Monday, September 18, 2023

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.

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