Pelagic trip report:
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Sunday, August 10, 2008
From Newport, Oregon, offshore 35 nautical miles, then (Saturday) south 10 nautical miles, to Perpetua Bank, 32 nautical miles off Yachats, Oregon. (Sunday we skipped Perpetua Bank and returned to waters closer to shore with more birds).
Saturday: Seas with low swell but 4-5 foot wind waves, winds from south at 15-20 knots. High 60F.
Sunday: Seas with low swell and small 2-3 foot wind waves, winds from south at 5-15 knots, calming as the day went along. High 65F.
Captain Robert Waddell
The Bird Guide, Inc.
Saturday: Greg Gillson, Tim Shelmerdine, Tom Snetsinger;
Sunday: Greg Gillson, Tim Shelmerdine, Russ Namitz, Tim Rodenkirk
Greater Shearwater. 18 miles off Newport, Oregon. 9 August 2008. First Oregon record. Photo by Dan Barton.
Greg's Rare Bird Report (before seeing photo):
Greater Shearwater, adult. 18 nautical miles west of Newport, Oregon. 9 August 2008, approximately 4:30 pm.
Sitting in flock of about 35 shearwaters, primarily Pink-footed, about 65-80 feet to north, sun to our back. 8x binoculars. After 45 seconds, flew off to the north about 250 feet then circled around and made a fly-by of the boat to within 35 feet. Total observation time was about 1-1/2 minutes.
On water: Size as large or slightly larger than Pink-footed Shearwater. Large head with white face and black cap. Large black bill. Neck, breast, and sides white to the waterline. Back brown, wings darker.
Flight: Grayish-brown scaly back with darker unpatterned upper wings. Molting 7-8th primary, indicating adult. White face, neck, under parts. Belly appeared white except for some hint of grayness far down on the lower belly and vent--very hard to see. Underwings mostly white, with dark trailing edge to flight feathers, not as wide as Pink-footed Shearwater. Axillaries white. White from neck formed obvious white hind neck collar visible in flight contrasting strongly with black cap and brown back--very much the pattern of a Long-tailed Jaeger. Rump and uppertail not observed. Nor did I pay attention to legs and feet.
Flight style. Strong flapping and gliding about 5-12 feet off the water. Most similar to Pink-footed Shearwater in flight style and height off water, but slightly shallower wing strokes and more rapid wing beats.
We had two good days at sea, with Sunday having less wind and thus calmer seas.
Day-to-day variation at sea is often as great as seasonal variation. This is seen in the bird numbers and variety. Saturday had lower numbers of birds (1458 birds of 36 species), Sunday had higher numbers (2270 birds of 33 species). There were 43 avian species recorded total.
Interestingly, tubenose numbers were very similar each day, except for albatrosses. On Saturday we had a few fly-by BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES, but none came to either of our two chum stops. Sunday, on the other hand, we easily chummed 30 albatrosses right up to the boat. On both days, the waters beyond 30 miles of shore were empty, whereas this is usually the domain where the albatrosses and fulmars are the most common.
Water temperatures were 52F near shore and 62F about 25 miles offshore and farther. It was in this area of rapid temperature change that we found more seabirds. Passengers were able to visibly see the change from the green-gray waters near shore to the blue "tuna water" waters offshore.
Saturday had no ARCTIC TERNS and only a couple of very distant SABINE'S GULLS. As a result, the only jaegers we saw on Saturday were a respectably high 9 PARASITIC JAEGERS. Sunday the migration was on with 80 ARCTIC TERNS and 40 SABINE'S GULLS. Those birds were responsible for the 15 LONG-TAILED JAEGERS but, interestingly, only 1 PARASITIC JAEGER, and 2 POMARINE JAEGERS. We saw one SOUTH POLAR SKUA each day about 8 miles offshore, a dark juvenile on Saturday, and a medium colored adult on Sunday.
In the "other wildlife" department, how do we explain no OCEAN SUNFISH on Saturday, but 12 on Sunday? We had lots of dark shadows under the water and a few fin tips above the surface to mark a high number of SHARKS both days (55-60). Most seemed NOT to be the regular Blue Sharks. But determining the species was difficult. Any other species of shark besides the Blue are supposed to be quite rare. Both days we were able to have tremendous views of HUMPBACK WHALES, some within a mile or two of the beach, with a couple of GRAY WHALES added on Sunday.
The event of the weekend was the discovery of Oregon's first GREATER SHEARWATER, a bird of the Atlantic Ocean. This is about the 13th North Pacific record, between California and Alaska. Most have been between August and October, and we have been expecting this bird for a couple of years. Alaska and British Columbia have one record each, Washington 2, and 9 in California (including some likely resightings of the same individual bird a few days apart in Monterey Bay). See: Rare Seabirds of Oregon and the West Coast: http://thebirdguide.com/pelagics/rare_seabirds.htm
Species August 9/August 10 * = seen by few or flying at great distance Surf Scoter 0/2 White-winged Scoter 2*/0 Pacific Loon 1/5 Black-footed Albatross 14/45 Northern Fulmar 50/75 Pink-footed Shearwater 125/120 GREATER SHEARWATER 1/0 (photographed first state record) Buller's Shearwater 6/5 Sooty Shearwater 65/110 Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel 25/50 Brown Pelican 5/8 Brandt's Cormorant 50/50 Double-crested Cormorant 10/10 Pelagic Cormorant 40/85 Great Egret 1/0 Peregrine Falcon 1/0 Osprey 1/0 Wandering Tattler 3/0 Whimbrel 0/9 Black Turnstone 3/5 Lesser Yellowlegs 1*/0 Western Sandpiper 40/0 Red Knot 0/2* dowitcher (sp) 20/0 Red-necked Phalarope 15/40 Red Phalarope 25/60 Heermann's Gull 250/120 California Gull 150/150 Western Gull 50/50 Glaucous-winged Gull 1/4 Sabine's Gull 5*/40 Common Tern 10/0 Arctic Tern 0/80 South Polar Skua 1/1 Pomarine Jaeger 0/2 Parasitic Jaeger 9/1 Long-tailed Jaeger 0/15 jaeger (sp.) 0/3 Common Murre 350/1000 Pigeon Guillemot 50/50 Marbled Murrelet 10/20 Cassin's Auklet 60/40 Rhinoceros Auklet 8/15 Tufted Puffin 0/1 California Sealion 15/15 Steller's Sealion 1*/0 Harbor Seal 5/5 Northern Fur Seal 1/0 Harbor Porpoise 5/15 Humpback Whale 9/5 Gray Whale 0/2 Coho (Silver) Salmon 0/3 (jumped from water) Ocean Sunfish 0/12 shark (sp.) 60/55 Well, we're better at birds and marine mammals than sharks.... All of the following species were claimed. Most seemed to be Soupfin or Salmon Sharks, rather than the usually common Blue Shark. Blue Shark (very thin; bluish, small dorsal) Soupfin Shark (thin; pale splotches on body, large lobe on upper caudal (tail) fin) Salmon Shark (robust; brown, dorsal fin brown with darker outline, white gills, tiny lobe on upper caudal (tail) fin) Shortfin Mako Shark (very robust; whitish dorsal fin)
Photos from our trip, in approximate order taken...