Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Birders Speak About the Epic September 20, 2013 Bodega Bay

Three 2013 BIG YEAR BIRDERS, above: NEIL HAYWARD, ISAAC SANCHEZ and JAY LEHMAN on the epic September 20, 2013 Shearwater Journeys' pelagic trip which departed from Bodega Bay and ventured offshore to the Cordell Bank, recording a modern day record number of storm-petrels. 
Image, courtesy Isaac Sanchez

Here's what Isaac Sanchez had to say about birding with the guys:
It was also a pleasure on the pelagic trip to run into birding buddy Jay Lehman who is doing a traditional Big Year (currently at 650+).  We first birded together with another mutual birding buddy Paul Serridge while in graduate school over 40 years ago.  It was also a pleasure to meet Neil Hayward who is the 2013 Big Year front-runner with 710 species.

Isaac, himself is doing a PHOTO BIG YEAR. To date, he has photographed more than 550 birds in the USA. He might reach 575. "At the beginning of the year, I never dreamed of photographing 500 birds much less 550.  With 3 months left there is a chance I can reach 575, but 600 still seems out of reach. I have often been asked the question: what do you do with all of your bird photos?  The short answer is that I enjoy sharing them with other birders.  And I share without an ulterior motive.  I don’t sell my photos and I intend to remain an amateur for the foreseeable future.  I have already donated over 400 images to NatureInstruct, a Canadian web site devoted to bird identification. Bird photography is a great learning tool.  I am a better birder because I can discover and carefully study field marks that I would otherwise miss in the field. I am extremely gratified that my Big Year photos have already been viewed over 100,000 times.  I hope viewers enjoy the photos as much as I do.  For me, each photo provides context for a pleasant memory." 

It seems that BLACK STORM-PETREL was a Big Year tick for all three of these fellow. 

Isaac had this to say about the trip: Yesterday was an unbelievable spectacle!  At the beginning of the trip you posed the question to the leaders: where do you think the birds are?  Well I guess you answered your own question. :-)
The Shearwater pelagic out of Bodega Bay was one of those experiences that birders only dream about.  We encountered rafts of storm petrels in the thousands on the Cordell Bank (I haven’t seen the official estimate yet, but Debi Shearwater and other leaders on board, including pelagic guru Steve Howell, were bandying around numbers in excess of 10,000).  Given that we had never seen a Fork-tailed or a Black Storm-Petrel before, this was an extraordinary introduction to both birds.  Ashy Storm-Petrel was the predominant species (whose world wide numbers have been estimated to be less than 20,000), with Fork-tails close behind.

And, Jay said of the trip:  The second new bird for the year was Black Storm-Petrel.  Black Storm-Petrels were mixed with Ashy and Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels in the largest flock of storm-petrels ever recorded in North America, a total of 17,000+ storm-petrels.  It was AWESOME!  Truly, a lifetime experience.  Debi Shearwater reports on her blog that there were 10,500+ Ashy Storm-Petrels, 6,500+ Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, 300 Black Storm-Petrels and 25 Wilson's Storm-Petrels.  We had a grand slam of jaegers:  Pomarine, Parasitic and Long-tailed Jaegers and South Polar Skua.  Sea mammals put on a good show with 15-17 Blue Whales, 12   Humpbacked Whales, 50 Northern Right Whale Dolphins, 350 Pacific White-sided Dolphins and 8 Dall's Pofpoises. Pinnipeds included: California Sea Lion, Stellar's Sea Lion, Northern Fur Seal, Northern Elephant Seal and Harbor Seal.  It was quite an exciting trip.

Long time sea birder, Jim Chiropolos had this to say about the trip:
I was on the September 20 Shearwater Journeys pelagic and it was amazing.
Entering and leaving the cordell bank (but not over the bank itself) storm petrels were everywhere. Huge rafts of storm pertrels were everywhere. At times, it seemed that every yard of ocean had a storm pretel! In all my time birdwatching, I'm not sure if I have ever seen more birds. It was like watching the wilderbeast migration in Africa. It was one of those special birding moments. Imagine, perfect light, and everywhere, storm petrels dancing on a gente swell in the ocean, horizon to horizon. The areas we had the big storm petrel flocks, I don't think we saw anything but storm petrels - very interesting in itself. 
The trip leaders - Debby Shearwater, Peter Pyle and Steve Howell conservatively estimated at least 15,500 storm petrels, including 10,500 ashy, 4,500 fork tailed, several hundred black an multiple Wilsons. Debby thinks we may have seen a record amount of storm petrels ever on a single pelagic trip! No Way! Even the leaders were amazed and had never seen anything like it (I think) and they spend a lot of time on the ocean.

We also had the jaeger slam with multiple skuas, great marine mammel watching (and also smelled and heard multiple whales they were so close) on a very gentle ocean swell - no one got sea sick.
A great, great day on the ocean. Maybe I will see you out there some day.

Ashy Storm-Petrels Forever,
Debi Shearwater 

Check out Shearwater Journeys' offshore seabird trips!

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