Monday, May 23, 2011


Howdy, Birders,

Did you know that registration is now open for the 7th Annual Monterey Bay Birding Festival? This fabulous festival offers an outstanding array of field trips, workshops, speakers and just plain fun with awesome folks. This festival has ALL of the birds of the central coast— and, then some— mammals, as well. Reasonably priced, with al la carte selections make this the best value birding event around. This post will concentrate on the pelagic trips offered by Shearwater Journeys, Inc. for the festival.

Shearwater Journeys is the sole provider of pelagic trips for the Monterey Bay Festival. And, why not? Debi Shearwater has offered pelagic trips departing from Monterey's Fisherman's Wharf since 1976 — some 36 years running. Over 60,000 people, from professors to housewives, Nobel Prize winners to truck drivers, have participated in the Shearwater trips. Welcome to our ocean world.

For a quick glance at the seabird and marine mammal species observed on our four 2010 festival pelagic trips, click here.

Monterey Bay is a unique place that makes observing seabirds and marine mammals a pleasure when compared with other places in the USA, and world. For one thing, the bay is half-moon shaped, offering protection from the prevailing northwest winds. This makes for easier boat rides since it is the wind that causes swells. A huge submarine canyon, comparable in size to the Grand Canyon, bisects the bay. Indeed, the Monterey Submarine Canyon was one of the major reasons why this area was declared a National Marine Sanctuary. The presence of this canyon so close to shore means that deep water loving seabirds and marine mammals can be found within minutes of departure from the dock! Seabirds at the doorstep, as it were!

The following information may help you plan your visit regarding the pelagic trips. At the end of this blog is a species list of the wildlife encountered on last year's festival trips. Please look it over.

A few basics: Trips are offered on the following dates:

THUR, SEP 22- Leaders: Jennifer Green, Wes Fritz & Debi Shearwater
FRI, SEP 23- Leaders: Abe Borker, Jennifer Green, Adam Searcy, Wes Fritz & Debi Shearwater
SAT, SEP 24- Leaders: Scott Terrill, Linda Terrill, Abe Borker, Adam Searcy, Wes Fritz & Debi Shearwater
SUN, SEP 25- Leaders: Joe Morlan, Abe Borker, Adam Searcy, Wes Fritz & Debi Shearwater
MON, SEP 26- Leaders: Wes Fritz, Adam Searcy & Debi Shearwater (this trip is not listed on the festival web site)

All trips meet at 7 am, promptly at Chris' Fishing Shop on Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey. All trips are on the vessel, Checkmate, with skipper Tinker. All trips return about 3 pm. The boat is a US Coast Guard licensed, certified and inspected vessel. It has a bathroom, or "head" as they are known on ships. Bring lunch, drinks and dress warmly. Park in the large parking lot near Fisherman's Wharf. Let the folks in Chris' Fishing Shop know that you are participating in the Shearwater Journey's trip, to receive your parking validation coupon. This will save you money when exit the parking lot at the end of the trip.

A number of leaders will accompany each trip, as listed above. Additional leaders may be added to some trips. Beginners and advanced seabirders are welcome. Our leaders are anxious to share the marine world with you and will not only spot the birds and marine mammals, but help you see them and identify them, too! All leaders are equipped with radios to communicate with each other and with the skipper. A public announcement system will be used to call out birds, as well. An introductory talk, once everyone is on board, by Debi will explain how the trip operates. Chumming for seabirds is part of the trip. This helps to attract birds closer to the vessel, and it may pull in a curious bird. Although we will be traveling for much of the time, there will also be times when the vessel is stopped for close up views, or for photographers to obtain some images— for instance, such as this BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS, below.
Birding begins the very minute we depart from the dock— there is no waiting! PIGEON GUILLEMOTS, in flight, below, nest on the pilings under the dock. This is one of several inshore species that we shall search for. Others include ELEGANT TERN and HEERMANN'S GULL.
Just about 30 minutes after departing the dock, off Point Pinos, with land well in sight, we might encounter our first shearwaters of the day. Above, a PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER glides effortlessly over the sea. Up to eight species of shearwaters are possible on these trips. Because the deep Monterey Submarine Canyon is located so close to shore, we rarely need to venture far out to sea. In fact, one often sees far fewer seabirds offshore. This submarine canyon, along with the prevailing currents and winds, causes a reaction known as upwelling. Upwelling brings the deep, cold nutrient-rich waters to the surface, feeding the entire food chain from zooplankton to grazing blue whales. This is where the seabirds concentrate— near these rich feeding grounds.
Surprises and "bonus" birds occur at sea, too! This TUFTED PUFFIN was one such bird. Tufted Puffins are not common on Monterey Bay, even though their nearest nesting area, the Farallon Islands is not that far away.

By offering four days of pelagic trips in a row, we are able to determine the best birding areas to search for seabirds and marine mammals. Sometimes, feeding concentrations of thousands of shearwaters remain in the same area over several days. It is as important to know where to search for seabirds as it is to know where not go search! Negative data can help chart a more productive route. Regardless, our seabirding experience is second to none!

Jump on board with Shearwater Journeys,
Debi Shearwater

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