Blog on ocean conditions along the Newport Line and the northern CA Current.
Our spell of fantastic weather continues and much to our delight, we observed a greater density and diversity of seabirds and marine mammals as the R/V Shimada transited north. We crossed through several visible fronts, where different water masses meet. At frontal boundaries, there are obvious changes in the wave forms at the surface, texture and turbidity of the water. Phytoplankton, zooplankton and forage fishes tend to aggregate at fronts and larger predators like seabirds and marine mammals are attracted to these abundant food resources. Although we expected to observe high densities of birds in and around the productive Columbia River plume, we were no less excited on the afternoon of June 21st to encounter huge flocks of sooty shearwaters in the area, with the largest flock numbering over 10,000 individuals.
The Columbia River plume is a major oceanographic feature in this region with a large and dynamic spatial extent, and it was evident that we were still in plume waters today. While transiting along the shelf break of the Columbia River Line we observed a super pod of around 900 Pacific white-sided dolphins, the first we have seen this trip, along with 40-60 Dall's porpoises and 10-12 humpback whales.
Some species highlights include fin whales, south polar skuas, Murphy's (and other pterodroma) petrels, ancient murrelets, a pomerine jaeger and a leucistic murre! The leucistic murre, an individual lacking the normally dark plumage on the back and wings, was flying alongside a murre with typical plumage. We are looking forward to our final days of seabird and mammal surveys in the Columbia River area and hope this slew of exciting observations continues!