Pelagic trip report:
Sunday, March 25, 2007
From Newport, Oregon, offshore 33 nautical miles, then south 10 nautical miles, to Perpetua Bank, 32 nautical miles off Yachats, Oregon.
Seas gentle 5-7 foot swells, wind waves <1 foot. Rained all night, but skies totally clear by mid morning, wind SW 5-10 knots. Low of 45 F, high 55 F.
Captain Robert Waddell
Deck hand Shannon
The Bird Guide, Inc.
Guides: Greg Gillson, Tim Shelmerdine, Tom Snetsinger, David Mandell
Horned Puffin, non-breeding plumage. Photo by Bruce Craig.
The weeks preceding this trip saw unprecedented numbers (150+) of dead Horned Puffins washing up onto Oregon beaches. This species likely winters in small numbers very far offshore from Alaska to central California. We have encountered this species only once before on our trips--two birds about 60 and 90 miles offshore in April 1998. Imagine our delight in finding 7 Horned Puffins offshore, from 15-33 miles offshore. We were reminded, though, that our sightings were the result of distress for these birds. We found two freshly dead birds floating about 15 miles offshore. We dipped one out with a net and found it was skinny and apparently starved.
We were treated to a single Laysan Albatross on our trip. It was found at our furthest point offshore, 33 nautical miles west of Newport. This is a new location for us, putting us about 8 miles further offshore than in recent years. We hope this leads to more of the deeper water birds on trips this year. We encounter these birds on about half our trips from mid October to mid May.
We also found three Tufted Puffins. The one photographed above is in a transitional plumage, between winter and breeding plumages. Much of the bill was dull and the face pale.
We set a new high number with 500 Rhinoceros Auklets, all in bright breeding plumage. And we've never encountered so many Common Murres offshore. We can only grossly estimate that we saw at least 35,000 birds!
Another specialty of March, with higher numbers than any other time of year, is the Black-legged Kittiwakes. We saw about equal numbers of adults and the strikingly patterned first-year birds.
The bright sunny skies actually made some identifications more difficult. The stark lighting made it difficult to see underwing patterns on the dark shearwaters. Sun reflected strongly off the underwings of birds as they tipped up, but then went quite dark as the under wings passed into shadow. More than ever, shape and flight style was necessary to pick out birds. Still, we ended up with a lot of frustratingly undifferentiated Sooty/Short-taileds.
Of course, the Black-footed Albatrosses are always crowd-pleasers. Many of the birds were dark immatures, but there were a few older birds with white rumps and under tail coverts.
We had a few marine mammals, including two pods of Dall's Porpoises that raced the boat for a bit. There were also several Northern Fur Seals offshore, as typical for this time of year.
Species list Surf Scoter 650 White-winged Scoter 70 Long-tailed Duck 2 (bay, seen by few, Russ Namitz) Harlequin Duck 3 (bay) Red-breasted Merganser 2 (bay) Common Loon 25 Red-throated Loon 30 Red-necked Grebe 2 Double-crested Cormorant 15 (bay) Brandt's Cormorant 45 Pelagic Cormorant 250 (high number) LAYSAN ALBATROSS 1 Black-footed Albatross 60 Northern Fulmar 175 Short-tailed Shearwater 2 Sooty Shearwater 20 Sooty/Short-tailed Shearwater 5 Black-bellied Plover 1 (bay) Black Turnstone 2 (bay) Pomarine Jaeger 1 Bonaparte's Gull Mew Gull 3 (bay) California Gull 20 Herring Gull 50 Thayer's Gull 2 Glaucous-winged Gull 35 Western Gull 75 Glaucous-winged x Western Gull 40 Herring x Glaucous-winged Gull 1 (photos, not ID'd on boat) Black-legged Kittiwake 75 Common Murre 35,000 (high number) Pigeon Guillemot 200 (high number) Marbled Murrelet 9 Cassin's Auklet 18 Rhinoceros Auklet 500 (high number) Tufted Puffin 3 HORNED PUFFIN 7 (+2 dead) Harbor Seal 8 (bay) NORTHERN FUR SEAL 6 California Sea Lion 15 Steller's Sea Lion 8 Harbor Porpoise 2 (seen by few, Tom Snestinger) Dall's Porpoise 8 RISSO'S DOLPHIN 2 (seen by few, John Sullivan) Gray Whale 2