Pelagic trip report:
Saturday, September 13, 2008

11 hours
From Newport, Oregon, 35 miles W.

Seas rough, winds 18-20 knots.

Boat: Misty
Captain Rob Waddell
Newport Tradewinds Charter

The Bird Guide, Inc.

Guides: Greg Gillson, Tim Shelmerdine, David Mandell

An amazing adult female Wandering (Antipodean) Albatross. This is the second North American record for Wandering Albatross. Location was 35 nautucal miles west of Seal Rocks. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Trip Report by Tim Shelmerdine:

Windy conditions from the previous several days created ocean conditions that were difficult for some of the passengers, but the passengers and crew who did go out on this trip were richly rewarded for any discomfort.

The Misty, with Skipper Rob Waddell at the helm left the dock at our usual departure time of 7:00. The bay produced the expected three species of cormorants, BROWN PELICANS, our first COMMON MURRES and PIGEON GUILLEMOT, numerous gulls, SURF SCOTERS and also sightings of two PEREGRINE FALCONS.

Outside the bay, we cruised for our MARBLED MURRELETS, also sighting PACIFIC and COMMON LOONS, WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS. GRAY WHALES and HARBOR PORPOISES. Swells and wind chop gave us a bit of a rough ride as we headed offshore, and we entered a thin fog bank, but we quickly began tallying other expected species, such as NORTHERN FULMARS, SOOTY SHEARWATERS and both auklets. A lucky few saw a 'Sterna' tern likely a FORSTER'S (rare in coastal Oregon), and some saw BULLER'S SHEARWATER. Another elusive bird was the single FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER seen by a handful of passengers on the bow. PARASITIC and POMARINE JAEGERS checked out the boat, but for the most part, kept on flying by. Likewise, about 5 single FORK-TAILED STORM-PETRELS were spotted during the day, flitting briefly between the waves, but views were disappointing.

After a while we entered warmer water and the fog disappeared for the day. Seeing a number of birds in the area, and deciding we needed to take a break from the rough ride, we stopped and put out chum about 22 miles out. The slick attracted numerous PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATERS, NORTHERN FULMARS, and BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES. As we were leaving, a LAYSAN ALBATROSS flew by the side of the boat toward our chum. We stopped the boat and tried to relocate this bird, but it had continued flying off directly into the glare of the sun, with the result that this bird was missed by most.

Birds were nearly absent when we reached 30 miles offshore, so we turned south to where satellite data showed a cold water current lay. This had the added benefit of traveling with the wind and waves, making for a much smoother ride. We traveled less than 5 miles and began seeing many birds again, so decided to chum at this new location. and hit the jackpot at noon.

Again, BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES found us right away, and we were admiring an obliging SOUTH POLAR SKUA when a large, pale-headed albatross flew in and sat right down in the water among the albatrosses. This bird was obviously larger than the Black-footeds, and Tim Shelmerdine yelled out "Short-tailed Albatross", but Greg Gillson quickly shouted out this was not that species, noting field marks that eliminated that species. This meant that we were observing a true mega-rarity, one of the Royal or Wandering Albatross groups!

Photographers were encouraged to get lots of photos of the bird, and people were scrutinizing it, noting all field marks. We were fortunate that this bird stayed around for nearly 40 minutes, only reluctantly leaving the water when approached by the boat, and giving the photographers a magnificent fly-by at one point. Discussion during and after of the field marks concentrated on the uniform color of the upperparts, the pattern of white face and brown crown and nape, the wide breast band, the large pinkish bill and the underwing pattern. These discussions brought us to the conclusion that we had had the great fortune of documenting the second North American record of WANDERING ALBATROSS! A truly amazing and unexpected bird for The Bird Guide's crew and passengers.

The ocean conditions had by now improved, but even if they had not, everyone on board was in high spirits as we headed in. The return was highlighted by a few bow-riding DALL'S PORPOISES and very nice views of a pair of obliging HUMPBACK WHALES and the occasional auklet or shearwater.

We returned to the dock at Newport, a tired, but excited group of birders.

Black-footed Albatross. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Species list and estimated numbers:

Northern Pintail 30
Surf Scoter 20
White-winged Scoter 15
Red-necked Grebe 1
Western Grebe 5
Common Loon 2
Pacific Loon 12
WANDERING ALBATROSS 1 (adult female Antipodean form)
LAYSAN ALBATROSS 1 (seen by few)
Black-footed Albatross 40
Northern Fulmar 45
Sooty Shearwater 150
Pink-footed Shearwater 100
Buller's Shearwater 3 (seen by few)
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel 5
Brown Pelican 30
Double-crested Cormorant 10
Brandt's Cormorant 70
Pelagic Cormorant 15
Peregrine Falcon 2
Sanderling 3
Red-necked Phalarope 35
Red Phalarope 1 (seen by few)
Bonaparte's Gull (seen by few)
Heermann's Gull 35
Ring-billed Gull (photo only, with WAAL)
Herring Gull (photo only, with WAAL)
Western Gull 90
Glaucous-winged Gull 6
Sabine's Gull 2
South Polar Skua 2
Pomarine Jaeger 2
Parasitic Jaeger 4
Long-tailed Jaeger 1
Parasitic/Long-tailed Jaeger 2
Common Murre 150
Pigeon Guillemot 5
Marbled Murrelet 6
Cassin's Auklet 16
Rhinoceros Auklet 7

Gray Whale 2 (seen by few)
Humpback Whale 2
Dall's Porpoise 4
Harbor Porpoise 2 (seen by few)
Northern Fur Seal 1 (seen by few)
Steller's Sea Lion 1 (seen by few)
Harbor Seal 8
Ocean Sunfish 8
Salmon Shark 1 (seen by few)

Wandering Albatross dwarfs the Black-footed Albatrosses. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Wandering Albatross. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Wandering Albatross. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Wandering Albatross. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Common Murre. Photo by Greg Gillson.

South Polar Skua. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Pink-footed Shearwater. Photo by Greg Gillson.

Black-footed Albatross. Photo by Greg Gillson.