Sunday, May 20, 2018

Westport Pelagic May 19, 2018

I went out on my second pelagic of the year out of Westport yesterday.  Calm winds and easy seas were forecast. We headed out to where some fishing boats were going for hake. With the huge numbers of birds and the great seas, it was an epic pelagic trip.

Hard to get a good shot of Pacific White-sided Dolphin with a zoom lens.

There was a major push of migrating Sabine's Gulls.  Totals approached 2500, I think that was a record for the Westport Seabirds survey.

On the way out we encountered large groups of Sooty Shearwater, for the second time this year we flushed up a Manx Shearwater, it avoided my camera once again.  Sotty Shearwater are easier to capture.

We had near record numbers of Black-footed Albatross.  Close to a total of 1700 were seen.  Many different age classes were seen.  This is a young bird, it lacks any white in undertail.

Most Northern Fulmars are nesting up in Alaska, we did find a few  These birds are not nesting this year.

We did see one Laysan Albatross, I think one.  We saw bird and was racing after where it flew, I spotted it on the ocean as we raced by.  We got up to where everyone thought the bird went.  It flew in from the direction this bird was sitting, so not sure if there were two or one in area.

No bands were detected, I would still assume it is a Mexican bird.

The numbers of birds around the fishing fleet was amazing, here is one of two main processing boats in area.  The hake were down near the bottom, it is about 600 feet deep here if I recall correctly.

The true fun of pelagic birding is scanning through flocks of birds like these. Black-footed Albatross, Sooty and Pink-footed Shearwater, Cal Gulls and others, Sabine's Gull and a few Fork-tailed Storm- Petrel.  

California Gull.

I always like to look at all the molt patterns, Sooty and Pink-footed were both in heavy molt.  The white bases to the feathers can be seen when the coverts molt.

When Sooty Shearwater take off, they often tuck their wings back in an odd dash across water.

We achieved the skua slam, all four seen.  Long-tailed, Parasitic, Pomarine Jaegers and South Polar Skua.

Here you can see how falcon like a Parasitic Jaeger can look when it is chasing a Sabine's Gull. Parasitic are very aggressive and do not give up the chase easily.  I assume it was trying to get gull to upchuck its food.

The Sabine's did a upward swoop.  Then dove to dodge the jaeger.

South Polar Skua chasing a California Gull.

A short chase and the skua left bird alone.

Look at those nasty talons on a skua.

We also had numerous passerines fly by the boat.  I felt bad for them with all the gulls, jaegers and skuas in the area.  These two pals were trying to make it back to land when a Western Gull flew into area, the birds dashed over to our boat for some security.  Pine Siskin and Orange-crowned Warbler.  We had a few Wilson Warblers, a Yellow-rump, kinglets (I missed these) and a pewee type bird.

Several flocks of Red-necked Phalarope were seen, a few Red were seen as well.

The extensive black to tips of primaries and the large head made me think this was a Common Tern. We saw Arctic Terns in the morning, Common on way back in.

Some final group shots, a great day with great birds.

Another cool thing we saw was a Salmon Shark. It swam up to the boat, I thought it was a small shark based on dorsal fin, but when we looked under the water we saw the massive body of the shark, very fun.  Need to figure out how to use a gopro or some such thing for some underwater shots.

Thanks to Bill, Scott and Mike, and thanks to Phil, Chris and Monte Carlo for getting us out to the birds.

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