Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Fall season summary

The 2018 fall season ended last Saturday for Oregon Pelagic Tours, and what a fall it was! Here are some of the highlights: 
We were lucky on the weather, and every trip in the summer and fall made it out. We even hit the one day window of  decent weather on our last trip, October 27. If we had been scheduled one day on either side, we would had to cancel. 
Newport fall pelagics had LAYSAN ALBATROSS on every trip, usually multiples. BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS, always a crowd pleaser, again showed on every pelagic. 
The best bird was undoubtedly Oregon's third record of GREAT SHEARWATER, seen and photographed as it came in next to the boat on our September 15th Newport trip. 
We were able to run the first organized pelagic trips in many years out of Garibaldi at the end of September and in conjunction with the Oregon Birding Association's annual meeting. While we were able to find most of the usual suspects, many birders enjoyed the exceptionally cooperative SOUTH POLAR SKUAS.  
It is always fun to monitor migration, and the 460 SABINE'S GULLS, mostly adults, recorded on our October 7th seems to have been a last pulse of southbound birds, as we recorded zero on October 27. 
Our trips recorded six species of shearwater this fall: the expected SOOTY, PINK-FOOTED and BULLER'S, FLESH-FOOTED on several trips, the aforementioned GREAT SHEARWATER, and unexpectedly early SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATERS in August and September.  
Alcids were interesting.  Officially, we had no unusual murrelets, although one passenger was able to spot a Scripps's Murrelet and add it to his list.  The October 27 trip had a record of 5 TUFTED PUFFINS, an uncommonly high number of a species not often seen on our Lincoln County pelagics. The last bit of alcid news involves 2 MARBLED MURRELETS defying conventional wisdom and hanging out 6.25 miles from shore, twice the expected distance. (No amount of studying could turn them into Long-Billed Murrelets.) 
Storm-Petrels were a bit of a conundrum.  We had lower than normal numbers of FORK-TAILED STORM-PETRELS, and missed them completely on our Charleston Shorebird Festival trip, and most people missed them on our October 27 trip, as one individual was called out. 
Those of us addicted to pelagic birding find something enjoyable and interesting every trip, even if we are not able to add life birds to our lists.  
We have one more trip planned for 2018 -- a winter trip scheduled for December 8. 
I look forward to a good 2019 and hope to see you on an Oregon Pelagic Tours pelagic. 

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