Its getting old to say that we just completed three more fantastic pelagic trips, but the truth is they were just wonderful. We had trips on October 12th from Monterey, October 13th from Santa Cruz, and October 14th from Bodega Bay. The weather was good to great, with each succeeding day better than the last. The 12-hour trip from Bodega Bay to Bodega Canyon, Cordell Bank and offshore from the banks to the 1000 fathom line was without a single whitecap all day. On October 6th, I mentioned that it seemed like we were on the cusp of fall becoming winter. The three trips this past weekend indicate that we are well on the downhill side of fall, and moving rapidly into winter. The SOOTY SHEARWATERS have all but departed for the Southern Hemisphere. SHORT-TAILED and BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATERS continue to increase in numbers, while NORTHERN FULMARS made an excellent showing. No terns were recorded for any of the trips. The first offshore Bonaparte's Gulls and another Black-legged Kittiwake appeared. Alcid numbers exploded, locally. See more details in the daily reports.
Our last trip for the fall season is Saturday, October 19th from Monterey. Spaces are still available. If you are interested, you can just show up at Chris' Fishing Shop on Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey at 7:00 AM and there will be a place for you. Dress warmly, and bring lunch. The leaders are: Clay Kempf, Mike Rogers, Scott Terrill, Linda Terrill, and Debra Shearwater. Call Debra at 831/637-8527 for more information. The weather forecast is excellent.
The October 12th trip from Monterey departed Fisherman’s Wharf later than usual, as our skipper was delayed on his return from vacation in Hawaii. Our "substitute" skipper, John Klusmire got us off about 8:00 AM. John worked with me in the early 1980's on the old wooden boat, "Miss Monterey." He has been working for the past 10 years on the research vessel, "Point Sur" based out of Moss Landing. So, we were in great hands with John, who knows Monterey seabirds well. We passed the usual rocky shorebirds along the Coast Guard jetty: BLACK TURNSTONE, WANDERING TATTLER, and 5 BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS along the inshore rocks. While watching a PIGEON GUILLEMOT off of Hopkins Marine Station, Ryan Terrill spotted two BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS close to shore. We headed out to Point Pinos, and then offshore. BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATERS, continental shelf dwellers, were along our route. Todd McGrath spotted a single MANX SHEARWATER. SOOTY, PINK-FOOTED, and BULLER'S SHEARWATERS were seen by all on board. I stopped the boat for a dark-headed murre that I thought might be interesting, but I did not get a definitive view before it flew away. However, Todd confirmed that it was a THICK-BILLED MURRE. Although October is not a time when we normally see very many albatrosses in Monterey Bay (see the Bodega report for Oct 14th), we did see 2 BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES. We saw all three jaegers, RHINOCEROS and CASSIN'S AUKLETS, and RED and RED-NECKED PHALAROPES. We headed to the spot where we had seen Storm-petrels on prior trips, but could only find 2 ASHY STORM-PETRELS before afternoon fog rolled in, totally engulfing us. Four HUMPBACK WHALES rounded out our day. We returned to the dock at 3:45 PM, later than normal, due to our late start.
The October 13th trip from Santa Cruz began with some thin fog that quickly burned off, giving us a beautiful day. Doing trips back to back, from one end of the Monterey Bay to the other, gives us an interesting picture of what is happening. After finding seven MARBLED MURRELETS (a specialty of this trip as they are not generally found on the Monterey trips), it soon became apparent that there was a tremendous amount of food on the north side of the bay. We concentrated our birding along the 100-fathom line and were not disappointed. Just to compare with the trip on the 12th, we recorded 69 HUMPBACK and 5 BLUE WHALES! Lots of food! All species of seabirds were more numerous on this side of the bay: SOOTY, SHORT-TAILED, PINK-FOOTED, BULLER'S, BLACK-VENTED, and SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATERS were found. The Buller's Shearwaters, in particular, delighted many people in the early morning as they were sitting in flocks for great photo ops. NORTHERN FULMARS were exactly double the numbers as on the 12th. We pulled up behind a fishing vessel and found 4 BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES. A PEREGRINE FALCON flew up the wake 13 miles offshore! But to me, the big news on this side of the bay was the increase in numbers of alcids. We recorded 3,025 RHINOCEROS AUKLETS, 245 CASSIN'S AUKLETS, and 225 COMMON MURRES. A single TUFTED PUFFIN was a great find. On the ride home, we were simply captivated by breaching Humpbacks. I looked through my camera at one point, and filling the entire field of view was just the throat pleats of a closely breaching whale! We didn't return to the dock until 3:45 PM.
The morning of October 14th was calmer than any of the previous two days, even though they were calm! It is a wonderful treat to go out of Bodega Bay on smooth seas, as many trips are weathered-out from this port. Monterey Bay, being half-moon shaped, is protected from the prevailing northwest winds by the Santa Cruz mountains. Bodega Bay has no such protection. It is roughly a two-hour boat ride to the Cordell Bank and Bodega Canyon. The differences among each of these trips are just amazing.
In contrast to the Monterey Bay trips, this trip recorded 145 BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES! One individual had a yellow leg band. SOOTY, SHORT-TAILED, PINK-FOOTED, BULLER'S, and 2 FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATERS were recorded. No Black-vents were found. Northern Fulmars were abundant. Along the 500-fathom line, we found 380 ASHY STORM-PETRELS and one BLACK STORM-PETREL. Several participants found one WILSON'S STORM-PETREL. Two SOUTH POLAR SKUAS were recorded along with POMARINE (12), PARASITIC (1), and LONG-TAILED (1 juv.) JAEGERS. Nine species of gulls were found: THAYER'S (2-3), HERRING (5), GLAUCOUS-WINGED (3), WESTERN (800), CALIFORNIA (450), HEERMANN'S (15), BONAPARTE'S (4), SABINE'S (41), and BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE (1). A special treat was 3 XANTUS' MURRELETS in the early morning. CASSIN'S AUKLETS are very concentrated around the bank; everyone was having excellent views of this, our little "darling of the sea." Three individual TUFTED PUFFINS were recorded, along with the other usual alcids. Two PEREGRINE FALCONS flew past the boat, well offshore. Only RED PHALAROPES were found. Two BLUE WHALES and 8-10 HUMPBACKS were around, some breaching. Three NORTHERN FUR SEALS, and one STELLER'S SEA LION added to the marine mammal sightings. The boat returned to the dock about 6:00 PM. It was a beautiful day for our last Bodega Bay trip of the year.
Many folks from out-of-state (who did all three trips) were represented during this weekend. The leader/participant ratio was: 1/6, 1/4.3, and 1/4.8. Join us on our last fall trip on October 19th from Monterey's Fishermans' Wharf at 7:00 AM.
Our entirely pelagic Christmas Bird Count for Monterey Submarine Canyon is on Monday, December 16th. This count was started in 1983. We usually find Black-footed Albatross, Sooty, Short-tailed, Black-vented, and Pink-footed Shearwaters. Black-legged Kittiwakes, Northern Fulmars, and Ancient Murrelets are usually recorded. We have found such rarities as: Yellow-billed Loon, Laysan Albatross, SHORT-TAILED ALBATROSS (very rare!), and Manx and Flesh-footed Shearwaters. This trip departs from Fisherman’s Wharf at 8:30 AM. and returns at 3:30 PM. Contact Debi Shearwater for more information. The fee is $75/person, + the CBC fee of $5 for National Audubon Society.