Pelagic trip report:
Saturday, July 5, 2003
(Nelson Island)

8-hours from Newport Oregon aboard Surfrider of Seagull Charters. Yaquina Bay, along shore north 5 miles to Yaquina Head then offshore Newport, Lincoln Co., Oregon offshore 33 miles to just west of Nelson Island (seamount). Most birds were 15-18 miles off Newport, though.
Trip guides: Tom Snetsinger, David Mandell, Troy Guy, Greg Gillson.

A lone Sooty Shearwater glides past. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Report by Tom Snetsinger:

Eleven participants and four guides assembled in Newport for Saturday's, July 5, pelagic trip. This was The Bird Guide's first 8-hour trip in the month of July, so we were eager to explore Oregon's offshore waters at this time of year. The date held promise for early migrants as well as summer residents.

We had spectacular water and sea conditions and a very cooperative group of mid-water trawlers that amassed thousands of seabirds in their wake. Our boat captain informed us of their presence, so after cruising along shore to the Yaquina Head seabird colony, we headed due west to try to locate these boats.

We sighted the boats about 18 miles west of Yaquina Head, and as we approached, we began entering a huge, dispersed flock of Black-footed Albatross, Northern Fulmars, Pink-footed and Sooty Shearwaters. We slowed our engines and motored slowly through the flock, working our way up to the boats. Still more birds had congregated in their wake. By this time we had seen well, most of the expected species, so continued out to deeper water.

The birds were few and far between out here at 33 miles (350 fathoms), but we stopped to chum for a 1/2 hour to see if we could draw in anything interesting. However, a couple of fly-by Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, a Black-footed Albatross that cruised by our slick, and a beautiful light-phase Northern Fulmar, were all that showed an interest.

With time to spare, we cruised back to the fishing boats where we found that a boat had lost or dumped a large mass of hake from one of their nets. The calm conditions had kept the fish together and we were able to stop the engines and drift right through a mixed flock of 200 Black-footed Albatross, 200 Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, along with many hundreds of Northern Fulmars, Sooty and Pink-footed Shearwaters that was foraging on the discarded fish. We kept our eyes open for the mega-rarity that might be drawn into a congregation such as this, but did not find one. Still, we had absolutely tremendous views of all of the species present. A South Polar Skua (one of two for the day) cruised in and over the mass of birds as we started our engines and headed for home. What a treat!

SPECIES                 Bay Nearshore Offshore
Pacific Loon              0         1        0
Black-footed Albatross    0         0      317
Northern Fulmar           0         0      621
Pink-footed Shearwater    0         0      510
Sooty Shearwater          0         0     2594
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel  0         0      273
Brandt's Cormorant       20        41        5
Double-crested Cormorant  4         3        0
Pelagic Cormorant        19        36        0
Brown Pelican             0         5        0
Great Blue Heron          1         0        0
Surf Scoter              25         6        0
White-winged Scoter       0         2        0
Red-necked Phalarope      0         0       17
Red Phalarope             0         0        1
South Polar Skua          0         0        2
Pomarine Jaeger           0         0        2
Glaucous-winged Gull      2         0        1
Western Gull            120        27       98
Heermann's Gull           5        11        1
California Gull           7         2       12
Caspian Tern              2         0        0
Common Murre             12      1378       94
Pigeon Guillemot         24        86        5
Marbled Murrelet          0         7        0
Cassin's Auklet           0         1        1
Rhinoceros Auklet         0         3        3
Tufted Puffin             0         0        2

Steller's Sea Lion        0         0        1
California Sea Lion       1         0        0
Harbor Seal               0        12        0
Dall's Porpoise           0         0       13

Blue Shark                0         0        7

By-the-wind Sailors       0         0    A few

Surfrider. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Black-footed Albatrosses. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Seabird swarm around spilled fish. Photo by Greg Gillson.

A Tufted Puffin on the high seas. Photo by Greg Gillson.