Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Pelagics pt 2

After 8 hours on a boat birding, there wasn't much to do but well, keep birding!
A large group of us ventured back to the Airport, this time from a different location where we would have a better chance of not being escorted out. We altered our tactic and decided to split up and search all the open grass along the runways for those pesky plovers. After an hour in the hot afternoon sun, we called it quits and went to Combers Beach for another scan of the Gull flock. This time, we had a pure Western Gull, which is always nice to see.

Me and Daniele ended up spending another hour, just before sunset, back at the airport, but again, there were no Plovers. It had been a long day and I was just happy to crawl into the back of my car and call it a night.

The next morning, I found the big boat in the Ucluelet Marina fairly easily, but then again, it wasn't difficult when there was a mass of birders already congregating. Once aboard, I was happy to see some familiar faces from the Vancouver birding scene: Rob Lyske, John Reynolds, Brian Self, Rogers Foxall, Wayne Diakow and even Wayne Webber. This would be fun!

The boat slowly pulled out of the Marina and out of the harbour. Right away, I could tell this would be a vastly different Pelagic than yesterday. With the crowd of birders and the large deck, I could only envision how difficult it would be to catch onto a speedy Shearwater if you were on the wrong side at the wrong time. Not to mention, the small chance of having any visibility through a crowd of eager birders all doing the same as you. I was very happy that I could just concentrate on the birds that I needed to see, those remaining few that I hadn't seen the day before, instead of having to see all of them on this one trip.

Things were fairly quiet for a while, with not much but the steady stream of California Gulls following the boat to pick up all the chum we were dropping. The first exciting bird was an adult Black-legged Kittiwake who flew in from behind the California's and carried on past us. A few Sabine's Gulls also passed us by. Soon, Sooty Shearwaters began appearing, then Pink-footed, and a couple Buller's. We got a good look at a Flesh-footed floating along beside the boat.

Pink-footed Shearwaters

Pink-footed Shearwaters
Flesh-footed Shearwater in front, Pink-footed behind

A Parasitic Jaeger literally tackled a California Gull for a piece of fish behind the boat, it was an awesome sight. The bird really did his name justice.

I was glad to be standing again next to Devon, this guy had already gotten me a tonne of lifers the day previous, the guy is as sharp-eyed as the come. And I was again thankful for my choice of position near this hawk-eyed man as soon enough, he shouted out "small Shearwater to the right!".
We dashed to the side in time to see a Dark Shearwater jetting across the water with stiff rapid wing beats; it was pure white underneath. Manx Shearwater!
Well the trip paid for itself right there, an amazing bird, and a rare one at that.

Fulmar, Albatross, and Jaegers began showing up, attracted by the Chum and Fish oil that was dumped into the water. Every now and then, a flock of Phalaropes would whiz by, but I still could not pick out a Red one.

The oddest thing started to happen about midway out into open ocean: warblers began showing up, bouncing through the air towards the boat. Some of them landed, and sadly some of them were pursued by Gulls, or ended up drowning. Some of the lucky ones that landed on the boat were: Yellow-rumped, Yellow, and Townsends Warbler. Even a White-throated Sparrow attempted to land.

Townsend's Warbler lands

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Townsend's Warbler looking for insects

gleaning spiders from under the speaker
But there was another Warbler that had us all puzzled. At first, we thought maybe it could be a Blackpoll Warbler, as it had an almost lime green back, a full eye ring and grayish face. A few photographers managed to snap shots, and when Russell Cannings saw the photo, he would amaze us all when he ID-ed the bird as a "Chestnut-sided Warbler...female"!

The star of the trip, a female Chestnut-sided Warbler

I was incredulous, how did a warbler from northern Alberta end up on our boat??
The poor bird ended up landing inside the seating area below, and was caught and kept in a box until we went back to shore where it was released.

The boat came to a stop and floated around while photographers got chances to take pictures of all the seabirds. It was a great day, and to be able to chat with all the elite birders was definitely an experience to treasure. On our way back, we got the third shocker of the trip. Someone spotted a Storm Petrel off the right side of the boat, blasting over the waters in a weird bat-like flight. I first thought it was another Fork-tailed, but then I noticed it was a dark bird, with a white rump. A photographer snapped a photo and we all marveled as we realized it was a Leach's Storm Petrel!!!

This was a bird I had already pretty much written off as the first breeding species I wouldn't be seeing this year, but here it was, on a Pelagic Trip that almost never sees them. Amazing is all I can say.

For anyone who has never gone on a Pelagic trip, after my two experiences I can only say its something you need to do. The Wild Research one in particular would be a great choice for the first time. The boat is big, has amenities, and also a plethora of keen birders who are always willing to share their expertise.

As we pulled into the marina, with our cell service restored, Rob Lyske got a call from a birder in Vancouver, they were looking at a Smith's Longspur at the pilings on Boundary Bay!
I looked at him in shock...
Here we go agaaaain.

3 Horned Grebe
3 Red-necked Grebe
3 Black-footed Albatross
3 Northern Fulmar
30 Pink-footed Shearwater
1 Flesh-footed Shearwater
2 Buller's Shearwater
300 Sooty Shearwater
1 Manx Shearwater 
1 Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel
1 Leach's Storm-Petrel 
2 Sanderling
50 Red-necked Phalarope
3 Black-legged Kittiwake
2 Sabine's Gull
50 California Gull
2 South Polar Skua
3 Pomarine Jaeger
1 Parasitic Jaeger
100 Common Murre
30 Pigeon Guillemot
2 Yellow Warbler
1 Chestnut-sided Warbler 
1 Yellow-rumped Warbler
1 Townsend's Warbler 1 White-throated Sparrow  

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