Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Trip Report -- OPT September 17 Garibaldi 8-Hour Pelagic

 With a shallow bar at the mouth of the bay, even getting out onto the ocean from Garibaldi can be a challenge. We were extremely fortunate to have a one day window of nice weather and excellent ocean conditions. 17 passengers and 2 guides were aboard the F/V Alaska Sunrise, capably run by knowledgeable Skipper Curtis and helpful Deckhand Terry. We ran out about 20 miles, found some shrimp boats, and although we missed some targets, saw most of the expected species, although some in low numbers. For example, we only had 9 Black-footed Albatross, but made up for the low number with a Laysan Albatross. We had over 500 Sooty Shearwaters, but soon realized that we were seeing Short-tailed Shearwaters as well. 71 is certainly too low, and we had large flocks that were unapproachable so had to leave many dark shearwaters unidentified. We worked hard for our jaegers, seeing one definite Parasitic, two definite Pomarine, but zero Long-taileds. 8 South Polar Skuas went far to make up for that miss. Among other highlights were the attractive Sabine's Gulls and Buller's Shearwaters, and a nice, mixed group of Pacific white-sided, northern right whale and Risso's dolphins. A Wandering Tattler, Surfbirds, Black Turnstones in the bay made the trips out and back interesting and added to the trip list. A good day was had by all.

Monday, September 18, 2023

A Rare Bird on OPT's September 9 Newport Pelagic

We started the day with a choppier ocean than expected, but the waves and swell stayed low, and improved throughout the day. Mist, with Skipper Rob Waddell, had to wait for many small craft heading out to fish for salmon, so we did not leave the dock until around 6:40, but we did our bay birding, turned south after the jetties to make sure we saw our Marbled Murrelt, then headed offshore to try and find a couple of draggers, which often have clouds of seabirds around them. 

What a difference a couple of weeks make! Two weeks ago, our trip had good numbers of many species. Today we worked hard for what we got. We did see three South Polar Skua, which are always a treat, even if seen most trips, but essentially dipped on the three jaegers -- only one unidentied jaeger was observed. We had six species of alcids, including one Tufted Puffin and three Marbled Murrelets, but numbers were low compared to the previous week. We had no identifiabled terns, no Short-tailed Shearwaters, and only four of the elegant Buller's Shearwaters. Our fishing boats were not pulling their nets while we were in the area, so our hoped-for concentrations of seabirds did not materialize. Determined to find some good birds, we headed to the underwater Nelson's Island. We encountered enough activity to start a chum slick (which included Tim's new secret oil concoction), and sharp-eyed Shawneen Finnegan spotted a very rare Wilson's Storm-Petrel feeding along the outer edge of the oil. Unfortunately, the bird did not approach closely, and although we had several sightings, it proved disappointly elusive for several birders. We did enjoy the very fine ocean conditions onn the trip back, and cruising the jetties in the bay on our return yirlded a pair of Wandering Tattlers and several Surbirds. Mammals on the day included harbor porpoise, three whale species including one fin whale, and four species of pinnippeds. To summarize, we saw many of the expected species, although several distantly, but did end up with an excellent rare bird. Kudos go out to our excellent guides and spotters, Jim and Shawneen, as well as all the passengers, who did a great job helping us guides call out birds on a full boat.

August 27 OPT Trip Report (Late)

This report was superbly written by Dave Irons and shared with his permission,

One of the highlights of yesterday's 10-hour Oregon Pelagic Tours adventure was the assortment of marine mammals that we encountered. Our time with this large pod (at least 200 animals) of Pacific White-sided Dolphins (with prominent dorsal fins) and Northern Right Whale Dolphins (they look like seals coming out of the water with a small tail and no dorsal) was easily the high point. We initially spotted this large pod about a half mile off and our paths intersected a couple minutes later. For several minutes, captain Rob kept us right along side the pod with several of the white-sided dolphins coming right to the boat to do some bow-riding. The grace and effortless speed of these animals is a joy to watch. In all we encountered 12 species of marine mammals that included, four species of dolphins and porpoises, three species of whales and five species of pinnipeds. We had: Fin, Gray, and Humpback Whales; Risso's, Northern Right Whale, and Pacific White-Sided Dolphins plus Harbor Porpoise; California and Steller's Sea Lions; Harbor Seal, a Fur Seal (not sure if it was Northern or Guadalupe) and a young Elephant Seal that laid on the surface as the boat passed right by. We also saw lots of blue sharks and the largest Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) that I have ever seen. It was about eight feet long.
Of course the focus of the trip was birds and they certainly did not disappoint. We didn't find any real surprises among the seabirds but had great looks of nearly every species we saw plus the array of passerines described in my earlier post. Only a distant fly-by South Polar Skua (part of our skua/jaeger slam) was not seen well by all participants. The seas were flat and often glassy, which made for ideal viewing conditions, especially spotting smaller alcids and phalaropes (both Red-necked and Red) sitting on the water. At our last chum stop we had all three jaegers, both Arctic and Common Terns, and lots of Sabine's Gulls come right into the boat along with numerous Black-footed Albatrosses, Northern Fulmars, Sooty and Pink-footed Shearwaters. Earlier in the trip we had 5-6 Buller's Shearwaters and we picked out a few Short-tailed Shearwaters (likely undercounted) throughout the day. We constantly had birds to sort through and a great group of participants with whom to share a most enjoyable day at sea.