October 21, 2000
9-hour pelagic trip from Newport, Oregon, to Perpetua Bank (32 nautical miles west of Yachats), Oregon.
SHORT-TAILED ALBATROSS! (Keep reading)
Our last trip of 2000 was certainly exciting! Huge swells remained from Thursday night's gale, but winds were light for Saturday's pelagic trip. Seas averaged 12.5 feet which is quite large. As we looked at the forecast, it was touch and go all week as to whether we would cancel the trip. Nevertheless, 25 participants braved the conditions, and most, I think, were glad they did. We had a brief shower as we crossed the bar at Yaquina Bay, but then had sunny skies for the rest of the day.
After the white-knuckle bar crossing we had 2 hours of fairly rough bouncing as we traveled directly into the swells at full speed (15 knots). Ahead, we spotted the long hind flippers of a NORTHERN FUR SEAL sticking out of the water. So we slowed for a look. There were lots of birds flying around, so we were glad to stop and rest for a bit. While we lingered, someone spotted a LEACH'S STORM-PETREL flitting around the boat. It remained for most to see, though it was difficult to spot in the swells and rough water. This is only the second Leach's I've seen over shallow water; most are out beyond 60 miles--especially in the non-breeding season. So, we chummed here, about 25 miles off Newport. We had most of the regular birds, and 2 BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES came in. After a half hour I said: "Let's go out to where there are more albatrosses, and maybe we can get a Laysan."
Our second chum stop was about 34 miles off Newport. We attracted about 25 BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES, and a LAYSAN ALBATROSS did join us! We also spotted 2 FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATERS and a couple SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATERS, one feeding within 15-50 feet of the boat for the entire hour. We still had plenty of time, so we headed south to the 1996 "Shy Albatross spot" off Perpetua Bank. Traveling sideways to, or with, the waves was MUCH nicer and smoother for the rest of the day. I knew we were approaching our destination when we came across hundreds of birds, including more albatrosses, sitting on the water.
The SHORT-TAILED ALBATROSS appears:
We were trailing hundreds of gulls, fulmars, and dozens of albatrosses from our previous chum stop. I was in the stern, encouraging the birds to keep following by tossing out small quantities of chum--ground beef fat in oil and also some popcorn. It happened just as I have imagined it a hundred times.... A huge, dark, broad and flat-winged, albatross comes up our wake. I raise my binoculars with one hand, find the walkie-talkie microphone button with the other. Huge pink bill. "SHORT-TAILED ALBATROSS. STOP THE BOAT!" I saw Tim Shelmerdine on the side of the boat look up with a stunned look on his face as he saw the bird. Then pandemonium ensued as the boat stopped and people on the bow rushed back to get just a glimpse of the bird flying away. Total time: 20 seconds. We chummed for a half hour, then made several wide circles at slow speed, trailing chum, but the bird never reappeared.
Brief description: Juvenile SHORT-TAILED ALBATROSS. Large; very dark sooty brown throughout. Bill bright pink, large, wide, rather straight on the upper culmen with the base well up on the forehead. Pale feet trailed noticeably behind short, wide tail. Soaring, never flapped. Wings held rather flat and stiffly, straight out from the body, rather broad-winged. The bird approached to within 150 feet of the boat, then wheeled up and glided away to the east.
At this chum stop a second LAYSAN ALBATROSS, this one with more black in the wing linings, flew by. Anticlimactic. There were more WESTERN GULLS than I've ever seen offshore, perhaps feeding after the storm. Of the thousand gulls, half were WESTERN, while CALIFORNIA and HERRING GULLS made up the remainder. There were about 600 NORTHERN FULMAR at this place, but they were also evenly spread across all the areas we visited.
We had numerous JAEGERS, primarily PARASITIC within 10 miles of shore, and mostly POMARINE out 20-30 miles offshore. Because of the rough conditions we were not always able to raise our binoculars long enough to identify jaegers flying by, so we had several go unidentified, but there were no Long-taileds. Likewise there were many CASSIN'S AUKLETS and PHALAROPES flushing ahead of the boat. most were RED PHALAROPES, and the only RED-NECKED identified were within 5 miles of shore, but many small flocks went unidentified. As we headed to shore we kept encountering single SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATERS and some RHINOCEROS AUKLETS, as well as glimpsing a couple ANCIENT MURRELETS nearer shore both on the outward trip and inbound.
Notably low numbers after the 557 birds 2 weeks ago, were Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, with 1 or 2 spotted briefly.
The Bird Guide, Inc.
Species list (rough estimates after the trip, as difficult to record numbers during the trip) Yaquina Bay: Common Loon 35 Western Grebe Double-crested Cormorant Brandt's Cormorant Pelagic Cormorant Brown Pelican Great Blue Heron Surf Scoter Harlequin Duck Black Turnstone Surfbird Black Oystercatcher Heermann's Gull Mew Gull Western Gull Pigeon Guillemot 1 Rock Dove Belted Kingfisher European Starling California Sea Lion 20 Harbor Seal ocean: Common Loon 2 Pacific Loon 34 Red-throated Loon 3 Pelagic Cormorant 4 Brown Pelican 1 SHORT-TAILED ALBATROSS 1 subadult (44 22.21 N, 124 50.87 W) Black-footed Albatross 40 LAYSAN ALBATROSS 2 Northern Fulmar 1100 Pink-footed Shearwater 80 FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER 3 Short-tailed Shearwater 24 Sooty Shearwater 60 Buller's Shearwater 45 LEACH'S STORM-PETREL 1 Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel 2 Surf Scoter 28 White-winged Scoter 1 Black-bellied Plover 12 Red Phalarope 50 Red-necked Phalarope 2 phalarope (sp.) 50 Pomarine Jaeger 8 Parasitic Jaeger 10 jaeger (sp.) 7 Bonaparte's Gull 3 California Gull 350 Herring Gull 200 Thayer's Gull 7 Western Gull 610 Glaucous-winged Gull 2 Sabine's Gull 3 Black-legged Kittiwake 5 Common Murre 65 Cassin's Auklet 100 ANCIENT MURRELET 5 Rhinoceros Auklet 70 Pacific White-sided Dolphin 1 Northern Fur Seal 1 Ocean Sunfish 21 (including 2 groups of about 8-10 fish less than a foot across) Blue Shark 1