Posted by: atowhee | August 31, 2009

Charleston Shorebird Festival–at sea

There were a half-dozen of us from the Rogue Valley who travelled through the Coastal Range to reach Charleston which is on a sheltered bay along the Pacific Ocean. And the ocean birds were the attraction, though the coast itself is often breath-taking.

Over a dozen Oregon life birds for me.  For Steve Runnells who spent most of his birding life on the other side of the Rockies, or visiting tropical lands, there was a score of new birds.  Birds that he’d never seen anywhere before.


The eight-hour pelagic trip out of Charleston harbor made me sick, and made me very happy.  I always get seasick.  But I do not always get so many great, new birds at close range.  The highlight was certainly the jaeger vortex that formed where our chum slicked the waves.  All four species zoomed in.  There were occasional chases among the three jaegers.  And then the ultimate ocean predator: South Polar Skua made a couple passes.  Here’s my best shot of a Pomarine Jaeger, the heftier of the three species bearing “jaeger” names:JAEGER










We were about 25 miles from shore when I took this.  The breast band and heavy-chested look are typoical of the “Pommy” who is bigger than the Long-tailed and Parastici.  We had one adult Long-tailed Jaeger with the truly looooong tail feathers.  That bird was a glamorous ocean-going couknterpart of the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.

The biggest chum-meister was the Black-footed Albatross which breed far away on the Hawaiian island chain.BF ALBATROSS AERIAL




















BF ALBA HEAD ONThe mature birds have white on the head and base of the tail while young birds are uniformly dark soot-colored.ALBATROSS PF SHEARWATER  Here’s on albatross with three, much smaller Pink-footed Shearwaters also in the frame.  The Pink-footed has a pale belly and pale feathers on the underside of the wing.  We got some good looks at the more complex markking of the Buller’sd Shearwater as well as the smaller, dark Sootys. So the Black-footed Albatross nests north of the equator but the three shearwaters all nest in the Southern Hemisphere off New Zealand and Australia.  We also had one predatory bird down from the Arctic region, the Northern Fulmar:FULMAR ON PACIFIC










They are a pale gray bird with blunt forehead and foreshortened beak to match:FULMAR OVER OCEAN










I got no chance at a picture of the lone Fork-tailed Storm Petrel I clearly saw, no chance on the Rhino Auklets in the bouncing boat mismatched with the rough seas.  The Common Murres were just that, dozens of father and fledgling pairs in the Charleston Harbor.  The other alcids: two lone Pigeon Guillemots seen from shore, a few Cassin’s Auklets which I managed to NOT see, and ZERO puffins, ZERO Marbled Murrelets.

Location:     Coos County
Observation date:     8/29/09
Number of species:     29

Canada Goose     30
Black-footed Albatross     12
Northern Fulmar     6
Pink-footed Shearwater     60
Buller’s Shearwater     6
Sooty Shearwater     24
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel     2
Brown Pelican     40
Brandt’s Cormorant     2
Double-crested Cormorant     15
Pelagic Cormorant     65
Great Blue Heron     2
Great Egret     2
Turkey Vulture     2
Black Turnstone     2
Heermann’s Gull     35
Western Gull     350
California Gull     20
South Polar Skua     2
Pomarine Jaeger     12
Parasitic Jaeger     5
Long-tailed Jaeger     45
Common Murre     80
Rhinoceros Auklet     8
Belted Kingfisher     1
American Crow     12
Barn Swallow     4,   Brewer’s Blackbird     8,   House Sparrow     15


  1. Well worth getting sick for, eh? I’ve only seen albatrosses a couple times in widely separated locals (AFAIK) so I’m quite envious. Plus the skua which we’ve never come across outside the Discovery Channel.

    You boaters saw a lot more than we landlubbers did, that’s for sure. Probably less fog, too.

  2. Well, the topic is interesting, but… the photo can be more proflook! And location – where is that ?

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