Abe Borker's image of a GREAT-WINGED PETREL, copyright.
This is a trip report for Shearwater Journeys' pelagic trip departing from Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey, August 26, 2011. The singular highlight of a fine day of Monterey seabirding was a GREAT-WINGED PETREL (Pterodroma macroptera gouldi), spotted simultaneously by Abe Borker and Jeri Langham. This represents the fourth record for North America and the northern hemisphere of Great-winged Petrel. This is the second record for Santa Cruz County. Three of the four records are from Monterey Bay and one record, the first-ever, 1996, is from Bodega Bay. Three of the four records have been recorded on Shearwater Journeys' trips. All of these three individuals were observed by Debi Shearwater. It seems unlikely, to me, that this represents only one individual bird. Many seabird authorities split the Great-winged Petrel subspecies. All of the North American subspecies are of the gouldi subspecies which nests on many islands and stacks around North Island, New Zealand. The total population of this subspecies/species is estimated to at 200,000 to 300,000 breeding pairs. Chicks are said to be harvested by New Zealand Maoris, who call it "oi. This petrel nests in burrows. It is said that Little Penguins or one of the shearwater species may move into the burrows, after the petrel is finished nesting. Abe Borker spent time on their breeding islands and is very familiar with the species. Debi Shearwater has seen both subspecies, by the thousands, in her world ocean travels.
Other highlights of the day included BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS, BULLER'S SHEARWATERS, ASHY and FORK-TAILED STORM-PETRELS, SABINE'S GULLS, ARCTIC TERNS, a fly-by TUFTED PUFFIN, three KILLER WHALES pursuing a California Sea Lion and celebrating a "great" birthday with two ladies on board— Pirjo Karvonen and Jackie Bain. What a day! At one point, one of the killer whales surfaced with the sea lion in its' mouth, vigorously shaking it! Additional images can be found on the previous blog posts: Breaking News and August 26, 2011, Images of the Day.
After viewing the inshore marine life, including the PEREGRINE FALCON on the radio tower, we headed offshore toward the northwest of Monterey Bay. Compared with recent pelagic trips from other ports, i.e. Fort Bragg and Bodega Bay, it seemed to me that fewer tubenoses were around on Monterey Bay. This may have been a favorable factor, as it meant that each, individual seabird stood out all the more prominently. About half of the birders on board were making their first, ever pelagic trip! Several longtime, local birders were on board, just out of a nice day at sea. These included Lois Goldfrank, Rick Fournier, Earl LeBow and Bob Ramer. (Bob and Debi organized the some of the very first pelagic trips for the Santa Cruz Bird Club in 1976!) Consequently, leaders were working hard at calling out every single individual bird! No "target" species were on the drawing board. No rare seabirds were sought. Just a fine day at sea. And, so it was!
At 10:38 a.m., I was on the bow, and heard Abe calling quite loudly, "Look at this bird! Look at this bird!" Just at that moment, a large-bodied, dark petrel flew up from the stern. I locked on to it once it hit the 10 o'clock position, and yelled, "GREAT-WINGED PETREL!" while Clay was still stuttering, "It's that bird, that bird!" Frantically, I motioned to photographers on the stern to get to the bow, ducked in the cabin to get the skipper on the bird, recorded lat/long/time/SST, and continued trying to make sure that everyone on board was "on the bird." We managed to follow the petrel for six minutes before we could no longer keep up with it. So, we stopped the boat and Wes Fritz laid out a mega-slick, Jennifer Green tore up pieces of sardines and photographers had a hey-day shooting images of the species coming in on the slick. After a 45 minute "no-show" on the petrel's part, we got underway again. Whew! It was a very, very exciting hour. Time to relax.
Knowing that one lady was celebrating a special birthday, I lit a candle on a slice of carrot cake and we all sang, "Happy Birthday." Later, I discovered that another lady on board, from Finland, was also celebrating her birthday. Riding "downhill" on the way home, everyone was chatting and relaxing, when Abe yelled, "KILLER WHALES!" Just about as soon as the words were out of his mouth, the killer whales were nowhere in sight. In the end, they were not the easiest killer whales to see or track. It appeared that they were chasing a California Sea Lion (or, maybe two). The sea lion tried hiding under our vessel at one point. And, at one point one of the killer whales surfaced with the sea lion in its' mouth, shaking its' head! The sea lion swam off. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to stick around for the final, inevitable kill. This appeared to be a group of three killer whales: one small calf, one female, and one, either young male, or female. What an ending to a completely fabulous day on Monterey Bay.
Many thanks to all of the birders who came from near and far (Finland) for this day at sea. We hope to see you, again, on the bounding main. The leaders were: Abe Borker, Jennifer Green, Clay Kempf, Wes Fritz, Dena Spatz and Debi Shearwater. Special thanks to Jeri Langham of Victor Emanuel Nature Tours.
The complete species list follows:
26 AUGUST 2011, MONTEREY BAY with SHEARWATER JOURNEYS covering both Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties:
Monterey/Santa Cruz/Total number:
BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS- 11/17/28
NORTHERN FULMAR- 17/12/29
**GREAT-WINGED PETREL- 0/1/1
PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER- 18/9/27
BULLER'S SHEARWATER- 2/2/4
SOOTY SHEARWATER- 240/35/275
FORK-TAILED STORM-PETREL- 0/2/2
ASHY STORM-PETREL- 16/1045/1061
BROWN PELICAN- 18/3/21
BRANDT'S CORMORANT- 200/3/203
PELAGIC CORMORANT- 2/0/2
BLACK OYSTERCATCHER- 2/0/2
BLACK TURNSTONE- 6/0/6
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE- 90/55/145
RED-NECKED/RED PHALAROPE- 100
RED PHALAROPE- 27/25/52
SOUTH POLAR SKUA- 1/0/1
POMARINE JAEGER- 5/3/8
PARASITIC JAEGER- 1/2/3
PARASITIC/LONG-TAILED JAEGER- 1
HEERMANN'S GULL- 200
CALIFORNIA GULL- 43
WESTERN GULL- 185
SABINE'S GULL- 12/14/26
ELEGANT TERN- 6/0/6
COMMON TERN- 9/1/10
ARCTIC TERN- 3/3/6
COMMON/ARCTIC TERN- 14
COMMON MURRE- 123/30/153
PIGEON GUILLEMOT- 21/0/21
CASSIN'S AUKLET- 13/0/13
RHINOCEROS AUKLET- 24/12/36
TUFTED PUFFIN- 0/1/1
PEREGRINE FALCON- 1/0/1, on the radio tower along Cannery Row.
SEA OTTER- 14
CALIFORNIA SEA LION- 300
HARBOR SEAL- 2
HUMPBACK WHALE- 1
KILLER WHALE- 3
RISSO'S DOLPHIN- 4
DALL'S PORPOISE- 2
OCEAN SUNFISH- 1, gigantic-sized
EGG YOLK JELLIES- many
AKA: Annie Auklet, in the 20th Century Fox movie, "The Big Year" coming to a theater near you, 14 October 2011!