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Most folks agree that pelagic trips can turn up unexpected or unusual seabirds, but I have to admit that the CORY'S SHEARWATER found on the August 9 trip from Bodega Bay was just plain bizarre! I was not prepared for that one! Other highlights of the Shearwater Journey's trips from Bodega Bay included knock-out views of a XANTUS' MURRELET sitting on the water, good numbers of ASHY STORM-PETRELS, NORTHERN FULMARS, LONG-TAILED JAEGERS, and the first SOUTH POLAR SKUAS of the fall migration.
The August 9th trip from Bodega Bay began with choppy inshore waters, but smoothed out considerably as we moved offshore (as is sometimes the case in this area). We headed for Bodega Canyon and Cordell Bank. No disappointments here! Although the seabirds were distributed in patches, those patches were quite impressive. There was something to look at all day long. As is often the case, the shear numbers of migrating seabirds was very evident. We recorded much higher numbers of quite a few species than what is showing up on the Monterey trips at this time (remember, things change constantly out there!).
Between Bodega Canyon and Cordell Bank, we encountered very large flocks of shearwaters sitting on the water. I had a sneaky feeling that we would find our first South Polar Skuas of the day here, and sure enough we did! Slowing the boat to a crawl, I also felt that we could pull out a "good" shearwater amongst the thousands that were around. Everyone was getting great views of Sootys, Pink-foots, and Buller's Shearwaters while they were sitting on the water, a different perspective than the in flight views. Suddenly, I felt myself drawn to this hulking shearwater that didn't match anything that I was expecting. It was about 30 yards from the boat in the 10 o'clock position. Streaked Shearwater immediately popped into my mental Rolodex, but the neck was not streaked, and the face was not white. At the moment that the shearwater lifted its wings, and I glimpsed the clean underwing pattern, I thought it was a Cory's Shearwater. Tristan McKee and David Ward were on the bird at the same time, and shouts of "Cory's Shearwater!!!" rang out all over the boat! The Cory's flew a short distance along with the other shearwaters that were near it, and they all sat down on the water again.
Once again, we were able to refind the Cory's, picking it out from the Pink-foots by its bulky size and yellow bill. Everyone on the boat saw the shearwater, as we repeated this pattern of approaching it slowly with the boat, and having it fly off a short distance, only to sit on the water again. Subsequent views were not as close as the initial sighting, but quite satisfactory. I shot at least one roll of film that might show some of the key features for ID purposes. (I will pick up the exposed film today). This may well be the first record of a Cory's Shearwater for the Pacific Ocean, or at least for the North Pacific. If anyone can update me on this, I would appreciate that information. Sea surface temps ranged from 58-60.8F in the area where we were following the Cory's Shearwater. I have been told that they often follow the edge of water temp breaks on the East Coast of the US. It was quite a shock to find this shearwater, but we have come to expect a certain level of surprises on these trips! After all, here's a quick look at some of the weird seabirds that Shearwater Journeys has found and documented: Shy Albatross, Great-winged Petrel, Dark-rumped Petrel, Bulwer's Petrel, etc. The area where we found the Cory's is in the same area where we have found some of these above mentioned rarities.
Finally, after chasing the Cory's for an hour, and having quite satisfactory views, we continued on our way. We all settled down into that wonderful feeling of having seen something so spectacular that it defies imagination. Conversation was jovial. Then, Ann Dewart, veteran of over 150 pelagic trips, told me that when she opened her Cape Cod potato chips that day, she said that it was to chum in the Cory's Shearwater!!! Ted Koundakjian quipped that the Cory's may be accused of being "chip assisted!" It was another great day at sea. What else can I say?
Our list follows:
BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS-124 (most concentrated around some drag boats that had already pulled their nets)
SOUTH POLAR SKUA-3
PIGEON GUILLEMOT-30 + 1 juv.
PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED DOLPIN-1200
NORTHERN RIGHT WHALE DOLPHIN-300
NORTHERN FUR SEAL-2
CALIFORNIA SEA LION-+
SHARK sp. (non- Blue shark)-3
I hope that you can join us on one of our trips.
The next Bodega Bay trips with spaces available are Sep. 12, 19, 28 and Oct. 13, 19.
The next Monterey trips with spaces available are: Aug. 23, 31 and Sep. 7, 15, 26 and Oct. 3, 5, 11, 17.
We have two Albacore trips with spaces available scheduled to run from Monterey: Sep. 14 & Oct. 4, an excellent choice for the murrelets, jaegers and skuas.
Trips from Santa Cruz with spaces available: Sep. 13, 27 and Oct. 12.
Our Fort Bragg trips on August 15, 16, and 17 are still sold out.
Fort Bragg trips with spaces available: Sep. 21 and Oct. 15.