Sunday, August 1, 2021

Pelagic Birding

Twenty years ago, I took a ocean birding trip from Westport, Washington, 60 miles to the edge of Grays Canyon. A host of interesting birds can be found there. That first trip was one of my best birding experiences, so I jumped at the chance of going again when I discovered an empty slot on one of Westport Seabirds often-filled, all day pelagic trips. Erika said, “Go for it!” but had absolutely no desire to accompany me.
July 29th began and remained windy and foggy for the whole day. The trip embarked at 5:30 in the morning an returned around four in the afternoon. Grays Canyon lies about 60 miles from shore.  A four-foot sea swell gave me second thoughts. The fog did not lend itself to superb bird photos. My goals for the day where to take a picture of a Common Murre, which made my traveling companions laugh—an easy bird to see. I just have never taken a good image of one. Second on my list was a photo of any storm-petrel—seabirds I have never photographed. Third was a Scripp’s Murrelet, a seabird that has been described since my trip 20 years ago. 
I did not see the murrelet, but we did find, as you will see in the next week or so, a far more elusive bird. The boat conveyed about 12 participants, two crew, and three or four volunteer bird-spotters. Not only did the spotters know their seabirds, they also kept an eBird list that they shared with me after the trip. So I had no worries about dropping my cell phone into the 3000 foot deep Grays Canyon. Stay tuned as I report on a few of the fantastic birds we encountered. (I have never suffered from sea-sickness, and was glad not to sucumb on this trip.)

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