Pelagic trip report:
Saturday, October 14, 2006
From Newport, Oregon offshore to Perpetua Bank, 32 nautical miles off Cape Perpetua, Oregon.
Marine mammals were the highlight of our birding trip, including two Blue Whales. 14 October 2006. Photo by Debbie Barnes
Captain Robert Waddell
The Bird Guide, Inc.
Guides: Greg Gillson, Tim Shelmerdine, Troy Guy, Tom Snetsinger
Humpback Whale flukes. 14 October 2006. Photo by Debbie Barnes
Different. That was the word of the day among the pelagic guides. After over 100 pelagic trips, one fifth in the month of October, we had never seen another day like it. Two weeks earlier we had tripled our record high number of South Polar Skuas. Though there were no such numbers this day, we spotted an incredible 17 HUMPBACK WHALES in the flat seas, many quite near shore.
An early brief look at a couple of FIN WHALES was our first ever, but just an appetizer for the awe-inspiring views of a pair of BLUE WHALES right along side the boat!. The huge geyser of a spout hung in the air. The dual blow-holes were like washtubs. The smooth, almost translucent blue back kept rolling and rolling until the small dorsal fin finally arose. And then, during the dive, the huge flukes lifted up like a rising apparition, water pouring off every surface. My knees are still weak from being so close to this huge, gentle, monster.
I've come to the conclusion that there is no "secret sause" as far as chum is concerned. With weeks of smooth seas and easily obtainable natural food available preceeding our trip, the birds couldn't have cared less about our intense chum preparation and selection. However, bring in a storm for a few days, and then the hungry birds would no doubt climb over each other once again to reach every last morsel of our offerings.
And what's up with the albatrosses? The 120 BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES we saw were an average number. But at least 80 were juvenile--the most we have ever seen--and the rest were very young birds with white undertail scores of zero or one on a scale of 0-5. There were no adults! The adults must have departed early this year for their mid-Pacific breeding islands.
Missing were large numbers of shearwaters, with no Flesh-footed or Short-tailed Shearwaters. Also lacking were Laysan Albatrosses, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Ancient Murrelets, and any phalaropes.
Not everything was different, however. We encountered numerous small flocks of migrating CASSIN'S AUKLETS. The flat seas were enjoyable and allowed us good looks at birds, both near shore and further out to sea.
All in all, a wonderful day at sea. Everyone enjoyed the trip with a couple of the out-of-state visitors revealing they had seen 12, and another 17, life birds. Quite a trip, indeed!
Species list: Cackling Goose 150 (Aleutian) White-winged Scoter 5 Surf Scoter 150 Black Scoter 1 Harlequin Duck 8 Common Loon 7 Pacific Loon 3 Western Grebe 100 Clark's Grebe 3 Red-necked Grebe 3 Black-footed Albatross 120 Northern Fulmar 350 Pink-footed Shearwater 45 Sooty Shearwater 60 Buller's Shearwater 15 Brown Pelican 10 Brandt's Cormorant 150 Double-crested Cormorant 30 Pelagic Cormorant 25 S. Polar Skua/Pom. Jaeger 1 Pomarine Jaeger 5 Parasitic Jaeger 2 Bonaparte's Gull 1 Heermann's Gull 25 Mew Gull 25 California Gull 250 Thayer's Gull 2 Herring Gull 4 Western Gull 50 Glaucous-winged Gull 4 Common Murre 120 Pigeon Guillemot 2 Marbled Murrelet 15 Cassin's Auklet 450 Rhinoceros Auklet 120 Fox Sparrow 1 (Sooty form, 20 miles to sea) Ocean Sunfish 8 FIN WHALE 1-2 BLUE WHALE 2 HUMPBACK WHALE 17 ELEPHANT SEAL 2 Northern Fur Seal 3 California Sea Lion 35 (plus 100+ on breakwater) Steller's Sea Lion 5 Harbor Seal 6 Dall's Porpoise 4 Harbor Porpoise 12