Howdy, SEA Birders,
The singular highlight of Shearwater Journeys' pelagic trip departing from Half Moon Bay today was a WHITE-CHINNED PETREL that flew into the wake and sat around on the water for nearly 45 minutes.
Leader Tim Miller called out a Flesh-footed Shearwater, but quickly changed that to a White-chinned Petrel. A great many photographs were shot by many delighted seabirders on this sold out trip. The petrel flew off, but returned again for a shorter visit. This petrel was in San Mateo County, where we spent the entire day. It was about 18 miles off Mavericks.
Other highlights included: one BROWN BOOBY on the weather buoy (we first found 4 Brown Boobies on this buoy last year); 20 BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES; 80 NORTHERN/PACIFIC FULMARS; 600 PINK-FOOTED, 1 BULLER'S, 20,000 SOOTY SHEARWATERS; 4 WILSON'S, 8 FORK-TAILED, 1 LEACH'S, 12 ASHY, 18 BLACK STORM-PETRELS; GRAND SLAM on the JAEGERS: POMARINE, PARASITIC, LONG-TAILED and SOUTH POLAR SKUA; 1 COMMON and 2 ARCTIC TERNS; 2000 COMMON MURRES; 6 MARBLED MURRELETS; 3 CASSIN'S and 4 RHINOCEROS AUKLETS. We ended the day with about 8 lunge-feeding HUMPBACK WHALES just outside the harbor entrance. Apparently, these whales are being seen from the roads, causing traffic jams!
Seas were not so easy, but quite doable. There is a good temperature break right now in the shallow water ON the Continental Shelf, including the scattered storm-petrels. Nearshore, shoals of anchovies are not only being gorged upon by the humpback whales, but also hundreds of common murres (dads and chicks, calling), and large rafts of sooty shearwaters. Dead murres are everywhere — in the harbor, outside of the harbor, and offshore — providing food for the fulmars.
It was one heck of a day, with many folks having already been on many of our recent set of six Monterey trips in a row, including the September 12th offshore Monterey albacore trip. Lots of elated birders! Spaces are still available on many of our trips this fall. Please see our schedule for availabilities.
Many thanks to all!
Living the Salt Life,
HALF MOON BAY September 20, 2015 from SEABIRD NEWSGROUP
Howdy, SEA Birders,
Shearwater Journeys' participants enjoyed a beautiful day at sea on our Half Moon Bay pelagic trip, September 20th. Certainly the gorgeous sea conditions were a highlight of the day. It is not my imagination — we are experiencing more September days with wind than in previous decades, especially since the 1980's. Climate change?
Seabird highlights included: BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS; PACIFIC FULMAR; PINK-FOOTED, SOOTY, SHORT-TAILED, BULLER'S, BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATERS; WILSON'S, ASHY, BLACK STORM-PETRELS; BROWN BOOBY (on the green buoy-- we always check all of the buoys); RED & RED-NECKED PHALAROPES; GRAND SLAM ON JAEGERS: POMARINE, PARASITIC, LONG-TAILED; SOUTH POLAR SKUA; SABINE'S GULL; COMMON & ARCTIC TERNS; COMMON MURRE; MARBLED MURRELET; CASSIN'S & RHINOCEROS AUKLETS; TUFTED PUFFINS.
We went offshore to the weather buoy, but most of the marine life was closer to shore, primarily along the 50 fathom line. Along that line, returning to the harbor, we encountered a good many (40) POMARINE JAEGERS and flocks of shearwaters, sitting on the water. Three beautiful, alternate plumaged TUFTED PUFFINS were spotted along the line. A PEREGRINE FALCON (San Mateo) was severely chasing birds! It caught a bird, ripped its head off mid-air (I saw it drop to the ocean), and flew off with what might have been a TUFTED PUFFIN!! It was great to see TEN MARBLED MURRELETS close to the shore. Lots of great images were made! Linda Terrill spotted a SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATER sitting amongst flocks of Sootys in the morning. The BROWN BOOBY was on the green buoy, capping off the end of the day.
Marine mammals were no less spectacular with lunge-feeding HUMPBACK WHALES, BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS and HARBOR PORPOISE, all close to shore. Two BLUE SHARKS were noted. And, a SWORDFISH was sighted by Scott & Linda Terrill, certainly the rarest species of the day! A wonderful group of birders were on board, including one Norwegian who tallied 25 Life Birds!
The leaders on this trip were: Scott Terrill, Linda Terrill, Steve Hampton, Nick Levendosky, Gerry McChesney, Debi Shearwater. We covered both San Mateo and San Francisco Counties. Many thanks to all the birders who joined us, some making their first-ever pelagic trip.
Update on Shearwater Journeys' trips:
Spaces are available on MONTEREY TRIPS: SEPTEMBER 25 & 27; OCTOBER 3 & 10. (September 26 is sold out).
Spaces are available on HALF MOON BAY: OCTOBER 11. (October 4 is sold out).
The Great White Shark trip, October 18 is sold out.
Living the Salt Life,
BODEGA BAY pelagic 18 Sept 2015 trip note:
Tough, but doable conditions with a superb vessel that can handle the seas. Seabird highlights: flyby GUADALUPE MURRELET captured on digital by Steve Tucker. Grand slam on PARASITIC, POMARINE, LONG-TAILED JAEGERS, and SOUTH POLAR SKUA. SABINE'S GULLS, close views of BLACK, ASHY, FORK-TAILED & WILSON'S STORM-PETRELS. Bunch of humpbacks & dolphins.
Best part of the day for me? GREAT TEAM OF LEADERS: Peter Pyle, Steve Howell, Abe Borker, Christopher Wood, Jessie Barry, Steve Tucker, Nick Levendosky.
MONTEREY BAY 13 Sept 2015 trip note:DAY #6 of SIX DAYS of MONTEREY PELAGIC BIRDING: MY BIRTHDAY. Not yet convinced that Monterey Bay is a living treasure? How about this: within 45 minutes of departing the dock, we saw: BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS, NORTHERN FULMAR, PINK-FOOTED, SOOTY, & BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATERS, BLACK, ASHY, & FORK-TAILED STORM-PETRELS; RED-NECKED PHALAROPE; PARASITIC JAEGER; COMMON MURRE; PIGEON GUILLEMOT; RHINOCEROS AUKLET & the ever delightful, OCEAN SUNFISH, plus gobs of CALIFORNIA SEA LIONS, and a few SEA OTTERS. That's Monterey for you. Many, many thanks to all of the fabulous Facebook folks who sent me birthday wishes. I so appreciate you!!
WHY YOU SHOULD DO A PELAGIC TRIP IN SEPTEMBER 2015
From Monterey Bay to Half Moon Bay to Bodega Bay — the shear numbers of seabirds and marine mammals is UNPRECEDENTED! Not simply the streaming SOOTY SHEARWATERS, but many other species as well. The diversity amongst seabirds in this area this season has been astounding. During the past forty years, I have seen a lot of stuff — but, never anything like this! And, we've only just begun.
SEPTEMBER is the single best month of the entire year to see seabirds based on my forty years of experience. Get thee on a boat, post haste! September offers the greatest diversity of seabirds & marine mammals. There is no better month of the entire year! September generally has the best marine weather. Shearwater Journeys has some 14 trips on offer during September!
Like a gigantic mixing bowl of warm water, swirling cold water currents, bubbles, and eddies are making this year very special. Seabirds seldom found along the Central California Coast, are turning up.
These GUADALUPE MURRELETS, above, are one of the most prized of all murrelet species. We may not see this species in our area again for another decade!
Get out there!
LAYSAN ALBATROSS, above, is not easily found — there is no reliable time of year for this species.
However, recent trips have recorded a number of these gorgeous albatrosses, especially off Bodega Bay.
The year 2014 saw a huge influx of BROWN BOOBIES, such as this one on the Half Moon Bay weather buoy. Their displacement continues this season.
STORM-PETRELS which were virtually absent last fall, have been showing up in good numbers on some trips. The image above is a mixed species flock as seen on our August 2, 2015 Half Moon Bay trip.
BODEGA BAY has been the main stomping grounds for the vast majority of storm-petrels. We once recorded a record breaking flock of 12,350 mixed species flock! True to my prediction and post, STREAMING SHEARWATERS, SCHOOLING FISH & COLD WATER, rafts of thousands of storm-petrels were found near Cordell Bank within days of that post.
Within those flocks, one or two WEDGE-RUMPED STORM-PETRELS were found, August 21-23, 2015! This species has not been found in our area since the early 1980's! There are fewer than a dozen records for the ABA area of this species! You may recall that Point Blue banded two individual WEDGE-RUMPED STORM-PETRELS at the Farallon Islands this past spring! Sure enough — they are out there — somewhere — a needle in a haystack, but you could get lucky!
Thousands of SOOTY SHEARWATERS are following the cold water streams.
HAWAIIAN PETREL, above, was seen on one Bodega Bay trip during August this season. There are September records, and one of these rare petrel may well be spotted again. We have recorded HAWAIIAN PETRELS at Monterey, Half Moon, and Bodega on previous trips.
In addition to the seabirds, marine mammals have been very present and exciting. BLUE WHALE, above, is not as abundant as the HUMPBACK WHALES this season, but they are around.
BAIRD'S BEAKED WHALE, spyhopping, above. This large and rarely seen toothed whale was spotted on our Monterey Albacore trip last year, and again, this year at Bodega Bay.
Somewhere, "out there," is likely a mega-rare seabird, a WEDGE-TAILED SHEARWATER, above, and/or a RED-BILLED TROPICBIRD, below.
These warm water species are very possible. We did find a Red-billed Tropicbird on our September 21, 2014 Half Moon Bay trip. Tropical whales may show up, for instance, last year we saw a DWARF/PYGMY SPERM WHALE.
Early fall, 2009, record numbers of COOK'S PETRELS were found on Shearwater Journeys' trips from Monterey.
I strongly encouraged everyone to get on a trip — saying what we were seeing was unprecedented —
COOK'S PETRELS within reach of a one day pelagic from Monterey —
Many birders heeded that advise and had splendid views of Cook's Petrels.
Some birders, decided to "wait for next year."
Well, next year came and went, and the next, and the next, and the next.
So, here we are — some six years later — and it has not happened, again.
Birders lamented: I should have followed your advise.
MORAL OF THE STORY: WHEN EVENTS ARE UNPRECEDENTED — GET OUT THERE!
My good friend, Todd McGrath, has a ball cap with this embroidered on the back: NO WHINERS! There is no excuse for not getting on a September pelagic trip! Next year: LA NINA is already being forecast!
Finally, the BBC & PBS were so certain that Monterey Bay would produce marine life that they filmed here, live: BIG BLUE LIVE.
UPCOMING TRIPS & LEADERS:
SEP 12, SAT: MONTEREY ALBACORE with Scott Terrill, Linda Terrill, Nick Levendosky, Mary Gustafson, Rick Fournier. SOLD OUT. Wait list, email Debi.
SEP 13, SUN: MONTEREY BAY with Mary Gustafson, Chris Wood, Jessie Barry, Clay Kempf. Debi's Birthday Trip!
SEP 15, TUE: HALF MOON BAY with Mary Gustafson, Chris Wood, Jessie Barry, Tim Miller, Marisa Ortega-Welch SOLD OUT
SEP 16, WED: MONTEREY BAY with Tim Miller, Chris Wood, Jessie Barry, Annie Schmidt
SEP 18, FRI: BODEGA BAY with Nick Levendosky, Peter Pyle, Abe Borker, Steve Tucker, Steve Howell. SOLD OUT. Wait list, email Debi.
SEP 20, SUN: HALF MOON BAY with Gerry McChesney, Nick Levendosky, Scott Terrill, Linda Terrill, Steve Hampton
SEP 25, FRI: MONTEREY BAY with Rick Fournier, TBA.
SEP 26, SAT: MONTEREY BAY with Scott Terrill, Linda Terrill, TBA.
SEP 27, SUN: MONTEREY BAY with Nick Levendosky, Alex Rinkert.
OCT 3, SAT: MONTEREY BAY with Tim Miller, Dena Spatz, Jennifer Green
OCT 4, SUN: HALF MOON BAY with Steve Hampton, Will Brooks, Annie Schmidt, Christian Schwarz
OCT 10, SAT: MONTEREY BAY with Todd McGrath, David Vander Pluym, Lauren Harter, Jennifer Green
OCT 11, SUN: HALF MOON BAY with Todd McGrath, Jim Holmes, Tim Miller, Will Brooks, David Vander Pluym, Lauren Harter, Marissa Ortega-Welch
OCT 18, SUN: FARALLON ISLANDS GREAT WHITE SHARK & SEABIRDS with Peter Pyle, Gerry McChesney, Jim Holmes, Steve Tucker
Do whatever you can to get on a boat trip this month — call in sick, take a personal holiday — but, get out there! And, October — well, the Southern Hemisphere seabirds have departed for the next breeding season. That thins the shearwaters out quite a bit, making it so much easier to spot mega-rarities. October mega-rare seabirds are one story for the book — but, that's another blog post!
LIVING THE SALT LIFE,
Please check out our complete schedule of trips. Of course, I'll be on board every trip!
Sign up for our news and discounts!
Stay up-to-date with the Shearwater Journeys' email. You'll enjoy the latest updates to the website and qualify for trip discounts. Our list is never sold or shared with third parties.