While the winter weather pattern along the Oregon Coast, a seemingly endless string of storm systems coming in off the Pacific, is not the most comfortable for birders, it does bring some interesting birds into view. Species that normally spend the winter many miles out at sea are sometimes blown in to shore. This is not always good news for the birds, since it takes them away from their normal food sources and into the range of land-based predators, but it does provide birders an opportunity to see these species that are usually out of reach.

northern fulmarThis Northern Fulmar was swimming right along the shore at The Cove in Seaside (Birding Oregon p. 121). He didn’t seem too perky, so he may have been ill. Fulmars are fairly common sights on pelagic trips, but are not visible from shore too often.

red phalarope rightRed Phalaropes are more commonly blown in during early winter storms. These little shorebirds spend most of the year on the open ocean. It amazes me that such a small bird can survive in such a harsh environment. But when they do occur in the calm waters of tidal ponds and inlets close to shore, they often fall victim to predators, and sometimes cars. This individual was found near the Hammond Boat Basin.

red phalarope front

Pelagic trip, September 10, 2011

On Saturday I went on another excellent pelagic trip out of Newport with Greg Gillson and his band of wonderful guides. The weather was cool, windy, and foggy. Seas were very rough, so many cookies were tossed and chunder was blown among my fellow birders. But thanks to Bonine, my stomach survived the trip unscathed. Rough seas made photography very challenging, but here are a few images from the day.

A foggy sunrise beneath the Yaquina Bay Bridge.

Once we we got well offshore, the fog cleared and the Black-footed Albatrosses appeared. These are common birds on virtually every Oregon pelagic trip, but they are always magnificent to see.

Black-footed Albatross

Black-footed Albatross next to a Northern Fulmar

This Northern Fulmar is dining on a chunk of beef fat.

The Northern Fulmars make a hasty retreat at the appearance of a South Polar Skua. Skuas make their living beating up smaller seabirds and stealing their lunch.

While I have seen South Polar Skuas on many other trips, this is the first time I have seen them resting on the water.

In flight, South Polar Skuas are easily recognized by their barrel-chested shape and white patches at the base of the primaries.

As we got back closer to shore, we found this Tufted Puffin.

Yaquina Head, just north of Newport. The rocks just offshore here are important nesting colonies for many seabirds.

Pelagic Trip 9/11/2010

I took a pelagic birding trip out of Newport, OR, on September 11. This was a trip offered by Greg Gilson of The Bird Guide, Inc. His trips are always well organized and I highly recommend them.

Black-footed Albatrosses are common off the Oregon Coast, and are readily attracted to chumming.

This is a small portion of the flock of Black-footed Albatrosses attracted to our boat. The older birds have white on their heads, while younger birds are darker overall. The smaller birds near the upper left corner are Northern Fulmars.

Pink-footed Shearwaters were the most numerous shearwater species on this trip, with well over 2000 birds seen. Despite their abundance, they seldom got close enough or still enough for a chance at a decent photo.

The rarest bird of the trip was this Flesh-footed Shearwater, which I almost captured in the frame of this photo.

Northern Fulmars will often come very close to the boat. Notice the tube on top of the bird’s bill.

Sabine’s Gulls are easily recognized by their striking wing pattern.

Pacific White-sided Dolphins surfed the boat’s wake.