Pelagic trip report:
Sunday, January 2, 2005

Newport Special 5-hour trip
From Newport, Oregon offshore 15 miles

Tom Snetsinger tosses popcorn. Photo by Greg Gillson.

We had calm seas and clear skies. To get those conditions in winter we had a bit of frost early, but we were dressed warmly and had a great day. This trip coincided with the Yaquina Bay Christmas Bird Count, and we were able to add several species to the count total. The count circle goes out about 6 miles from the Yaquina River mouth. Our trip continued out to about 15 miles from shore.

Three PEREGRINE FALCONS over the bayfront marina started our day. A lone RED PHALAROPE was swimming in the bay along the north jetty on both the outgoing and return trips. Two ROCK SANDPIPERS, still showing some of their juvenile plumage were together on the jetty.

Offshore we spotted all three expected loons. A few COMMON MURRES and RHINOCEROS AUKLETS were found. We started chumming with popcorn and soon had quite a flock of WESTERN GULLS attending us as we moved offshore.

We soon had our first NORTHERN FULMARS of the day and some SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATERS. The shearwaters appeared to be first-year birds with rather fresh blackish primaries showing no molt, contrasting with sooty gray-brown wing coverts. Most adult and older immature birds are now in the New Zealand nesting islands. Many of them showed pale throats and dark hoods, and most had extensive pale under wing panels, not the pattern of white concentrated on the greater primary coverts that the summer Sooty Shearwaters show. The SHORT-TAILEDS circled the boat every few minutes, making it seem as if there were more of them than there actually were. A single BONAPARTE'S GULL flew by about 10 miles offshore.

RHINOCEROS AUKLETS were regular and we kept spotting a few CASSIN'S AUKLETS fly off as we approached, though none were seen well. As we approached the 15 mile end point of our trip the WESTERN and MEW GULLS decreased and HERRING and GLAUCOUS-WINGED were the main gulls. We managed to point out a half dozen THAYER'S GULLS during our half hour chum stop. A couple BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES flew over, investigating the melee. We gave up without Laysan Albatross or Ancient Murrelet, two of our target species.

We entered the Yaquina Bay count circle again, with over a dozen FULMARS still around. Sharp eyes picked out 2 SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATERS and a KITTIWAKE, though all three of these species were much more common offshore farther.

Back in the harbor we spotted a winter-plumaged PIGEON GUILLEMOT to end our trip list.

White-winged Scoter 5
Surf Scoter 94
Greater Scaup 2
Bufflehead 29
Harlequin Duck 1
Common Loon 16
Pacific Loon 15
Red-throated Loon 10
Western Grebe 4
Clark's Grebe 1
Horned Grebe 1
Northern Fulmar 56
Short-tailed Shearwater 12
Brandt's Cormorant 281
Double-crested Cormorant 9
Pelagic Cormorant 36
Great Blue Heron 1
Bald Eagle 1
Black Oystercatcher 3
Black Turnstone 8
Rock Sandpiper 2
Red Phalarope 1
Bonaparte's Gull 1
Mew Gull 56
California Gull 4
Herring Gull 31
Thayer's Gull 6
Western Gull 248
Glaucous-winged Gull 149
Black-legged Kittiwake 4 (1 imm.)
Common Murre 742
Pigeon Guillemot 1
Cassin's Auklet 16
Rhinoceros Auklet 81
Rock Pigeon 80
American Robin 100

Gray Whale 4
Harbor Porpoise 1
California Sea Lion 18
Harbor Seal 20

pelagic birding