Spring 2012 Pelagic Trip
On the 29th April, 2012 eighty six WildResearch members boarded the M. V. Frances Barkley in Ucluelet for WildResearch’ s spring pelagic trip to La Perouse Bank. The weather looked promising, with low cloud cover, a 10 knot wind and 2 m swells. The first 5-7 km were a bit rough, but most of the people on board had experienced worse sea conditions.
Four Orcas saluted the ship once we were in open water, but birding was relatively slow until the 10 km mark. Around this point we started to see small rafts of Sooty Shearwaters, and our first Black-footed Albatross and Sabine’s Gull. The frequency and size of Sooty Shearwater rafts peaked at 15 km out, with a number of rafts of 200 birds. Past the 30 km mark, we started to have regular visits from Black-footed Albatrosses that flew in and circled the ship repeatedly before landing and feeding on fish chum.
Spring pelagic trips generally tend to see fewer numbers of birds and have lower species diversity, but the real draw is the chance of finding rare seabirds, species that birders dream of seeing. We had an impressive number of Black-footed Albatrosses and good numbers of Sooty Shearwaters, but Pink-footed Shearwaters were scarce. Unfortunately we did not see any terns, jaegers or fulmars.
The highlight of the trip was a Manx Shearwater that was first spotted at 15 km on the way out and was seen by a handful of people before it disappeared between the waves as it flew away from the ship. On the way back likely the same bird was sighted near the original location, but this time most people on the ship were able to see it and some good photographs were taken. This is the 22nd occurrence of Manx Shearwater in BC, but these sighting were the first time the species was seen by a large number of observers. It was a very exciting find for the end of the trip.
Tom Plath, Russell Cannings and Jeremiah Kennedy did a great job of spotting birds and relaying that information to the other decks of the ship. Once again we had many great birders on board that were really helpful about calling out sightings and helping others find what was being seen – there was some exceptional teamwork happening! Pablo Jost worked hard getting the chum in the water, while WildResearch Directors Paul Levesque, Christine Rock, Emily McAuley, Jay Brogan, and Kala Harris made sure that the trip ran smoothly. Special thanks go to Christine Rock who did the bulk of the trip organizing. The crew of the Frances Barkley was once again very helpful and a pleasure to work with.
- Tufted Puffin – 3 (one sat on the water close to the ship giving great looks; the two others were flybys)
- Ancient Murrelet – 7
- Marbled Murrelet – 5
- Common Murre – 30
- Pigeon Guillemot – 5 (near shore)
- Cassin’s Auklet – 40 (mostly small flocks)
- Rhinoceros Auklet – 40 (most were within 15 km of shore)
- Sooty Shearwater – 2000 (the first were seen within 5 km of shore and they became abundant past 10 km out)
- Pink-footed Shearwater – 8
- Manx Shearwater – 1 (YES!)
- Black-footed Albatross – 20
- Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel – 5
- Red-necked Phalarope – 15
- Red Phalarope – 75 (individuals and a flock of 10-20)
- Sabine’s Gull – 20
- Bonaparte’s Gull – 20 (often associating with Sabine’s Gulls)
- Northern Pintail – 40 (2 different flocks flying 37 km out)
- Green-winged Teal – 2 (37 km out)
- Brant – 8 (37 km out)
- Pacific Loon – 200 (most were in breeding plumage)
- Humpback Whale – 70 (great views of a number of Humpbacks close to the ship and many could be seen blowing in the distance)
- Grey Whale – 3 (near shore)
- Orca – 4 (2 males and 2 female near shore)
- Harbor Porpoise – 2 (near shore)
- Fur Seal – 1
- Sea Otter – 3 (7 km out)