Monday, August 29, 2016

Fall Deepwater Trip Highlights

The 12 hour trip on August 27 was one amazing pelagic trip.  We were aboard Enterprise, out of Newport Tradewinds, skippered by Dave DeBelloy, with deckhand Isaac.  We made it to 49.5 miles offshore (1280 fathoms or 7680 feet depth), and chummed there and earlier at 30.6 miles offshore (180 fathoms or 1080 feet depth).  At the first chum stop, Russ Namitz spotted a very cooperative HAWAIIAN PETREL, which unlike our spring bird, stayed around long enough for everyone to see it and for multiple photos to be taken.  Ironically, with two trip cancellations this year, Oregon Pelagic Tours has had Hawaiian Petrel on 100% of its trips in 2016!  (This is an example of how statistics can be misleading, as both of our trips to date were the only two 12 hour/deepwater trips.)  Two LAYSAN ALBATROSS were thought to be the same bird until Wayne Hoffman looked closely at photos of the underwing and noted two distinct patterns. Not too long ago, Laysan Albatross in August would been considered very unusual.  It is likely the increase of breeding Laysans off Mexico has helped to account for birds being seen off Oregon pretty much year-round now.  Not rare, but Sabine's Gulls came close to the boat and gave us incredible views, and we had good views of numerous Arctic Terns as well.  One LEACH'S STORM-PETREL raced by the boat and was seen by few.  Our final rarity came on the way back in, when David Mandell spotted a SCRIPPS'S MURRELET.  We were able to get nice looks and some photos of this bird as well.  A great trip -- more details and photos to follow.  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

All Set for our 12 Hour Pelagic, 8/27

We have a nice weather forecast, a good group of birders and well-prepared guides -- we are good to go for our fall deepwater pelagic coming up this Saturday, on August 27th.  This one is for the early birds (birders) -- we will be meeting at Newport Tradewinds at 5:30 am and departing at 6:00.  Our goal again is to cross the 1000 fathom depth contour, just as we did last spring when we found our Hawaiian Petrel.  No guarantees on pterodroma sightings, however.  There are still a couple of spots available on this once a year fall trip.

Big Ship Pelagic

I just got back late last night from a cruise aboard the MS Rotterdam.  As I have gotten older, I have found I enjoy the cruising life style, so different from other kinds of travel.  Cruises offer an excellent (although albeit expensive) opportunity to observe seabirds for extended periods of time, and many birders on the West Coast take advantage of so-called repositioning cruises to look for birds between California and Alaska.  The cruise I was on took me to the North Atlantic: from Boston to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands, Ireland, and back.  We had thick fog some days, high winds most days, and experienced both calm and rough seas.  As one would expect, there was not a lot of species diversity over the deep water far from land.  Northern Fulmars accompanied us on most segments of the journey, and Northern Gannets were also quite common.  New seabirds for me were Atlantic Puffin, Iceland Gull and Great Skua (the latter two in Greenland and/or European waters only).  Other seabirds I got to enjoy were Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Leach's and Wilson's Storm-Petrels, and numerous gulls.  Marine mammals included fin, minke and humpback whales; Atlantic white-sided dolphins; harp, gray and ringed seals, and one sperm whale.  On land, I saw a long overdue Yellow-bellied Flycatcher for the ABA area, saw and photographed good numbers of Ringed Plover in Iceland (a species I had wanted to see in the field for a long time), a variety of eastern warblers, and reacquainted myself with Great and Blue Tits (the European chickadees).  I probably am not as conscientious a birder as many of you would be when I cruise, so am sure my lists could be bigger, but I still find birding on a cruise to be very satisfying.