Deep Water Pelagic

sunriseI took a 12-hour pelagic trip out of Newport last Saturday. The morning started out with the typical cool cloudy weather one expects on the Oregon coast. Here is the sun rising over the Coast Range.

pink-footed shearwater patterThe most common species of the day was Pink-footed Shearwater. The largest concentration of birds was gathered behind a fish processing ship. While I am opposed to the strip-mining of our oceans, these ships always attract a lot of birds.

flock 4
flock 1Pink-footed Pandemonium (There is also a Black-footed Albatross and a Sooty Shearwater)

black-footed albatross flying black-footed albatross backBlack-footed Albatrosses are common once you get out about 20 miles. This individual had an odd lump in her neck. I hope it is just a large food item in her crop and not a disposable lighter or some other piece of trash.

fork-tailed storm-petrel 1 fork-tailed storm-petrel 2We saw more Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels than I had ever seen before.

wilson's storm-petrelWe saw three other species of storm-petrel, all very rare in Oregon waters. This is a Wilson’s Storm-Petrel. The other two were Black and Ashy Storm-Petrels.

bridgeBy the time we returned to port, the weather was sunny and hot. That’s just not right. I ended the day with a nasty sunburn.

brandt's cormorantsBack in the bay, families of Brandt’s Cormorants were on the pilings.

dc cormorantDouble-crested Cormorant

common murreCommon Murre.


The North Coast

I took my shorebird class to the coast, from Cannon Beach to Hammond. While birding overall was good, the shorebirds were less than stellar in both number and diversity.

black oystercatcherBlack Oystercatcher is a reliable species on Haystack Rock.

puffinNesting season is still in full swing on Haystack Rock. Here is a Tufted Puffin among some Common Murres.

mixed flockThe rocks at the Hammond Boat Basin continue to be a reliable high-tide roost for Marbled Godwits and Whimbels.
godwits and whimbrel
whimbrelheerman'sOf course, you can’t go to the coast without appreciating the gulls. Here is a Heermann’s Gull in a rather unflattering stage of molt.
ring-billedFirst cycle Ring-billed Gull

crossbill 1One of the more interesting sightings of the day was a pair of Red Crossbills on the shore of The Cove in Seaside. These birds are usually hard to see as they cruise the tops of large conifers. This pair was down to take salt from the rocks in the intertidal zone. (male pictured, the female eluded the camera)
crossbill 3For the purposes of my shorebird class, it would have been much better to find Black Turnstones, Ruddy Turnstones, Wandering Tattlers, and Surfbirds at this site, but you can’t complain too much when you get to see Crossbills on the beach.

Common Murre

I watched two Common Murres, a male with a nearly-grown chick,  at the south jetty of the Columbia River. Common Murres are common nesters on offshore rocks and cliffs along the Oregon coast. When the chicks are still very small, they leap into the sea and spend the rest of the summer following Dad around as they continue to grow.

The parent/child pair are very vocal. The young murre calls with a high peeping noise, while this adult sounded amazingly similar to a Mallard.

young Common Murre following male parent

The adult starts his dive for food. Murres use their wings to fly under water, so the wings unfold as the dive begins.

Dad disappears as the chick calls. (what did we do before cameras had “burst mode”?)

The young murre waits for the parent to return with a fish. This chick was large enough to dive on his own, and spent almost as much time under water as the parent.

Worst Pelagic Trip Ever

I made my second attempt to visit Machias Seal Island off the coast of Maine this week. On my first attempt last year, the seas were “the roughest we’ve had all season” and it was too foggy to see much on the way out. When we arrived at the island, it was deemed too rough to land, so we coasted back and forth in the lee of the island before heading back. We still saw lots of birds, but couldn’t get on shore for nice close looks.

So I was really looking forward to this year’s trip. The forecast was for calm seas and sun. But I am a magnet for rough seas. The ocean was angrier than last year and the fog was thicker. I caught a brief glimpse of a Wilson’s Storm-petrel on the way out, but that was it. We couldn’t land on the island (although it didn’t look that bad to me) so we cruised around looking at foggy birds.

Here’s a foggy Atlantic Puffin

a foggy Razorbill

a very foggy Common Murre

This is our view of the island. Believe it or not, there is actually a lighthouse, several buildings, and observation blinds here.

When we returned to the harbor in Jonesport, the sun emerged and revealed these harbor seals enjoying the beautiful summer weather. And so it goes. Perhaps, after enough time has passed to dull the memory of this trip, I will someday actually make it to the island and enjoy some face-to-face interaction with some Maine seabirds.