This is a trip report for Shearwater Journeys amazing August 25, 2013 pelagic trip departing from Half Moon Bay. From start to finish, nearly 12 hours later, this was a day which encompassed the splendor of seabirding. The seas were near glassy, flat calm. Skies were predominantly blue with sunshine most of the day, excellent for photography. Being a very small group made the day more intimate, and also allowed the photographers easy access to their subjects. All images in this report, copyright, Steve Rottenborn. Please do not use without permission. Highlights of this trip included: WARM WATER @ 60-61 degrees F, more below, huge rafts of BULLER'S SHEARWATERS, rafts of hundreds of ASHY STORM-PETRELS, increasing numbers of BLACK STORM-PETRELS, two FORK-TAILED STORM-PETRELS; a jaeger "grand slam" with POMARINE, PARASITIC, LONG-TAILED JAEGERS and SOUTH POLAR SKUA, ARCTIC TERNS, SCRIPP'S MURRELETS, CASSIN'S AUKLETS, RHINOCEROS AUKLETS, TUFTED PUFFINS, and 32 feeding HUMPBACK WHALES. Oops, and a LARGE-BILLED SAVANNAH SPARROW on the jetty — a new "rocky shorebird!"
The inner harbor area was still choked with 1200 ELEGANT TERNS, above, and 1000 BROWN PELICANS, below. However, the feeding flock of sooty shearwaters had departed, most likely following the anchovy runs. A few Brown Pelicans have been spotted with blue leg bands. These should be reported to the INTERNATIONAL BIRD RESCUE. Learn more about their brown pelican rehab, here.
We had great views of the usual rocky shorebirds, including BLACK OYSTERCATCHER, BLACK TURNSTONE and SURFBIRDS. A LARGE-BILLED SAVANNAH SPARROW, spotted by our captain and identified by leader, Steve Rottenborn, was quite a surprise — and, a Life Bird for many on board!
Departing from the harbor, we immediately began running into many father/chick COMMON MURRE pairs, as below. The "chick" goes out to sea with the father who cares for it for several weeks. Their back and forth vocalizations are so sweet. Eventually, they form these "nursery schools," flocks.
It is common to see SOOTY SHEARWATERS mixed in with the murre flocks.
It was a little bit surprising to encounter the first BULLER'S SHEARWATERS, below, in amongst these mixcd flocks of murres and sooty shearwaters.
The seas were so calm that most of the shearwaters and albatrosses were sitting on the water, rather than flying. Flocks of several hundred Buller's shearwaters, sitting on the water, is an absolutely gorgeous site — especially, when they rise in flight, like a ballet.
BULLER'S SHEARWATER, above and below.
A plastic bottle floats among a flock of BULLER'S SHEARWATERS. The big "find" of the day was 60 degree F sea surface temperatures, before we even made it to the 50 fathom line! The "relaxation period" of the seas allowed warmer water from Southern California to flow northward. Indeed, we were to be inside of this huge band of warm water, up to 61 F at times, for many, many miles. This is the stuff of albacore tuna fishing lure. The tuna fishermen were out in droves, but the albacore were not biting. Tuna fishermen call the Buller's shearwaters and Arctic terns, "tuna birds." Indeed, these birds were right with the tuna. We did see Pacific Saury, a type of bait fish, jumping, probably being chased by tuna.
We saw the first of many HUMPBACK WHALES en route to the Pioneer Canyon.
Along the edges of the Pioneer Canyon, we found rafts of hundreds of ASHY STORM-PETRELS, above.
The storm-petrels were attracted to the oil slick at our stern, flying in for some close-up shots. Amongst the hundreds of ASHY STORM-PETRELS, above, were quite a few BLACK STORM-PETRELS, and two FORK-TAILED STORM-PETRLS.
A beautiful SABINE'S GULL, above and below, was amongst one flock of shearwaters.
Steve spotted a SOUTH POLAR SKUA, sitting in one flock. Everyone was able to get a great view.
SOUTH POLAR SKUA, below, takes flight showing the big wing patches.
TUFTED PUFFINS, below, gave a good show.
Again, we encountered as huge feeding lot of HUMPBACK WHALES, with as many as 20 in view at the same time. Below, is an image of four of those whales.
Many thanks to the superb co-leaders, Steve Rottenborn, below.
The Humpbacks are waiting for you!
Thank you, one and all for joining this amazing day at sea!
It was a lot of fun!
The complete species list for SAN MATEO/SAN FRANCISCO COUNTIES follows:
AUGUST 25, 2013 SHEARWATER JOURNEYS' HALF MOON BAY
PACIFIC LOON- 1/0
CLARK'S GREBE- 1/0
WESTERN/CLARK'S GREBE- 5/0
BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS- 5/2
PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER- 7/10
BULLER'S SHEARWATER- 500/80
SOOTY SHEARWATER- 450/150
FORK-TAILED STORM-PETREL- 0/2
ASHY STORM-PETREL- 7/1000
BLACK STORM-PETREL- 0/20
BROWN PELICAN- 1000/0
BRANDT'S CORMORANT- 2/0
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT- 300/0
PELAGIC CORMORANT- 2/0
BLACK OYSTERCATCHER- 1/0
BLACK TURNSTONE- 13/0
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE- 25/8
RED PHALAROPE- 40/30
SOUTH POLAR SKUA- 0/1
POMARINE JAEGER- 2/1
PARASITIC JAEGER- 5/0
LONG-TAILED JAEGER- 0/1
JAEGER SP.- 1/1
HEERMANN'S GULL- 20/0
CALIFORNIA GULL- 15/10
WESTERN GULL- 160/40
SABINE'S GULL- 0/2
ELEGANT TERN- 1200/0
ARCTIC TERN- 2/9
COMMON MURRE- 500/2
PIGEON GUILLEMOT- 3/0
*SCRIPP'S MURRELET- 3/0
CASSIN'S AUKLET- 16/3
RHINOCEROS AUKLET- 60/7
TUFTED PUFFIN- 4/0
*LARGE-BILLED SAVANNAH SPARROW- 1/0
CALIFORNIA SEA LION- 1
NORTHERN FUR SEAL- 2
HARBOR SEAL- 1
HUMPBACK WHALE- 32
PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED DOLPHIN- 12
HARBOR PORPOISE- 8
BLUE SHARK- 1