WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM SANDY KOMITO
Following on from the previous post about doing more than one pelagic trip if visiting from outside of the area, I thought I would use SANDY KOMITO as an example. Many birders know about Sandy from reading the book, The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik. Or, from the movie, "The Big Year." Actually, Sandy has been on the birding scene for a long, long time. And, he's still going at it, methodically and with patience.
Each person who has ever been on a pelagic trip with me has a little 3 x 5 index card in my file box. This has been my method from the early days, beginning in 1976 of tracking people. Today, the file houses thousands and thousands of cards! Looking at Sandy's card, I can see all of the trips he's ever made with Shearwater Journeys. His first trip was September 13 to 16, 1985. With a date such as that, I know that it was an two night, overnight, offshore trip. It was probably on the old "Condor" out of Santa Barbara. The old "Condor" bears little resemblance to the new "Condor" of today which still operates out of Santa Barbara. I don't remember every trip — it has been far too many days at sea for me, but I hope that Sandy saw some of the seabirds he was searching for on that big trip.
Well, Sandy continued doing trips with me over all these many years so that he has filled up two 3 x 5 cards! One would think that this man must have seen every seabird imaginable with a score sheet like that. Nope.
Birding is a dynamic sport. It seems that there is always something new taking place. Seabirding is no different. Recently, the split of Xantus's murrelet to SCRIPP'S and GUADALUPE murrelets has sent a scurry of birders back to sea. New information and knowledge and range changes have come to the forefront of seabirding, such that we now know that HAWAIIAN PETRELS regularly range off Northern California. The question is: when and where. For Sandy Komito, the Hawaiian Petrel proved to be elusive. He tried in 2010, 2012 and again, this season — all August trips which seems to be one of the best times to hope to see this mysterious and endangered petrel.
Sandy, who lives on the East Coast, did exactly as I have suggested in the previous post — he booked THREE TRIPS! The best bet for finding Hawaiian Petrel is probably the Half Moon Bay trips. Sandy booked July 27 & July 28. Both were great birding trips, excellent days at sea. But, alas! No Hawaiian Petrel. Sandy's third trip was August 2, departing from Monterey. Well, in all honesty, I almost said to him at the dock, "You know, Sandy, we are not going to see a Hawaiian Petrel today." I know better. Every time, I've said something like that, I was proved wrong. And, in this case, I would have proved myself wrong, because, I spotted a petrel — which Brian Sullivan got on, right away — you gotta love the younger birders — HAWAIIAN PETREL!!! HAWAIIAN PETREL!! SANDY WAS ON IT! EVERYONE ON BOARD SAW IT. What an amazing day! And, below, you can see just exactly how happy Sandy was to see not only a new ABA (American Birding Association) bird, but also, a LIFE BIRD. Folks, Sandy Komito does not score life birds in the ABA area very often. Patience and persistence paid off for Sandy, as well as booking more than one trip when coming such a long distance. Later, I was reminded that we also saw a Hawaiian Petrel on exactly the same date in 2009.
Debi Shearwater & Sandy Komito
So, the reader might well wonder if I take my own advise. You betcha! A few years ago, I went "Back East" as we say, to see some spring pelagic birds. I booked seven trips with Brian Patteson. Of those seven trips: one had very rough weather, one had very calm seas and five had medium seas. Out of seven trips, I saw black-capped petrel on every trip, herald petrel on four trips, and Fea's Petrel (one bird) on one trip. My seven trips netted me a very nice seabird list. Another time, I returned to the East Coast for winter seabirding with my good friend, Paul Guris. I booked the only two trips See Life Paulagics had during the time I was there. One trip was weathered out. So, I was happy to have the second trip which was a huge success.
There you have it!
See you out there
Hawaiian Petrel image by Brian Sullivan from August 2, 2013
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