DNCB Outing No. 2019-29 on Cruise in San Juan Islands

David Hoar filed the report below about our DNCB Bird Cruise on Friday, July 12 in the San Juan Islands with San Juan Cruises https://whales.com/other-cruises/bird-watching-cruise
You can check out the
photo evidence at:
and Brian’s eBird list of 19 species recorded. As always, Terry Carr excelled with his
organization and management of the 11 participants. Captain Dale and Naturalist Victoria were very interesting and informative with their on board continuous dialog, while the Crew of Tova and Claire were friendly and helpful minding the Galley with the Beer, Rum and Lasagna lunch. It was a fantastic outing on a gorgeous day, and we saw a tonne of neat and exciting stuff.
Cheers: Tom

Terry and David were picked up by Chris and Anne outside Petra’s about 06:35 and we headed to Peace Arch where Tony was awaiting Tom.  Richmond Brian arrived and then Tom with Ladner Jack picked up Tony and Brian for the drive to the Fairhaven terminal in Bellingham where we all met up with Lidia and Syd and Viviane well before boarding time.  Boarding passes were issued to everyone for the vessel Chinook and we lined up at the dock ramp head to await the 09:00 loading.  The 71 passengers had 4 crew and a skipper to cater to us for the day.  As we backed out of the slip, numerous gulls, rock Doves and Cormorants were buzzing about the marina and a regal Osprey was perched on the boom of a crane watching the activities. A Peregrine Falcon, perched on the corner of one of the buildings, caught our attention and as there were several other birding groups on this “Puffin Cruise”, it is doubtful that any rarities escaped someone’s attention.  As we headed south toward Rosario Strait just to the east of Lopez Island we passed numerous Alcids including a few Marbled Murrelet and Common Murre, numerous Pigeon Guillemot, and rafts of Rhinoceros Auklet mixed with gulls feeding on schools of fish.  The skipper made a few slow-down observational approaches to rocky islets or headlands en route where we saw Harbour Seal, Pigeon Guillemots,  and Bald Eagles.  At one site there was a peep of unknown identity that did a fly by and a black oystercatcher was observed.  Two birds flew over and there was some discussion of just what they might be – clearly they were not Boobies or Frigate birds but they were not the normal gulls and a couple of photos showed the characteristic red bills of the Heermann’s Gull.  There was a large group of them on the rocky islets we later scoped along with juvenile gulls Brandt’s and Double-crested Cormorants.

The strait was calm with a slight swell as we crossed first to Minor Island, just East of Smith Island.  Here we saw nesting Cormorants and Harlequin Ducks along the beach and a single Red-necked Grebe amongst the numerous Rhinoceros Auklets, some still showing their plumes.  There were numerous watchful Bald Eagles as this is a known nesting area for seabirds.  Rounding the South side of Minor and Smith Islands we eventually saw a single Tufted Puffin in the Western bull kelp bed. This bird consumed many electrons; however, as we passed to the North of the kelp bed additional Tufted Puffins came into view along with a group of Heermann’s Gulls flying tight to the water and dipping their lower bill into the water to scoop up little fish.  Several bursts of electrons captured the action and result was they were picking up Anchovie that were about 3-4 inches long and sometimes consuming them in the time between frames (1/5 to 1/9 of a second).  On the North side of Smith Island were more puffins and lots of Rhinoceros Auklets. One group of 7 Tufted Puffins could be captured in a single frame.

A tasty lasagna lunch (meat or vegetarian choice) with Ceasar Salad, crusty rolls, grapes and cookies was set out for the hungry crowd and there was water or soft and hard drinks available at the cash bar as we headed away from our target species viewing to where some whales had been reported by other tour vessels along the Whidbey Island shore.  The F-18 Growlers from the Whidbey Island Naval Base would buzz overhead and stop conversation frequently but as we were told this is the “Sound of Freedom” and perhaps complaints about the noise level were inappropriate.

Two Gray Whales entertained us with their blows as we arrived off the beach and as we moved further North looking for a reported Minke Whale, another Gray Whale surfaced.  Passing the top of Whidbey Island the two Deception Pass Bridge spans could be viewed as we headed past Anacortes up Guemes Channel and on to Bellingham Bay, returning to the dock just before 16:00 hours.  This was a great outing for all 11 participants Tom, Jack, Tony, Brian, Chris, Anne, Terry, David, Lidia, Syd, and Viviane.

David Hoar, TTFN

Because of the weather forecast, our Wed July 17 outing has been changed from Saltspring Island to Point Roberts.

About dncb

DNS: Delta Naturalists are a group of nature lovers whose aim is to foster interest in the natural history of the Fraser delta by sharing and enjoying nature and promoting environmental awareness and conservation. DNCB: Delta Nats Casual Birders is a group of Casual Birders who go Birding at different locations each week, usually within the Lower Mainland or in nearby Washington State.
This entry was posted in *DNCB, Common Murre, Heermann's Gull, Marbled Murrelet, Osprey, Peregrine Falcon, Pigeon Guillemot, Rhinoceros Auklet, San Juan Islands, Tufted Puffin. Bookmark the permalink.

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