Saturday, May 2, 2015

BONDED BY BIRDING: GLOBAL BIG DAY: MAY 9 2015

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has launched a GLOBAL BIG DAY for MAY 9, 2015, inviting everyone around the world to participate. It is very simple: submit your eBird checklists to eBird for on this day. You can fund raise, or donate funds yourself. Folks who submit 5 checklists will be entered in a contest to win a free pair of Zeiss binoculars. 
WILL YOU HELP?
I shall be counting birds in my home county, SAN BENITO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA, hoping for a BIG DAY! 
Along with my team, I already hold the Big Day record of 155 species of birds for April 29, 2911
In this drought-ridden year, it will be tough to top 2011. 
I hope you'll do a Big Day, or submit a checklist, even from your own yard on May 9th.
Just imagine how many of us around the globe will be bonded in birding!
BIRDING ON THE FAULTLINES,
Debi
debi@shearwaterjourneys.com

Friday, April 24, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: FIRST RECORD of WEDGE-RUMPED STORM-PETREL @ FARALLON ISLANDS


All rights reserved, Point Blue Conservation Science

THIS POST IS FROM POINT BLUE CONSERVATION SCIENCE'S FACEBOOK PAGE:
On April 19th, Point Blue Farallon biologist, Pete Warzybok and his field crew were conducting the first Ashy Storm-petrel netting session of the breeding season when they captured a rare visitor to the California Current. The unusual Storm-petrel that found its way into their mist-net was much smaller than the typical Ashy and Leach’s Storm-petrels that breed on the islands and it had an unusual triangular shaped white patch on the rump that didn't look right, even for the smallest races of Leach’s. Photos and measurements were taken, the bird was banded and then released to go about its way. Upon consulting with field guides and experts in the field of Storm-petrel identification, the identification was confirmed. They had captured the island’s first ever Wedge-rumped Storm-petrel (Oceanodroma tethys)! This particular small individual likely belonged to the kelsalli subspecies, also known as the Peruvian Storm-petrel, and is normally found in waters over the continental shelf between Mexico and Chile. This species is very rare off of California and the Farallon bird represents the farthest north they have ever been encountered. Interestingly, all records have occurred during periods of warmest ocean temperatures, providing further evidence for the unusual warming conditions observed in the Gulf of the Farallones this year.
Speaking of rare birds, this Saturday will mark the three-year Ganniversary of the Northern Gannet on the Farallones. The first, and as far as we know only, Gannet in the Pacific first arrived at the Farallones on April 25th 2012. With the exception of a few sightseeing visits to San Francisco, it has been present at the island almost every day since.
Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrel is a mega rare seabird anywhere in the USA. Additionally, a TRISTRAM'S STORM-PETREL carcass was recently found on the Farallon Islands. Things are hot offshore! There could not be a better time to plan your trip. Shearwater Journeys' calendar of 2015 trips can be found at our web site. Book early, and book often! 
See you out there!
Storm-Petrels Forever, 
Debi Shearwater
debi@shearwaterjourneys.com

Thursday, February 26, 2015

NESTING BALD EAGLE PAIR in SAN BENITO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA

MY HEART CARTWHEELS


Just about thirty days ago I arrived home from three months in the Southern Hemisphere. First thing I did was head to the BALD EAGLE NEST to check up on "Bob & Bernadette," as I named this pair. B & B were the first pair of Bald Eagles to nest in San Benito County, beginning in 2004. In the dimming evening light, I struggled to "see" the nest. Much had changed since my departure last October. Hillsides were green instead of brown, for one thing! However, I could not find the nest — and, the horror finally struck me — the 11 year old nest had become too heavy and the branches finally gave way! Last year, we estimated that the nest was 18 to 20 feet across and probably 10 feet deep. Each year, I've watched as B & B rebuilt the nest. They begin doing this in late October. So, when I left the country, all was well with the nest fully completed for (hopefully) another successful season.

Bob and Bernadette are considered an "advanced" couple  — tending the same nest for nearly 8 months of the year, every year steadily for 11 years. They lay eggs earlier than most Bald Eagles, even at this latitude. Consequently, the young hatch earlier. I
n all years, save one, they have managed to fledge not one, but two young. To date, they have successfully raised some twenty Bald Eaglets! This, in spite of the persistent drought. One reason for their great success is that they primarily rely on ground squirrels for food. (I confirmed this by watching for many hours). They do not rely on waterfowl, nor fish. 

The nest is on private property and the owners are well aware of it. A handful birders and locals know about the nest and have been extremely guarded about revealing the location. I cannot thank everyone enough for this. Some Bald Eagles are greatly disturbed by people and abandoned their nest. A big part of B & B's success depends on you, too. You know who you are.

For nearly three weeks, I've had a case of "empty nest" syndrome, missing them more than I thought possible. They were such a regular part of my life. I would see a Bald Eagle, and think that is was "Bob" or "Bernadette" — and, I was pretty sure. Like longing for a lost love, I'd drive through their valley home. Once I saw Bob sitting in a large tree, clutching a dead ground squirrel for half an hour. This raised my curiosity. Was he bringing food to Bernadette? There was no doubt in my mind that they would carry on, building a new nest, either this year, or next. However, the decades' long nest was so convenient for watching and such a part of my life. 

Last night I made the drive once again, hoping against hope. I was elated to see BERNADETTE ON A NEW NEST! My heart did cartwheels! The new nest is just about in the same tree, but is only about one fifth the size of the old, crashed nest. There is another nest in the tree. Perhaps, they built it first. From what I could tell, she appeared to be sitting on egg(s). She looked as though her head was tucked in and she was sleeping. I'm crossing my fingers on this and will return to check on things — practically, daily. (Okay, I get obsessed with them). My notes say that they were incubating on 20 February in 2013. So, timing is right. Stay tuned —

Many, many thanks to all who guard this nest! 
Happy Trails,
Debi Shearwater

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

IMAGES OF THE DAY by WILL BROOKS: FEBRUARY 22, 2015 MONTEREY BAY

Shearwater Journeys's leader, 16 year old Will Brooks, captured these images on our February 22, 2015 Monterey Bay seabirding trip. Will is a junior at Gunn High School and our newest leader, although he was not leading on this day, but simply enjoying the marine life with his dad who is also a birder. Will has been birding for eight years already — half of his life! He began photographing birds a year ago. Last summer he had the opportunity to enjoy Maine's seabirds through the Audubon Coastal Maine Bird Studies Camp on Hog Island. Will says that the camp gave him a chance to explore a small island covered with nesting Atlantic Puffins, guillemots and terns. He confesses to being fascinated and excited about seabirds.
WILL BROOKS

BRANDT'S CORMORANT in high breeding plumage
BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATER
RHINOCEROS AUKLET
GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL
TWO BROWN BOOBIES
PACIFIC FULMAR
PACIFIC FULMAR
BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS
BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS

SHEARWATERS FOREVER
DEBI SHEARWATER
debi@shearwaterjourneys.com

Monday, February 23, 2015

WINTER SEABIRDING: MONTEREY BAY PELAGIC TRIP REPORT: FEBRUARY 22, 2015

BLUE SHARK

Howdy, Seabirders,
It has been a long time since we have offered a winter pelagic trip. This February 22, 2015 Monterey Bay seabirding trip was offered by Shearwater Journeys in conjunction with the Pacific Seabird Group Annual Meeting in San Jose, California although the trip was open to anyone. It sold out quickly. We enjoyed a very warm and sunny day! Hardly seemed like winter, especially considering that many parts of the USA are experiencing an "Arctic Freeze." Highlights of the trip included: excellent views of BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS; PINK-FOOTED, SOOTY and BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATERS; 2 BROWN BOOBIES; PIGEON GUILLEMOT; COMMON MURRE; SCRIPPS'S MURRELET; RHINOCEROS and CASSIN'S AUKLETS; TUFTED PUFFIN. Marine mammals included: GRAY and HUMPBACK WHALES; LONG-BEAKED COMMON DOLPHIN; HARBOR PORPOISE; SEA OTTER; CALIFORNIA SEA LION; HARBOR SEAL. Quite possibly, the rarest marine animal of the day was one BLUE SHARK. We seldom observe this once common shark these days. The sea surface temperature was a warm 58 F. The fish finder was showing lots of mackerel and rock fish. All images below, copyright, Mark Rauzon. Please do not use without permission. 
HEERMANN'S GULL, just outside of the harbor.
SOUTHERN SEA OTTER

 MARK RAUZON & KUNIKO OTSUKI
Kuniko, from Japan, does research with Hiroshi Hasagawa on the endangered Short-tailed Albatross. However, the Black-footed Albatrosses on this trip were the first albatrosses she has ever seen!
Mark Rauzon has been seabirding with Shearwater Journeys for decades, dating back to at least December 20, 1987 when the Pacific Seabird Group held their annual meeting in Monterey. 
To view more of Mark's images, please click, here
TWO BROWN BOOBIES
For more than a year now, Brown Boobies have staged a major invasion along the California coast. As many as nine have recently been reported on the Farallon Islands, some carrying nesting material.
 Gerry McChesney, manager of the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and Kim Nelson. Abe Borker, Ph.D. candidate at UCSC, on the right. Debi Shearwater and Harry Carter in the background.
PELAGIC CORMORANT in high breeding plumage.
 BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATER
 GRAY WHALE
Many thanks to all of the folks, from near and far who joined our seabirding trip, including Japan, Ecuador, Sweden and England. The leaders on this trip were; Scott Terrill, Linda Terrill, Dave Pereksta, Gerry McChesney, Abe Borker, John Garrett, and Debi Shearwater. 

THE COMPLETE SPECIES LIST FOR SHEARWATER JOURNEYS'S MONTEREY BAY FEBRUARY 22, 2015 TRIP FOLLOWS: Note that this was a shorter trip of only 4.5 hours, all in Monterey County.

BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS- 5
NORTHERN FULMAR- 3
PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER- 1
SOOTY SHEARWATER- 1
SOOTY/SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATER- 1
BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATER- 14
*BROWN BOOBY- 2, maybe 3
BROWN PELICAN- 10
BRANDT'S CORMORANT- 125
PELAGIC CORMORANT- 45
SURF SCOTER- 70
BLACK TURNSTONE- 2
SURFBIRD- 2
HEERMANN'S GULL- 40
MEW GULL- 5
CALIFORNIA GULL- 20
HERRING GULL- 8
WESTERN GULL- 75
GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL- 10
COMMON MURRE- 90
PIGEON GUILLEMOT- 2
SCRIPPS'S MURRELET- 2, unusual for winter
CASSIN'S AUKLET- 3
RHINOCEROS AUKLET- 30
TUFTED PUFFIN- 1
SEA OTTER-
CALIFORNIA SEA LION- 100
HARBOR SEAL- 6
GRAY WHALE- 9
HUMPBACK WHALE- 5
LONG-BEAKED COMMON DOLPHIN- 150
HARBOR PORPOISE- 1
OCEAN SUNFISH- 1
BLUE SHARK- 1 *rarely seen in recent decades

To view a calendar of all of the Shearwater Journeys's 2015 fall seabirding trips, please click here. BTW, we are offering two trips to the Farallon Islands this season: August 8 & October 18. These trips are experiencing heavy bookings right now! Blue Shark image credit: NOAA.

SHEARWATERS FOREVER,
DEBI SHEARWATER
debi@shearwaterjourneys.com



Saturday, September 6, 2014

HOLY MACKEREL: MONTEREY BAY PELAGIC SEABIRD TRIP, SEPTEMBER 5, 2014


Monterey Bay seabirds put on a spectacular show on Shearwater Journeys's September 5, 2014 pelagic trip. Within thirty minutes of departing the dock, we were surrounded by tens of thousands of shearwaters and feeding whales! 
Highlights included: PACIFIC MACKEREL chasing anchovies to the surface of the sea where shearwaters were snatching them up! Important seabirds we observed included: six species of shearwaters: 27,000 SOOTY SHEARWATERS; 250 PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATERS; 1200 BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATERS; 6 BULLER'S SHEARWATERS and 1 FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER; all three species of jaegers: POMARINE, PARASTIC and LONG-TAILED JAEGER; SOUTH POLAR SKUA; a brilliant and complete selection of rocky shorebirds on the Coast Guard Jetty: 2 BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS, 1 WANDERING TATTLER, 7 BLACK TURNSTONES and 6 SURFBIRDS; a springing of COMMON TERNS; nursery schools of vocalizing father/chick pairs of COMMON MURRES,  the last of the PIGEON GUILLEMOTS, a few RHINOCEROS AUKLETS and tiny handful of CASSIN'S AUKLETS. The HUMPBACK WHALES continue to put on quite a show with lunge-feeding at the surface. Two different herds of dolphins included LONG-BEAKED COMMON DOLPHINS and SHORT-BEAKED COMMON DOLPHINS. Top all of this off with some very fine weather and we can all agree it was a completely outstanding day at sea on Monterey Bay!
Within thirty minutes of leaving the harbor, we found ourselves inspecting thousands and thousands of shearwaters sitting in rafts at sea, so stuffed with food that they did not want to fly. Amongst these rafts, I found 2 leucistic Black-vented Shearwaters and one leucistic Sooty Shearwater. ELEGANT TERNS were soaring ultra high in the sky, probably searching for food. Then, we saw shearwaters diving and fish "breezing" across the top of the sea! These anchovies were being pursued from below by the predatory mackerel! Amongst these rafts of shearwaters, leader Rick Fournier spotted a MANX SHEARWATER! Everyone on the boat, including many photographers, was able to get great views of this rarely spotted Pacific shearwater. In fact, it was one of the best views I've had in many years. We continued searching the shearwater flocks and then headed north to Santa Cruz County and the old haunts of storm-petrel flocks. A couple single BLACK STORM-PETRELS made passes at the boat. Jaegers and the SOUTH POLAR SKUA flew by, as well as BULLER'S SHEARWATERS. We stopped and I dumped out some menhaden oil, and leader Jennifer Green spotted a FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER soaring over the slick. A few minutes later, it was spotted sitting in a flock of a dozen or so PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATERS
Our very capable captain, "Tinker," above, catching a MACKEREL for us to see.
Here is a video of PACIFIC MACKEREL at the MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM. 
Seabirds are not evenly distributed at sea. They are found in patches — wherever the food is located!
As everyone has heard me say, "It's all about food!"
We love to honor celebrations at sea on our pelagic trips. 
This beautiful couple, Christine Miller and Chantel Fletcher celebrated their 13th Anniversary together!
Many thanks to all of the folks who joined our trip from near and far, including Finland and England. Many thanks to Wally & Lois Goldfrank and their friends in the Santa Cruz Bird Club! 
The leaders on this trip were: Jennifer Green, Nick Levendosky, Rick Fournier and Debi Shearwater.

THE COMPLETE SPECIES LIST FOR SHEARWATER JOURNEYS'S MONTEREY BAY SEPTEMBER 5, 2014 PELAGIC SEABIRDING TRIP FOLLOWS:
MONTEREY/SANTA CRUZ COUNTIES

BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS- 6/13
NORTHERN FULMAR- 0/1
PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER- 157/159
*FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER- 0/1
BULLER'S SHEARWATER- 2/4
SOOTY SHEARWATER- 26,000/100
*MANX SHEARWATER- 3/0
BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATER- 1200/0
BLACK STORM-PETREL- 0/3
BROWN PELICAN- +
BRANDT'S CORMORANT- +
PELAGIC CORMORANT- 2/0
BLACK OYSTERCATCHER- 2/0
WANDERING TATTLER- 1/0
BLACK TURNSTONE- 7/0
SURFBIRD- 6/0
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE- 29/17
SOUTH POLAR SKUA- 0/1
POMARINE JAEGER- 1/2
POMARINE/PARASITIC- 1
PARASITIC JAEAGER- 6/3
LONG-TAILED JAEGER- 0/2
HEERMANN'S GULL- +
CALIFORNIA GULL- +
WESTERN GULL- +
ELEGANT TERN- 120/12
COMMON TERN- 8/6
COMMON MURRE- 225/25
PIGEON GUILLEMOT- 2/0
CASSIN'S AUKLET- 4/8
RHINOCEROS AUKLET- 4/8
SEA OTTER- 8
CALIFORNIA SEA LION- 130
NORTHERN FUR SEAL- 1
HARBOR SEAL- 4
HUMPBACK WHALE- 25
SHORT-BEAKED COMMON DOLPHIN- 25
LONG-BEAKED COMMON DOLPHIN- 40, separate herds
OCEAN SUNFISH- 1

WE ARE IN THE MIDST OF 11 DAYS OF TRIPS IN A ROW!
JUMP ON BOARD with SHEARWATER JOURNEYS!