Pelagic trip report:
Saturday, March 18, 2006
From Newport, Oregon offshore to Perpetua Bank, 32 nautical miles off Yachats, Oregon.
Captain Robert Waddell
The Bird Guide, Inc.
Guides: Greg Gillson, Tim Shelmerdine, Troy Guy, Lisa Sheffield
Short-tailed Albatross. Photo by Troy Guy
The forecast was touch and go all week. But the seas roughed up by Thursday's storm subsided enough for us to go ahead with our first trip of the year. Ocean conditions improved all day, and birding was, O so good!
Some BRANT were along the shore near the marina as we got underway. There were 4 LONG-TAILED DUCKS in the bay. An immature BALD EAGLE was perched on the north jetty. Crossing the bar we added WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS and RED-THROATED LOONS to the SURF SCOTERS and COMMON LOONS we had in the bay. We spotted a few PIGEON GUILLEMOTS near shore. A GRAY WHALE spouted nearby, but didn't resurface right away. The seas were quite bumpy here so we decided to head offshore rather than to spend any more time in the rough water near shore.
During the previous couple of weeks many dead seabirds had been washing up on the beaches of northern Oregon. Most were RHINOCEROS AUKLETS. March is the peak of RHINOCEROS AUKLET abundance. We were interested in what we would find. We found very few RHINOCEROS AUKLETS--a dozen birds rather than a couple hundred as typical for March.
Another abundant species in March is BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE. And we were not disappointed. As we headed offshore we encountered ever more of these handsome gulls. Nearly all were adults; we saw only a very few first year birds with their distinctly patterned wings.
Flocks of COMMON MURRES were encountered from shore up to 20 miles offshore. Shearwaters, though, were decidedly scarce. A few wintering SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATERS were spotted over Stonewall Bank, about 15 miles offshore. Otherwise these and the newly arrived SOOTY SHEARWATERS were widely dispersed.
On cue, the first BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS was spotted about 20 miles offshore. We had several here around the boat on a brief chum stop. We had encountered a few FORK-TAILED STORM-PETRELS near shore--they are seldom noted within 10 miles of shore. Several joined our chum slick, drinking up oil. They seemed unusually hungry--even going after the popcorn. We have never observed them doing that before!
We hadn't left our first chum stop long when cries of "albatross!" and "pink bill!" echoed from the stern. Yes, loyal passenger Wayne Hoffman had spotted his target bird, a SHORT-TAILED ALBATROSS, coming up from behind. We stopped the boat and all on board, including the Captain and deck hand, had excellent, if brief, views as one of the world's rarest birds soared past.
From here we headed over the Dog Legs and the Chicken Ranch to deeper water southward toward Perpetua Bank. NORTHERN FULMARS increased. Ecstatic passengers soon enjoyed the third species of albatross for the day when a LAYSAN ALBATROSS flew by!
Some distant JAEGERS flew by, including one that guide Tim Shelmerdine identified as POMARINE JAEGER, as expected so early in spring. As I was trying unsuccessfully to get Troy Guy on a distant shearwater I thought was a FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER, Tim Shelmerdine radioed from the bow that he had a distant FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER in view! Yes, the same bird. Unfortunately it was too distant for anyone else to ID (or even find), and was gliding quickly away.
Our final chum stop was about 5 miles north of where we usually stop on our Perpetua Bank trips. The main birds here included HERRING GULLS, NORTHERN FULMARS, BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES, and FORK-TAILED STORM-PETRELS. It wasn't long before 2 LAYSAN ALBATROSSES circled around and landed in the chum slick.
The 3-hour trip back to shore was uneventful, but there was a lot of cheerful chatter and shared camaraderie. We had calmer following seas and sunny skies, and lots of smiles.
It was cloudy, breezy, and cool along the beach near Seal Rock. As we made our way north along shore we encountered a GRAY WHALE that we spent a few minutes with. Finally we had good looks at a couple pairs of MARBLED MURRELETS among the swells. Back in the bay we spotted an adult BALD EAGLE on a spruce tree, and a few BLACK SCOTERS below the bridge. Our final new species for the day was a single DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT on the pilings under the bridge.
Everyone went home happy, including the guides who first stopped up the street at Local Ocean Seafoods to celebrate the day with the best fish tacos and tuna kabobs you can imagine. (It's still hard, though, to beat the halibut fish and chips across the bridge at Lighthouse Deli in South Beach.)
Species list (bay, nearshore (<5 miles), offshore) Brant 60, 0, 0 Surf Scoter 30, 500, 0 White-winged Scoter 0, 45, 0 BLACK SCOTER 5, 0, 0 LONG-TAILED DUCK 4, 0, 0 Red-throated Loon 2, 15, 0 Common Loon 5, 5, 0 Horned Grebe 1, 0, 0 Red-necked Grebe 3, 0, 0 Western Grebe 3, 2, 0 LAYSAN ALBATROSS 0, 0, 4 Black-footed Albatross 0, 0, 60 SHORT-TAILED ALBATROSS 0, 0, 1 Northern Fulmar 0, 0, 80 FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER 0, 0, 1 seen by few (Greg Gillson, Tim Shelmerdine) Sooty Shearwater 0, 0, 6 SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATER 0, 0, 8 Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel 0, 5, 55 Brandt's Cormorant 40, 50, 0 Double-crested Cormorant 1, 0, 0 Pelagic Cormorant 40, 40, 0 Great Blue Heron 1, 0, 0 Bald Eagle 2, 0, 0 Black Turnstone 2, 0, 0 Dunlin 2, 0, 0 Pomarine Jaeger 0, 0, 1 seen by few (Tim Shelmerdine) jaeger (sp.) 0, 0, 2 Mew Gull 15, 20, 0 Herring Gull 0, 0, 25 Thayer's Gull 0, 0, 2 Western Gull 50, 125, 25 Glaucous-winged Gull 5, 10, 3 Black-legged Kittiwake 0, 10, 80 Common Murre 0, 250, 400 Pigeon Guillemot 9, 25, 0 Marbled Murrelet 0, 6, 0 Cassin's Auklet 0, 0, 40 Rhinoceros Auklet 0, 4, 7 American Crow 5, 0, 0 Gray Whale 0, 2, 0 Dall's Porpoise 0, 0, 1 Harbor Porpoise 0, 1, 0 Northern Fur Seal 0, 0, 1 seen by few Harbor Seal 20, 5, 0 California Sea Lion 2, 0, 0 Steller's Sea Lion 0, 0, 1 seen by few (Wayne Hoffman)