This is a trip report for Shearwater Journeys' October 27, 2013 pelagic trip departing from Half Moon Bay, California, offshore to the Continental Shelf and Pioneer Canyon. Ocean bird highlights were many on this overcast, but very sea bird-filled day: at least 9 FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATERS were found, often with more than one in view at a time; 5 MARBLED MURRELETS were observed just outside of the harbor near the Ritz; 4 SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATERS and 25 BULLER'S SHEARWATERS put on a nice show, 3 SOUTH POLAR SKUAS and one or two TUFTED PUFFINS (could not be certain it wasn't the same individual both sightings), one flyby ANCIENT MURRELET, a sprinkling of RISSO'S and PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED DOLPHINS, and great views of a SALMON SHARK, all made for a very well rounded day at sea! All images below by leader Abe Borker, copyright. Please do not use without permission.
FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER, above and below.
SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATER, below, a declining species.
FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER, left and PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER, right, showing a great comparison: similar size and flight patterns.
NORTHERN FULMAR, above, feeding on chum. Sometimes, they are confused with Flesh-footed Shearwaters, but fulmars have a different body shape, being a much beefier, stocky seabird with a thick neck and "smashed" head appearance.
PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER, ventral view above and dorsal view, below.
PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER, below left, showing the pink legs and feet.
POMARINE JAEGER, below.
POMARINE JAEGER, below.
PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER, below. They often follow in the wake.
PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER, below, shows mottled white underwings, sometimes very dark which can be very confusing with Flesh-footed Shearwater. Both have a two-toned bill, pink at the base. It has only been in recent years that we've been able to distinguish these "dark morph" Pink-footed Shearwaters. They are rarely seen.
We observed TUFTED PUFFIN on the way offshore and on our return to the harbor, although I usually do not run over my same tracks (on land or sea).
TUFTED PUFFIN, above and below, looking very much like the same individual.
Tufted Puffins breed on the nearby Farallon Islands. Our early August trip has been 100% successful in finding breeding puffins! Our 2014 TUFTED PUFFIN trip is planned for SUNDAY, AUGUST 3. Don't miss out! This trip departs from Sausalito and always sells out early.
NORTHERN FULMAR, above.
BONAPARTE'S GULL, above and below, herald the end of the fall season.
RED PHALAROPES, below, migrating south from their High Arctic breeding grounds.
Distant FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER, below. This is a shearwater that we call a "ten trip" bird, meaning that one usually needs to do ten trips to see one individual of this species! Best observed during the month of October, although it has been recorded every month of the year. Once, a Flesh-footed Shearwater followed our vessel for four hours on an April Monterey trip!
CALIFORNIA SEA LIONS hang out at the weather buoy, although they cannot clamor aboard it because of the way it is designed.
CALIFORNIA SEA LIONS, below.
A STELLER'S SEA LION, below, back, hangs with the Cal Sea Lions.
STELLER'S SEA LION, below. Their vocalizations are markedly different from the California Sea Lions — so, easy to tell there is one in the pack, if it calls out!
Steller's Sea Lion's heads are shaped like a polar bear's head and nose.
Dark morph NORTHERN FULMAR, above.
We had an awesome chum slick, as seen above.
NORTHERN FULMAR, soon to be split into two species, possibly Atlantic and Pacific Fulmars.
NORTHERN FULMAR, above.
NORTHERN FULMAR, above and below, always shows a yellowish bill.
SOUTH POLAR SKUA, above.
Yet another FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER, above. Australia is considering "listing" this species! It may be in trouble.
An adult TUFTED PUFFIN, above, in winter plumage.
BULLER'S SHEARWATER, above, shows very clean and crisp white underparts.
Although the day was overcast, the seas were good right up until the later afternoon when we hit the Pioneer Canyon. We traveled over the areas where we have previously seen storm-petrels, but found none. At that time, a new weather system packing gale force winds was just arriving. We headed back toward the harbor. Once on the Continental Shelf, the seas and winds dropped. But, that night and the next day — whoa! 30 knots of wind! So, we just snuck this trip in before a big weather system hit. We were in San Mateo County for most of the hours of the day.
Our last trip of the entire fall season is NOVEMBER 16TH, departing from HALF MOON BAY with leaders: Scott Terrill, Linda Terrill, Todd McGrath, Tim Miller, Abe Borker and Debi Shearwater. Celebrate the end of a great fall season of ocean birding with us. A few spaces remain. Email me for a reservation: email@example.com.
Many thanks to all of those birders who came from near and far. The leaders on this day were: Scott Terrill, Linda Terrill, John Garrett, Abe Borker and Debi Shearwater.
The complete species list for SAN MATEO/SAN FRANCISCO COUNTIES follows:
OCTOBER 27, 2013 SHEARWATER JOURNEYS HALF MOON BAY:
RED-THROATED LOON- 9/0
PACIFIC LOON- 11/0
COMMON LOON- 24/0
HORNED GREBE- 2/0
EARED GREBE- 9/0
WESTERN GREBE- 38/0
BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS- 3/3
NORTHERN FULMAR- 60/15
PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER- 85/10
FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER- 9/0, possibly declining.
BULLER'S SHEARWATER- 25/0
SOOTY SHEARWATER- 230/8, declining species
SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATER- 4/0, declining species
BROWN PELICAN- 600/0
BRANDT'S CORMORANT- 75/0
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT- 75/0
PELAGIC CORMORANT- 12/0
SURF SCOTER- 280/0
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER- 3/0
BLACK OYSTERCATCHER- 9/0
BLACK TURNSTONE- 5/0
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE- 21/0
RED PHALAROPE- 25/3
SOUTH POLAR SKUA- 3/0
PARASITIC JAEGER- 3/0
POMARINE JAEGER- 3/0
BONAPARTE'S GULL- 34/3
HEERMANN'S GULL- 20/0
MEW GULL- 1/0
CALIFORNIA GULL- 40/70
HERRING GULL- 15/5
THAYER'S GULL- 1/0
WESTERN GULL- 40/100
GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL- 10/1
WESTERN/GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL- 8/1
GLAUCOUS-WINGED/HERRING GULL- 1/0
COMMON MURRE- 380/0
MARBLED MURRELET- 5/0
ANCIENT MURRELET- 1/0
CASSIN'S AUKLET- 70/0
RHINOCEROS AUKLET- 355-1
TUFTED PUFFIN- 1 or 2/0
GREAT BLUE HERON- 2/0
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON- 2/0
CALIFORNIA SEA LION- 40
STELLER'S SEA LION- 1
HARBOR SEAL- 2
RISSO'S DOLPHIN- 7
PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED DOLPHIN- 70
HARBOR PORPOISE- 1
OCEAN SUNFISH- 1
*SALMON SHARK- 1
SEE YOU OUT THERE!