Tuesday, September 6, 2016

MONTEREY BAY PELAGIC TRIP: SEPTEMBER 3, 2016


IT'S A SMORGASBORD OUT THERE!
PELAGIC RED CRABS, SQUID, ANCHOVIES & KRILL
MONTEREY SEABIRDS & MARINE MAMMALS GALORE!
with
This CALIFORNIA SEA LION escaped the jaws of a GREAT WHITE SHARK.
He is likely to recover from these wounds, but the shark lost out on its meal.
PELAGIC RED CRABS were evident in the harbor. 
This WESTERN GULL is enjoying a meal.
Just off Cannery Row, we encountered some RISSO'S DOLPHINS feeding on SQUID, above.
Our Captain, Tinker, caught some squid for us. Here's one, above. 
Just out side of the harbor (!) at least ten HUMPBACK WHALES were gorging on anchovies.
Hundreds of BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATERS along with 30-40 CALIFORNIA SEA LIONS
were also part of this feeding frenzy.
There is a Black-vented Shearwater in the above image, just above the "s" in the word, shearwater.
Off of Moss Landing, we observed KILLER WHALES in two groups: one group of two adult males, and another group of 4 females and young. 
The killer whales seemed to be looking for something to eat!
Offshore, we encountered a single LAYSAN ALBATROSS.
This appears to be the same individual which has showed up on two of our Half Moon Bay trips.
Laysan Albatross is always a treat and never expected.
Out in the deeper waters of the canyon edges, we ran into loads and loads of KRILL.
Three FIN WHALES were feeding on the krill.
Many BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES followed the boat.
 This NORTHERN/PACIFIC FULMAR looks as though it summered in the area.
 PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATERS follow the boat in good numbers.
It seems that Pink-footed Shearwaters feed on a different prey item than Sooty Shearwaters. 
Hence, Sootys are found closer to shore, feeding on the anchovies. 
It was an altogether terrific day at sea!

Many thanks to all of the birders who traveled from near and far to join us on this day. The leaders were: NICK LEVENDOSKY, MARY GUSTAFSON, and DEBI SHEARWATER. 

THE COMPLETE SPECIES LIST FOR SHEARWATER JOURNEYS' SEPTEMBER 3, 2016 MONTEREY BAY PELAGIC TRIP FOLLOWS. 
MONTEREY/SANTA CRUZ COUNTIES:

LAYSAN ALBATROSS- 0/1
BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS- 17/28
NORTHERN/PACIFIC FULMAR- 1/0
PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER- 250/120
BULLER'S SHEARWATER- 0/2
SOOTY SHEARWATER- 3500/100
BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATER- 285/7
BROWN PELICAN- 110/0
BRANDT'S CORMORANT- 270/1
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT- 2/0
PELAGIC CORMORANT- 14/0
BLACK TURNSTONE- 3/0
SURFBIRD- 1/0
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE- 16/20
POMARINE JAEGER- 1/2
PARASITIC JAEGER- 1/1
HERRMANN'S GULL- 90/2
CALIFORNIA GULL- 185/70
WESTERN GULL- 300/45
SABINE'S GULL- 1/0
ELEGANT TERN- 90/2
COMMON TERN- 0/4
ARCTIC TERN- 0/1
COMMON MURRE- 1020/190
CASSIN'S AUKLET- 0/1
RHINOCEROS AUKLET- 1/2
PEREGRINE FALCON- 1, on the radio tower along Cannery Row, eating its prey
SEA OTTER- 4
CALIFORNIA SEA LION- 150
NORTHERN FUR SEAL- 1
FIN WHALE- 3
HUMPBACK WHALE- 25
KILLER WHALE- 6
RISSO'S DOLPHIN- 18
OCEAN SUNFISH- 2

UPCOMING TRIPS DEPARTING FROM MONTEREY BAY:
SEPTEMBER 7, 8, 9, 11, 14, 15, 23, 24, 25
OCTOBER 1, 8, 16
The SEP 10 ALBACORE TRIP IS SOLD OUT
UPCOMING TRIPS DEPARTING FROM HALF MOON BAY:
SEPTEMBER 16 & 18
OCTOBER 2 & 9
LIVING THE SALT LIFE,
Debi Shearwater
debi@shearwaterjourneys.com
Bird images by David Barton, copyright. 
Other images by Debi Shearwater, copyright.

Friday, September 2, 2016

HALF MOON BAY PELAGIC TRIP: AUGUST 19, 2016

ACTION ALL DAY LONG!
This is a trip report for Shearwater Journeys' pelagic trip departing from Half Moon Bay, August 19, 2016, offshore to the Continental Shelf and Pioneer Canyon. Eight species of tubenoses were recorded: BLACK-FOOTED and LAYSAN ALBATROSS, NORTHERN/PACIFIC FULMAR, PINK-FOOTED and SOOTY SHEARWATERS, and WILSON'S, FORK-TAILED and ASHY STORM-PETRELS. Other highlights included; SABINE'S GULL, ARCTIC TERN, CASSIN'S and RHINOCEROS AUKLETS and one beautiful TUFTED PUFFIN. The single NORTHERN GANNET that has been flying back and forth from the Farallones Islands was standing on the cliff near the satellite domes. A single MARBLED MURRELET was spotted while we were watching the gannet.

Marine mammals included; HUMPBACK, FIN and BLUE WHALES. A pod of 8 to 10 KILLER WHALES put on quite a show! Great sea conditions and loads of fun!
BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS, very common at this time of year.
LAYSAN ALBATROSS, never "common"in our area.
Always a special treat. 
This may be the same individual we saw on an earlier August HMB trip.
ASHY STORM-PETREL, scattered individuals often seen during fall.
Sometimes large rafts are encountered.
A near-endemic California species thought to be in decline.
The white-romped, WILSON'S STORM-PETREL, a very uncommon storm-petrel in our region.
Formerly, it was a review species by the California Rare Bird Records Committee.
KILLER WHALES, always a surprise in our region!
There is no predictable time, nor place in our region to find these amazing marine mammals.
The pod of 8 to 10 individuals, including a small calf, put on quite a show.
It looks like a jellyfish. Turtles and whales think it is a jellyfish.
It is a MYLAR BALLOONwith the exterior design worn off.
All balloons are very dangerous and life-threatening to marine life. 
Albatrosses are naturally curious birds. 
Black-footed Albatross investigating a mylar balloon. 
Image by the late Rich Stallcup.
PLEASE DO NOT LET BALLOONS GO!
One of our many talented leaders, CHRISTIAN SCHWARZ, retrieves the balloon to prevent damage to wildlife.
Christian is well known for his expertise in MUSHROOMS.
He recently co-authored the book above, MUSHROOMS of the REDWOOD COAST
CHRISTIAN SCHWARZ, when he is not on a pelagic trip!
Christian is available for hire for guided birding or mushrooming, in our area. 

Many thanks to all the wonderful and fun folks who joined our Half Moon Bay pelagic trip!

The Shearwater team of leaders included: CHRISTIAN SCHWARZ, TODD MCGRATH, STEVE TUCKER & DEBI SHEARWATER.

THE COMPLETE SPECIES LIST FOR SHEARWATER JOURNEYS' AUGUST 19, 2016 HALF MOON BAY PELAGIC TRIP FOLLOWS:
SAN MATEO/SAN FRANCISCO COUNTIES:

PACIFIC LOON- 10/0
WESTERN GREBE- 3/0
*LAYSAN ALBATROSS- 0/1
BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS- 3/14
NORTHERN/PACIFIC FULMAR- 0/1
PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER- 98/44
SOOTY SHEARWATER- 1670/6
WILSON'S STORM-PETREL- 1/0
FORK-TAILED STORM-PETREL- 4/3
ASHY STORM-PETREL- 23/8
BROWN PELICAN- 116/0
BRANDT'S CORMORANT- 11/0
PELAGIC CORMORANT- 4/0
**NORTHERN GANNET- 1/0
SURF SCOTER- 7/0
SURFBIRD- 1/0
SANDERLING- 35/0
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE- 21/0
RED PHALAROPE- 2/4
PARASITIC JAEGER- 1/0
HERRMANN'S GULL- 290/0
CALIFORNIA GULL- 6/1
WESTERN GULL- 361/19
SABINE'S GULL- 1/6
ELEGANT TERN- 74/0
ARCTIC TERN- 1/0
COMMON MURRE- 368/10
PIGEON GUILLEMOT- in the harbor
MARBLED MURRELET- 1/0
CASSIN'S AUKLET- 9/90
RHINOCEROS AUKLET- 2/5
TUFTED PUFFIN- 1/0
HUMPBACK WHALE- 6
BLUE WHALE- 2
FIN WHALE- 1
KILLER WHALE- 8 -10
PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED DOLPHIN- 80
HARBOR PORPOISE- 10
OCEAN SUNFISH- 1

UPCOMING TRIPS DEPARTING FROM HALF MOON BAY
SEPTEMBER 4 (SOLD OUT), 16, 18
OCTOBER 2, 9

IT IS NOW THE VERY PEAK OF FALL SEABIRD MIGRATION!
HOPE TO SEE YOU OUT THERE!
LIVING THE SALT LIFE,
Debi Shearwater
debi@shearwaterjourneys.com
Images by Christian Schwarz





Thursday, September 1, 2016

PELAGIC BIRDING FOR ALL AGES: 9 to 92

AGE DOESN'T MATTER WHEN OCEAN BIRDING
WOMEN LEADING THE WAY
Shearwater Journeys' August 19, 2016 Half Moon Bay pelagic trip hosted two female birders, one aged 9 and one aged 92. This is the biggest age spread we've seen to date on any of our pelagic trips in one day.
Nine year old Elle studies her field guide and Shearwater Journeys' checklist of birds and marine mammals while hundreds of ELEGANT TERNS can be viewed from the window.
 Ninety-two year old Jacqueline searches for BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES.
Jacqueline and her 70 year old daughter, Annie were traveling along the coast all the way from Alaska.
On top of that, they were car-camping! 
Sleeping on a four inch piece of foam in the back of their SUV.
Jacqueline is one tough lady.
This is Elle on the bow with her Auntie, Meghan.
They are videotaping KILLER WHALES with a cell phone!
Elle's mom described this as "one of the best days of summer!"
Auntie Meghan is one tough and talented birder, herself.
As expedition staff on many of the Heritage Expeditions voyages that I make, she is, hand's down. one of the best in the world!
Meghan is a World Girl Birder, too.
Meghan travels to the ends of the earth and will soon be 
 embarking on a new journey. Read about it, here

What inspiring girls and women we had on board this day!
Living the Salt Life,
Debi Shearwater
debi@shearwaterjourneys.com

To see the entire species list for this pelagic trip, click here




IMAGES OF THE DAY by BETH HAMEL: AUGUST 26, 2016 MONTEREY BAY

From frolicking SEA OTTERS just outside the harbor—
to BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES just off Point Pinos within the first hour of the day 
watching BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES folding their wings upon landing behind the vessel
to the blow of a mighty BLUE WHALE, the largest animal that has ever lived on Earth
 to tiny CASSIN'S AUKLETS which feed on krill just like the blue whale
to the very curious looking OCEAN SUNFISH, Mola Mola
and PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATERS shearing the ocean surface with their wings
 and nearly 50 HUMPBACK WHALES
flocks of SABINE'S GULLS lifting off the sea
and the juvenile LONG-TAILED JAEGERS which chase them
 juvenile LONG-TAILED JAEGER right over our heads
male POMARINE JAEGERS that chase all of them

cruising in attack mode
 feeding on the abundant squid
 to the just-arrived from southern California, BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATERS
it was simply an amazing day of nonstop marine action with all players present— Monterey seabirds, marine mammals and interesting fish! What's next?

COMMENTS FROM ONE PARTICIPANT:
Just wanted to say thank you for a fantastic pelagic trip this past Friday! What an amazing journey, with whales, dolphins and porpoises as an added bonus. The sight of a blue whale in the wild is something I will always treasure. You and the crew are a class act, constantly working hard to get on the birds and answer questions. I had read your praises in the writings of Big Year bloggers like Dorian Anderson and Olaf Danielson, and they were spot on in their compliments. In the days leading up to the trip, I had hoped for a couple of Black-footed Albatross. Like others, I was floored when they surrounded the boat!
Yes, you are the best in the business, and I will happily recommend Shearwater Journeys to fellow birders. Keep up the great work, and thanks again.
C. B. — Redondo Beach, California

THANK YOU, ONE AND ALL! 
To read the full trip report for August 26, 2016, click here. 
I HOPE YOU ENJOY THESE IMAGES BY BETH HAMEL
All images, copyright, Beth Hamel

Check the SHEARWATER JOURNEYS' SCHEDULE for lots of upcoming trips during September!
Living the Salt Life,
Debi Shearwater
debi@shearwaterjourneys.com




Monday, August 29, 2016

THE GREAT SOUTHERLY PUSH: MONTEREY BAY PELAGIC TRIP REPORT


AUGUST 26, 2016

Shearwater Journeys' August 26, 2016 pelagic trip departing from Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey, California documented the first of the season push of marine life from the southerly regions. Sometime in between late July and late August, we seem to get a warm water stream from southern California. We had ample evidence of this today. PELAGIC RED CRABS in the harbor at the start of the day and BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATERS at the end of the day were telltale signs of life from the southern regions moving into Monterey Bay.

Monterey's seabirds did not disappoint! Highlights included: awesome views of over 100 BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS; NORTHERN/PACIFIC FULMAR hanging around the vessel; PINK-FOOTED, SOOTY, and the first BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATERS of the season; RED PHALAROPES and thousands of RED-NECKED PHALAROPES; POMARINE, PARASITIC, and some stunning LONG-TAILED JAEGERS right over our heads; almost 100 SABINE'S GULLS; good views of CASSIN'S and RHINOCEROS AUKLETS; a get-away MURRELET and more. Marine mammals included: HUMPBACK and BLUE WHALES; RISSO'S DOLPHINS and DALL'S PORPOISE
PELAGIC RED CRABS, Pleuroncodes planipes, were visible right in the harbor before we even untied at the dock! These crabs, also known as "tuna crabs" usually reside off Baja California. 
Off Wharf No. 2, we saw HY PIGEON GUILLEMOTS and a number of SEA OTTERS resting or having breakfast. The Coast Guard Pier hosted loads of BRANDT'S CORMORANTS, a few BLACK TURNSTONES, and one SURFBIRD. Along Cannery Row, an early PEREGRINE FALCON was enjoying breakfast on the radio tower. ELEGANT TERNS hovered over our vessel along Cannery Row. 
A father COMMON MURRE with a PELAGIC RED CRAB in its beak!
Only 4 miles off Point Pinos we encountered our first BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES at nine a.m. We pretty much had albatrosses in view the entire day after that. Father/hatchling COMMON MURRES were around, vocalizing back and forth to each other. HUMPBACK WHALES seemed to be all around us as we reached the edge of the Monterey Submarine Canyon. Someone spotted a BLUE WHALE — and, a few CASSIN'S AUKLETS were up next. This was no surprise since both species are krill feeders. Thousands of RED-NECKED PHALAROPES and tens of RED PHALAROPES were flying about in large flocks, sometimes high in the sky. Sometimes, they were pursued by PARASITIC or LONG-TAILED JAEGERS. PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATERS were decidedly the common offshore shearwater. 
At the end of the day, we were treated to the first of the season, BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATERS just off Cypress Point. They had just arrived at Monterey Bay during the last hour of our trip! Perfect timing! This inshore species of shearwater breeds to the south of area, on six islands off the west coast of Mexico. 

A group of RISSO'S DOLPHINS were just off the Monterey Bay Aquarium, almost certainly feeding on the abundant squid that has been present for this fall. 
Many thanks to all of the folks who traveled from near and far to join Shearwater Journeys on this exciting day at sea. The Monterey Bay is truly a world class seabirding and marine mammal destination. Today very much proved that!

The leaders were: SCOTT TERRILL, ALEX RINKERT, NICK LEVENDOSKY and DEBI SHEARWATER. Special thanks to my very long time friend, JERI LANGHAM.

THE COMPLETE SPECIES LIST FOR SHEARWATER JOURNEYS' AUGUST 26, 2016 MONTEREY BAY PELAGIC TRIP FOLLOWS. Note that estimated numbers are below, but precise numbers are contained in eBIRD CHECKLISTS. 
MONTEREY/SANTA CRUZ COUNTIES:

COMMON LOON- 1/0
BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS- 95/60
NORTHERN/PACIFIC FULMAR- 2/0
PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER- 25/70
SOOTY SHEARWATER- 325/65
BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATER- 13/0
BROWN PELICAN- 45/0
BRANDT'S CORMORANT- 140/0
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT- 1/0
PELAGIC CORMORANT- 12/0
BLACK TURNSTONE- 5/0
SURFBIRD- 1/0
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE- 500/2000
RED PHALAROPE- 25/50
POMARINE JAEGER- 2/4
PARASITIC JAEGER- 4/3
LONG-TAILED JAEGER- 0/5
JAEGER SP.- 2/2
HERRMANN'S GULL- 30/0
CALIFORNIA GULL- 75/30
WESTERN GULL- 50/25 
SABINE'S GULL- 2/95
ELEGANT TERN- 50/1
COMMON TERN- 2/6
ARCTIC TERN- 0/1
COMMON MURRE- 200/100
PIGEON GUILLEMOT- 20/0
SCRIPPS'S/CRAVERI'S MURRELET- 0/1
CASSIN'S AUKLET- 10/45
RHINOCEROS AUKLET- 10/30
PEREGRINE FALCON- 1/0, on the radio tower, Cannery Row
SEA OTTER- 6
CALIFORNIA SEA LION- 100
NORTHERN FUR SEAL- 1
BLUE WHALE- 3
HUMPBACK WHALE- 50
RISSO'S DOLPHIN- 60
DALL'S PORPOISE- 12
OCEAN SUNFISH- 2
PELAGIC RED CRABS- ++ in the harbor and off Point Pinos

To view more of Beth Hamel's lovely images from this day, click here


UPCOMING TRIPS DEPARTING FROM MONTEREY
SEPTEMBER 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 14, 15, 23, 24, 25
OCTOBER 1, 8, 16
GET IN ON THE FALL SEASON OF SEABIRDS
LIVING THE SALT LIFE,
Debi Shearwater
debi@shearwaterjourneys.com
Images by Beth Hamel, copyright

Sunday, August 21, 2016

FINDING LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCHES in the LOST COUNTY OF SAN BENITO

GEMS of the OAK WOODLANDS
Lawrence's Goldfinch is one of the most prized passerines in our region. Little known and rarely studied, many sources state that they are unpredictable, erratic and nomadic. While that may be true for many regions where this species occurs, that is most definitely not the case in San Benito County, California. 
San Benito County, California plays host to year-round populations of Lawrence's Goldfinches. The fact that the birds of San Benito County have rarely been studied most likely contributes to this lack of published information regarding a year-round population. As far as I know, the county has never had a thorough ornithological survey. Counties that border us, Monterey, Santa Cruz, and Santa Clara have drawn the attention of many birders. Thus, much is known about these counties. While small portions of San Benito County are similar to neighboring counties, much of it is not similar at all. In my retirement I shall endeavor to add significantly to the avian knowledge base of San Benito County, The Lost County, as I call it. Nonetheless, I have been birding the county for the past 25 years. 

 The single best and most convenient location for finding LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCHES is PINNACLES NATIONAL PARK, EAST ENTRANCE at this time of year. Our newest national park, PNP is located about 30 miles south of Hollister along Highway 25, a very scenic road.  Driving time is about 45 minutes. The entrance road to the park is well signed from Highway 25. Watch for YELLOW-BILLED MAGPIES en route. Note, however, that stopping along Highway 25 can be tricky and is not recommended. Be sure to top off your vehicle with fuel and pick up food supplies, especially liquids, prior to leaving Hollister.
PRECISE LOCATION for LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCHES: You will arrive at the turn off for the campground and park office/store building on your left. You'll need to check in at the office to pay a fee and obtain a pass. Behind the store is the swimming pool and the shower/restroom. Directly behind the store is an air conditioning unit. On the other side of this unit is a DRIPPING FAUCET and a PUDDLE. The LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCHES will fly to this puddle and dripping faucet as long as you do not stand too closely to the area. In the very early morning, the goldfinches will land on the cyclone fencing or grassy areas around the swimming pool. They goldfinches fly in from the tops of trees, either the large oak tree opposite the pool, or the sycamore trees around the store. Listen for their bell-like tinkling sounds. BEST TIME OF DAY: is early morning, at least by 7 a.m. prior to activity at the pool or restroom, although the goldfinches continue to use the faucet throughout the day. The park office does not open until 9:30 a.m. However, you can arrive prior to opening hour. I have alerted park personnel regarding these very special birds. One of the best ways to see the goldfinches and other birds is to came at Pinnacles. Many birds are extremely tame allowing for great photography. HOW LONG WILL THEY STAY: During this time of year, Lawrence's Goldfinches are never found very far from water. If you see a Lawrence's Goldfinch, chances are there is water nearby, even if only a puddle. They will stay until it RAINS! Once the rains arrive water becomes available in other places causing them to spread out. Let's hope the rains arrive this year! In my area the will not be until November (earliest), or January — if we see any rain at all!
It appears that LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCHES have had a banner breeding season in 2016 owing to the spring rains. San Benito County has been in a extremely severe drought. Winter and spring rains this year helped, but were not enough to bring us out of the drought. Nevertheless, several notable species of birds seem to have benefited from the brief rains. These species include: California Quail, American Kestrel, Cassin's Kingbird, Lawrence's Goldfinch and Bell's Sparrow, below.
 
Both BELL'S SPARROW (begging fledgling, above) and LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCH are closely associated with chemise dominated chaparral. Bell's Sparrows can be found many places in Pinnacles National Park.

OTHER BIRDS AT PINNACLES: BELL'S SPARROW and CALIFORNIA CONDOR are probably the two most sought after species at the park. Presently a pair of condors are feeding a fledgling in the nest. If this condor successfully fledges, it will be the first such fledgling in over 100 years! Most of the condors are not coming to their usual roost trees in the evening. The best chances of seeing a condor at this time would be to hike the High Peaks Trail. Additional specialty birds found at Pinnacles include: PRAIRIE FALCON, GOLDEN EAGLE, GREATER ROADRUNNER, NUTTALL'S WOODPECKER, ROCK and CANYON WRENS, CALIFORNIA THRASHER, CALIFORNIA TOWHEE, WRENTIT, and more. Altogether, Pinnacles is an excellent park for birding. 

eBIRDING at PINNACLES NATIONAL PARK: Please check eBird prior to your visit for the long list of hot spots in this park. Many of the trails are hot spots. The campground is a hot spot. It is strongly preferred that one uses a hot spot rather than dumping the data into one general location such as the hot spot for the entire park. If using the app, you most likely will not have cell phone coverage in the park. Also: be aware that Chestnut-backed Chickadee is a very rare bird anywhere in the park. It sounds remarkably like the Oak Titmouse. Many experienced birders has difficulty separating the two by sound. Please report your sightings! Thank you!

FIRE: Currently, the Big Sur Coast is being impacted by the Soborannes Fire. Finding CALIFORNIA CONDORS along Highway 1 on the coast may be impossible, although there are a couple recent eBird reports. This fire is expected to burn until late September. I highly recommend heading to Pinnacles National Park. 

BIRDING ON THE FAULT LINES
of the
Lost County
Debi Shearwater
debi@shearwaterjourneys.com
All images by Beth Hamel, copyright.
Please do not use without permission.