Trip report by Tom Snetsinger:
Calm seas with a mild swell and minimal wind chop, set the stage for our wonderful 8-hour trip to Perpetua Bank and back to Newport. Our group of 10 passengers and 5 guides cruised slowly out the bay and got excellent looks at Oregon's three cormorant species, Common Loons, a Red-necked Grebe, a number of Harbor Seals, as well as a number of the other typical winter bay residents. From the jetty we cruised slowly south along the shoreline, searching particularly for Marbled Murrelets. We found 5-6 pairs of these uncommon starling-sized alcids, and everyone got diagnostic views of these birds in their stark black-and-white plumage.
Having seen our target nearshore species we headed west out to sea, where we encountered a small pod of Harbor Porpoises, Rhinoceros Auklets in their stunning breeding plumage, and 3 Gray Whales, migrating north. We spent a bit of time with the whales, seeing a few blows and a fluke, but decided to continue out in search of albatross. As we started to near our first chum spot, we began to amass a large gull flock behind the boat (drawn in by our popcorn trail). We stopped the boat for an impromptu class on gull identification during which we managed to identify 8 different gull species in a host of different plumages. A Pink-footed Shearwater and a couple of Northern Fulmars spiced up the action and a Laysan Albatross wheeled in amongst the gulls, just as we were ready to depart. The albatross continued away from the boat, but everyone got to see this magnificent bird.
We continued on to Perpetua Bank where drew three Black-footed Albatrosses in to the boat. These birds put on a great show, playing tug-of-war with pieces of beef fat. Time was running short, so we took a direct line back towards port. Excellent lighting and calm seas made alcid watching from the bow fun, not too cold, and remarkably dry. We had lots of opportunities to see Rhinoceros Auklets and to compare them well with the flying potatoes, most call Cassin's Auklets. As we neared shore several groups of striking black-and-white alcids appeared, and most got good looks at these Ancient Murrelets.
Still closer to shore a big flock of Black-legged Kittiwakes sitting on the water ahead of us, showed some promise for finding a Short-tailed Shearwater. From a distance it appeared there were a couple of dark shearwaters as well as a couple of alcids in the flock. As we approached, the birds took flight and Wayne Hoffman called out MANX SHEARWATER, as he put into words the name that several others couldn't get out of there mouths (with their jaws on the deck), when we saw two clean black-and-white shearwaters with clean white undertail coverts take flight. There was a huge scramble as those at the stern rushed forward to see the birds. They flew off and out of sight, but a large flock of gulls was foraging a little north, so we headed towards it and quickly picked out a Manx sitting on the water. It took flight before any good photos were obtained, so we checked out another group of gulls and again found a Manx Shearwater. This one allowed close approach and a number of people obtained photos and video of the bird. With that we headed into port, elated with the sighting, which was a life bird for many, including some of the guides. What a wonderful way to end the day!
Below is a tally of the species observed:
Bay Nearshore Open Ocean (3-32 miles offshore) Common Loon 14 7 0 Pacific Loon 2 2 0 Red-throated Loon 2 6 0 Red-necked Grebe 2 1 0 Western Grebe 23 0 0 Black-footed Albatross 0 0 4 Laysan Albatross 0 0 1 Northern Fulmar 0 1 8 Pink-footed Shearwater 0 0 8 Sooty Shearwater 0 0 12 Short-tailed Shearwater 0 0 4 MANX SHEARWATER 0 0 2 Brandt's Cormorant 60 8 2 Pelagic Cormorant 30 8 1 Double-crested Cormorant 25 4 0 Great Blue Heron 2 0 0 White-winged Scoter 0 18 0 Surf Scoter 50 10 0 Bufflehead 20 0 0 Greater Scaup 15 0 0 Surfbird 24 0 0 Black Turnstone 25 0 0 Mew Gull 8 4 10 Herring Gull 0 1 150 Thayer's Gull 0 1 15 Western Gull 14 30 40 Glaucous-winged Gull 8 2 150 Gl-wing x West. Gull 2 10 15 Gl-wing x Herring Gull 0 0 1 California Gull 1 0 4 Black-legged Kittiwake 3 30 120 Ring-billed Gull 0 0 1 Common Murre 0 8 51 Pigeon Guillemot 0 10 2 Rhinoceros Auklet 0 3 228 Cassin's Auklet 0 1 94 Marbled Murrelet 0 12 0 Ancient Murrelet 0 3 19 Rock Dove 25 0 0 European Starling 30 0 0 American Crow 30 0 0 California Sea Lion 16 0 0 Steller's Sea Lion 0 6 0 Harbor Seal 14 0 0 Gray Whale 0 0 3 Harbor Porpoise 0 6 0 Moon Jelly 0 0 X