Shearwater Journeys' opening day pelagic trip for the fall 2011 season, departing from Half Moon Bay was nothing short of a smashing success! This is a trip report for July 30, 2011.
Although the targeted species, Cook's Petrel, was not within reach of our trip, we certainly gave it a good shot. Because the sea conditions were so excellent, we put the pedal to the metal, traveling nearly 47 nautical miles offshore! Sea surface temperature charts showed a warm water plume spinning off a larger "lake" of 60+ F water. However, it was just not the right conditions for Cook's Petrels. We needed to go about another 20 miles on the far side of the Pioneer Seamount to reach these petrels. Nevertheless, we had an excellent, top quality pelagic trip. We spent considerable time in both SAN MATEO and SAN FRANCISCO COUNTIES. We did not return to the dock until after 6 pm, an 11 hour pelagic trip.
In addition to the perfect sea conditions, highlights of this trip were many. A GREAT SHEARWATER, spotted by Jon Feenstra, was sitting on the water with a large flock of SOOTY and PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATERS. This was the singular rarest seabird of the day. We also observed a stunning 300+ FORK-TAILED STORM-PETRELS, 4 WILSON'S STORM-PETRELS, 8 LEACH'S STORM-PETRELS, and 795 ASHY STORM-PETRELS. Four BULLER'S SHEARWATERS seemed a bit early. A grand slam on the jaegers, with POMARINE, PARASITIC, and LONG-TAILED, as well as one SOUTH POLAR SKUA. SABINE'S GULLS and ARCTIC TERNS put on a good show. One XANTUS'S MURRELET was spotted early in the morning. A few HUMPBACK WHALES, a MINKE WHALE on the Continental Shelf on the way home and several hundred PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED and NORTHERN RIGHT WHALE DOLPHINS were some of the marine mammal highlights.
A few images (c), Todd McGrath, from our trip include, FORK-TAILED STORM-PETREL. Todd remarked that he was able to get some of his "best-ever" images of this enigmatic storm-petrel.Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels breed on offshore stacks, from northern California, north to Alaska. It is unclear to us as to whether these are non-breeding adults or recently fledged birds. We hope to get more information on this. There is no reliable place, nor time, in the State of California where one can be assured of finding this storm-petrel. Finding rafts and rafts of these petrels, sitting on the water, was very exciting.
ASHY STORM-PETRELS, below, were observed in good numbers. About 55% of the world's population of Ashy Storm-Petrels breed on the nearby Farallon Islands.
Beautiful, adult, LONG-TAILED JAEGERS, below, heading south from their tundra breeding grounds put on quite a show.Surprise bird of the day, GREAT SHEARWATER, below, was seen by all on board and photographed by several folks. This individual was found in SAN MATEO COUNTY, and may represent a first county record. This Atlantic Ocean seabird has been sighted roughly a dozen times in California. Sightings may be more numerous this coming season, as several individuals were reported off Australia this year. Below, we see the Great Shearwater in the foreground, with the dark cap and white collar, and a Sooty Shearwater in the background.
The complete species list follows:
30 JULY 2011, HALF MOON BAY with SHEARWATER JOURNEYS:
SAN MATEO/SAN FRANCISCO/TOTAL
WESTERN GREBE- 1/0/1
BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS- 6/12/18
NORTHERN FULMAR- 26/12/49
PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER- 55/65/120
GREAT SHEARWATER- 1/0/1
BULLER'S SHEARWATER- 1/3/4
SOOTY SHEARWATER- 9220/1800/11020
WILSON'S STORM-PETREL- 1/3/4
FORK-TAILED STORM-PETREL- 10/300/310
LEACH'S STORM-PETREL- 0/8/8
ASHY STORM-PETREL- 20/775/795
BROWN PELICAN- 35/0/35
BRANDT'S CORMORANT- 15/0/15
PELAGIC CORMORANT- 1/0/1
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE- 13/8/21
RED PHALAROPE- 1/180/181
SOUTH POLAR SKUA- 0/1/1
POMARINE JAEGER- 1/5/6
POMARINE/PARASITIC JAEGER- 0/1/1
PARASITIC/LONG-TAILED JAEGER- 0/1/1
LONG-TAILED JAEGER- 1/8/9
HEERMANN'S GULL- 80/25/105
CALIFORNIA GULL- 14/16/30
WESTERN GULL- 95/45/140
SABINE'S GULL- 4/63/67
ELEGANT TERN- 15/5/20
ARCTIC TERN- 0/8/8
COMMON MURRE- 790/0/790
PIGEON GUILLEMOT- 3/0/3
XANTUS'S MURRELET- 1/0/1
CASSIN'S AUKLET- 2/2/4
RHINOCEROS AUKLET- 7/10/17
CALIFORNIA SEA LION- 30
STELLER'S SEA LION- 1
NORTHERN FUR SEAL- 2
HARBOR SEAL- 1
MINKE WHALE- 1
HUMPBACK WHALE- 4
NORTHERN RIGHT WHALE DOLPHIN- 50
PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED DOLPHIN- 300
DALL'S PORPOISE- 12
We thank all of the birders who came from near and far for this trip. The hard-working leaders on this trip were: Scott Terrill, Linda Terrill, Todd McGrath, Jon Feenstra, Tristan McKee, Wes Fritz and myself.
Our next trips departing from Half Moon Bay, September 16, 17, 18 and 19 have limited spaces available. Please choose a first and second choice when making your reservations.
Our Monterey Bay trips departing on August 5, 12 and 26 have spaces available. And, our departures from Fort Bragg to search for Hawaiian Petrel, on August 19, 20, 21 and 22 have spaces available, although only one space on August 20th.
RESERVATIONS: Please contact Debi Shearwater by email: email@example.com to make a reservation. I can only be reached by email at this time.
Stay tuned for reports of the July 31 and August 1 Half Moon Bay trips.