Pelagic Trip Report:
Saturday, August 11, 2001
Newport, Oregon to Yaquina Head to 15 miles offshore
Summary by David Mandell:
Everyone on Saturday's four-hour trip from Newport to 15 miles offshore got some great views of a wide variety of pelagic species. The glassy seas made excellent viewing conditions for alcids. By the time we reached Yaquina Head we already had gotten great looks at Pigeon Guillemot, Common Murre, Marbled Murrelet, Rhinoceros Auklet and Cassin's Auklet. Our first Cassin's Auklet was not only unusually close to shore, but also extremely cooperative. The auklet spent a good five minutes swimming and diving next to the boat, often in close company with a Common Murre. The Murre absolutely dwarfed the tiny auklet. The even tinier Marbled Murrelets were equally cooperative. On our approach to Yaquina Head we saw about twenty-five of these birds both in their smudgy brown adult and in their crisp black-and-white juveniles plumage.
At Yaquina Head we were entertained by three Gray Whales. The Gray Whales put on quite a show, surfacing right next to our boat, and showing us their flukes as they went down for their deeper dives. We could even smell their breath (not the most pleasant of smells)!
The trip offshore was also very productive. Despite the cool foggy weather, visibility was quite good, and we were able to spot birds from a reasonable distance. We quickly came across large numbers of Sooty Shearwaters, as well as a smattering of Pink-Footeds. While most of the Shearwaters were flying low over the water, quite a few were sitting in flocks of 5 to 100 birds. We came across quite a number of these sitting flocks as we headed out to deeper water. One of these flocks also included a good 200 or more Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels! In the middle of another of these flocks was an Ocean Sunfish. Everyone got excellent views at this bizarre looking flat fish before it slowly sank deeper into the water. We were also treated to a hummingbird of unknown species zipping along just above the tops of what little waves there were.
On our way out to deeper water we also spotted a few Fulmars, a couple of Buller's Shearwaters, flocks of Red-necked Phalaropes and our first Pomarine Jaeger, a beautiful dark morph adult. We saw a total of five Pomarine Jaegers, all of which were adults and all of which except for one had complete tail-streamers with their twisted spatula-shaped ends. The final Jaeger of the day was sitting on a floating log in between four immature California Gulls!
While the calm seas and near windless conditions made the viewing of alcids and other birds on the way out easier, these weather conditions hurt us when we reached the deeper water. We stopped at fifteen miles out and began throwing out popcorn and chum. But without the wind to carry the smell of the fish oil and to keep the bigger tubenoses aloft, the chum did not pull in the birds. A few Shearwaters and Fulmars, as well as a smattering of gulls, made brief passes over the chum slick, but we never attracted many birds. Missing Black-footed Albatross was disappointing. These giant birds were just not going to put on a show for us without more wind.
After it became clear that chumming was not working and that it was getting late, we decided to head back to port. We were rewarded on the way back with more excellent views of Fulmars , all three Shearwaters, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels and Red-necked Phalaropes, as well as of an immature Brown-headed Cowbird that flew with the boat sometimes leading, sometimes following for several miles.
Trip List: Yaquina Bay (out/return): Brown Pelican 2 Pelagic Cormorant 5 Brandt's Cormorant 50 Surf Scoter 20 Black Turnstone 1 Surfbird 30 Ring-billed Gull 3 California Gull 100+ Heermann's Gull 100+ Western Gull 250+ Caspian Tern 8 Pigeon Guillemot 30 California Sea Lion Harbor Seal Nearshore to Yaquina Head: Common Loon Sooty Shearwater 50 Pelagic Cormorant 30 Brandt's Cormorant 100 Surf Scoter 80 California Gull 20 Western Gull 20 Heermann's Gull 50 Common Murre 40 Pigeon Guillemot 30 Marbled Murrelet 25 Cassin's Auklet 1 Rhinoceros Auklet 4 Harbor Porpoise Gray Whale 3 Travel out to 15 miles: Northern Fulmar 2 Pink-footed Shearwater 8 Buller's Shearwater 2 Sooty Shearwater 600+ Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel 220 Red-necked Phalarope 50 Pomarine Jaeger 4 California Gull 50 Western Gull 30 Common Murre 20 Hummingbird sp. 1 California Sea Lion 1 Ocean Sunfish 2 Chum: Northern Fulmar 2 Pink-footed Shearwater 2 Sooty Shearwater 20 Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel 3 Red-necked Phalarope 40 California Gull 10 Western Gull 5 Return to Port: Loon sp. 1 Northern Fulmar 8 Pink-footed Shearwater 15 Buller's Shearwater 4 Sooty Shearwater 400 Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel 30 Pelagic Cormorant 5 Brandt's Cormorant 40 Red-necked Phalarope 100 Pomarine Jaeger 1 California Gull 50 Western Gull 40 Common Tern 1 Common Murre 30 Pigeon Guillemot 10 Cassin's Auklet 3 Rhinoceros Auklet 4 Brown-Headed Cowbird 1 Harbor Porpoise