Pelagic trip report:
Sunday, March 25, 2007

11 hours
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.

Boat: Misty
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.

Laysan Albatross. Photo by Greg Gillson.

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.

Tufted Puffin, transitional plumage. Photo by Greg Gillson.

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!

Black-legged Kittiwake, first-year. Photo by Greg Gillson.

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.

Sooty Shearwater. White restricted to the median underwing coverts, most extensive on the
greater coverts, not onto flight feathers. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Black-footed Albatross. Photo by Greg Gillson.

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.

Northern Fur Seal in classic "jug handle" pose, with flippers out of the water. Photo by Greg Gillson.

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)
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)
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

Thayer's Gull. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Herring Gull. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Tom Snetsinger attends to chumming duties, keeping the birds following. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Northern Fulmar. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Likely Herring x Glaucous-winged Gull (open wings). A pure Herring Gull would show dark secondaries.
Photo by Greg Gillson.

Black-footed Albatross. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Black-footed Albatross. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Northern Fulmar. Photo by Greg Gillson.

California Gull (front) and Herring Gull (back). Photo by Greg Gillson.

Laysan Albatross. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Black-footed Albatross. Photo by Greg Gillson.

The albatrosses and fulmars come close. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Black-legged Kittiwake, adult. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Bonaparte's Gull. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Steller's Sea Lion on offshore buoy. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Pigeon Guillemot. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Pelagic Birding Trips