as we came in: 1 Humpback Whale, 12 Harbor Porpoise, 3 Harbor Seals, 4 Calif. Sea Lions and 7 Steller's Sea Lions.
16 species (+1 other taxa)

Sooty Shearwater  600
Brandt's Cormorant  89
Pelagic Cormorant  40
Double-crested Cormorant  50
Brown Pelican  200
Bar-tailed Godwit  1     in boat basin with 700 Marbled Godwits. photos
Marbled Godwit  700
Black Turnstone  4     on jetty
Red-necked Phalarope  12
Common Murre  515
Pigeon Guillemot  3
Rhinoceros Auklet  8
Black-legged Kittiwake  1
Heermann's Gull  1800
Mew Gull  1
California Gull  33
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  1200

Thanks for the visit.