April 29, 2000

14 hour deep water trip out 70 miles from Newport

Highlights of the April 29th deep water trip from Newport, Oregon, include 2 LAYSAN ALBATROSSES and 11 LEACH'S STORM-PETRELS which chummed to the boat, several close flocks of breeding-plumaged RED PHALAROPES, and point blank views of CASSIN'S and RHINOCEROS AUKLETS and MARBLED MURRELETS due to the calm conditions late in the afternoon.

A few big swells were left from Thursday's gale with 22-foot seas, but they had mostly settled down by our departure at sunrise on Saturday morning. We started the day with no wind and 10-12 foot swells and improving conditions throughout the day. Winds came up after noon and it got a little rougher, but about 4 PM winds abated suddenly and an eerie calm set in with glassy seas after that-an amazing and rapid transformation.

Our plan for the day was to travel out directly to 45 miles offshore where we would chum for birds an hour before continuing out to deep water. This segment of our trip would determine our average boat speed, which would then dictate how far offshore we could go and how much chum time we would have. We averaged 15 knots, but we scheduled our day for 14 knots, to go out 70 miles and chum a total of 3-1/2 hours. In reality, no birds chummed to the boat after the calm set in, and after which we averaged 19 knots, so we gained an hour of extra time near the end of our day.

We had sunny skies early and the white wing linings of Sooty Shearwaters reflected the sun and flashed ahead of us as we made our way out past the migrating PACIFIC LOONS near shore.

About 30 miles offshore there was a single cloud with showers at its leading edge. Here the winds picked up and at least 800 SOOTY SHEARWATERS swarmed around. We also noted the first albatrosses, and a few began following the boat. It wasn't long before someone noticed a white albatross, so we stopped the boat and threw out some chum. Eight BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES landed near the boat, and a single LAYSAN ALBATROSS made a couple of circles around the boat before heading off. We only spent about 10 minutes here before continuing on our way out to 45 miles offshore.

We picked up our first FORK-TAILED STORM-PETRELS on our way to 45 miles. When we reached this distance we stopped and chummed for an hour. Eventually we counted 65 BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES around the boat. Most were within 5-30 feet of the boat, begging handouts and arguing over the scraps. Another LAYSAN ALBATROSS circled the boat for about 45 minutes before finally joining the other albatrosses. After that it swam left up near the boat for the delight of all, allowing for many photo opportunities.

We then set out for deep water another hour and a half until we reached 70 miles offshore where we chummed again. On our way we spotted some NORTHERN FUR SEALS, deep water mammals, holding their flippers out of the water as they tend to do. We also picked up another deep water specialty: LEACH'S STORM-PETRELS. A flock of about 70 RED PHALAROPES flushed from the water ahead of the boat, then circled around and flew with us. Many were in bright red breeding plumage, flashing striking black-and-white wings. When we stopped to chum in deep water we had about 11 LEACH'S STORM-PETRELS and 25 FORK-TAILED STORM-PETRELS flying around and feeding in our slick. A couple POMARINE JAEGERS flew around chasing birds and a surprising PARASITIC JAEGER harassed the storm-petrels. These birds are most common within 10 miles of shore and I've rarely seen them beyond 20 miles from shore. Also unusual so far from shore was a flock of about 20 WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS and a lone PACIFIC LOON both apparently migrating north high overhead. A single light-phased NORTHERN FULMAR was the only one seen all day. They are irregularly abundant to absent in late spring and summer. This year looks to repeat last summer's low numbers.

We headed back toward shore and chummed again at 60 miles, without anything notable. South winds picked up and wind waves made for some bumpy conditions. All of a sudden, about 35 miles from shore the winds stopped, the wind waves subsided, and the huge swells disappeared! Bunches of SOOTY SHEARWATERS and scattered BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES sat on the glassy-smooth water, unable to soar without at least some breeze. We couldn't even chum in an albatross, so we changed plans. We could see birds sitting on the water far ahead, so we pointed out sitting birds and the Captain followed our lead. We slowly approached SOOTY SHEARWATERS, CASSIN'S AUKLETS, and RHINOCEROS AUKLETS until all were satisfied with good, close, looks.

Since we gained some time with the smooth seas, we headed in toward the Yaquina Head COMMON MURRE nesting colony and noted many nearshore birds off the headland as well. We continued just off the beach toward the Yaquina Bay jetties. We encountered 15 MARBLED MURRELETS, mostly in pairs, and many silhouetted by the setting sun. We returned to port about 7:30 PM. We had along, but very enjoyable, day.

Bay list  
Common Loon 8
Double-crested Cormorant 1
Brandt's Cormorant 10
Pelagic Cormorant 2
Surf Scoter 20
White-winged Scoter 10
Black Turnstone xx
Western Sandpiper 50
Pigeon Guillemot 40
Rock Dove xx
American Crow xx
Other marine species  
California Sea Lion 25
Harbor Seal 1

Ocean list  
Common Loon 4*
Pacific Loon 7
Western Grebe 2*
Black-footed Albatross 116
Northern Fulmar 1
Pink-footed Shearwater 3
Sooty Shearwater 1317
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel 67
Double-crested Cormorant 1*
Brandt's Cormorant 50*
Pelagic Cormorant 10*
Surf Scoter 85*
White-winged Scoter 20
Western Sandpiper 25*
Red Phalarope 83
Pomarine Jaeger 2
Parasitic Jaeger 1
California Gull 4
Herring Gull 1
Western Gull 105
tern (sp.) (presumed Arctic) 2
Common Murre 1565*
Pigeon Guillemot 45*
Cassin's Auklet 33
Marbled Murrelet 15*
Rhinoceros Auklet 10
Other marine species  
Dall's Porpoise 4
Harbor Porpoise 2*
Steller's Sea Lion 1*
Northern Fur Seal 4
velella (small blue jellyfish with sails) xx
* = most (or all) seen within 3 miles of shore