Re: Nearshore marine birds

Jim Havlena

Hello Tim,

Thank you for the nice bird report.  I'm envious, except for the waves, cold, fog, etc.    But, what did you catch (I referring to your phrase "in my mind it was fishing, not birding")?


On 5/16/2021 4:55 PM, Tim Bray wrote:

Apologies for the late report. I went kayak fishing last Thursday out of Van Damme and saw a lot of bird activity; it only just occurred to me that it might be of interest here (in my mind it was fishing, not birding). I was about half a mile out, near the bell buoy, fishing in 80-150 feet of water. Conditions were a bit rough with a 6-foot short-period swell and a low ceiling of fog. The water was cold, around 46 F, and there was a lot of phytoplankton. The kelp beds look about like last year, much better than the previous four years.

The northbound migration of Pacific Loons that has been going on for a while now continues, with several hundred per hour going by in small groups. The "lane" was just a little farther out than where we were fishing, for the most part - a few birds would sometimes go right over us. At one point I drifted a little further west and found myself right in the flight path. That was about where the rocky shelf drops off to the flatter muddy bottom, about 180 feet of water.

Surf Scoters were also going north in small flocks, about in the same lane as the Loons. There was a lone Scoter just at the entrance to the cove that had no white on its head but some yellow in its bill, a probable Black Scoter.

Hundreds of Red-necked Phalaropes were also present, many flying north in small flocks and many others stopping to feed along wrack lines. Sometimes these would allow close approach in the kayak. Both males and females were present. There were also some unidentifiable peeps flying north.

Just as we launched a Greater Yellowlegs called, flying overhead in the fog. On the way back in I explored a cove with some sea caves and found a lone Wandering Tattler as well as Black Oystercatchers. Pigeon Guillemots were flying into crevices in the rocks and I could sometimes hear their young calling. It seems like there are a lot of them this year.

Two Brown Pelicans came by, the first I have seen this season. One Rhinoceros Auklet sitting on the water was also the first of season for me.

One Shearwater, or maybe a Fulmar, swooped by but I couldn't see it clearly enough to identify. (Sitting in a kayak in 6-foot seas makes this even harder than usual.)

Eared Grebes were still present, in breeding plumage, a fun sight, although they are a bit more shy and did not allow close approach.

Three Terns went by at one point flying south. I thought they looked more like Elegant than Caspian, but again, hard to see clearly in those conditions.

Common Murres were scattered on the water and flying in all directions, as were Pelagic Cormorants.

All in all it was super birdy out there. The shift from terrestrial to marine ecosystem is really dramatic when you go out by kayak.

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