Monterey Bay seabirds and the humpback whales at Moss Landing put on a great show for our September 5, 2015 pelagic trip. Shearwater Journeys' trip headed into Santa Cruz County where many trips do not venture and found some great birds! Highlights included a JAEGER GRAND SLAM: POMARINE, PARASITIC, LONG-TAILED & SOUTH POLAR SKUA; EIGHT SPECIES OF TUBENOSES; COMMON TERNS; SABINE'S GULLS; and 52 HUMPBACK WHALES!
SUNRISE at the Monterey Bay harbor.
A female SEA OTTER, eating a clam breakfast.
We know she is a female because her nose is red.
Males bite the females on the nose when mating.
A COMMON MURRE preens in the harbor.
It is quite unusual to see murres in the harbor and standing on jetties.
There has been a huge die-off of murres, causes unknown, so far.
ELEGANT TERN, one of the inshore species of birds that we search for.
A father murre with his chick.
We saw huge nursery schools on the Santa Cruz side of the bay, as is common at this time of year.
PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER, above.
ELEGANT TERNS are followed by their begging chicks all the way from Southern California where they nested this year.
LONG-BEAKED COMMON DOLPHINS put on a show.
In total, we saw some 52 HUMPBACK WHALES, but this whale above, kept surfacing in a huge kelp patty. That's kelp hanging off the tail flukes!
COMMON TERNS have been relatively scarce this season.
So, it was great to see this one, above.
They must be migrating further offshore this year.
BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS numbers usually drop off during September,
but we had a good show with 31.
Many seabirds fly right up the wake.
NORTHERN/PACIFIC FULMAR, above and below.
PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATERS are great followers at sea.
Give that RED PHALAROPE a surfboard!
We had some great comparison moments of both RED-NECKED, lower left, and RED PHALAROPES, upper right.
A single SOUTH POLAR SKUA put on a great show!
The ultimate bully of the sea, SOUTH POLAR SKUAS have been thin this year.
The dainty and beautiful, SABINE'S GULL.
SOUTH POLAR SKUA, cruising around our boat.
POMARINE JAEGER harassing gulls.
We had a JAEGER GRAND SLAM: POMARINE, PARASITIC & LONG-TAILED!
Jaegers will also chase COMMON TERNS.
BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS flying effortlessly using dynamic soaring.
PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER, showing its pink feet!
Heading off to Santa Cruz County.
Many thanks to all of the participants who joined us from near and far —birders from Germany, Australia, England who ticked 10-15 life birds — and, from Lois Goldfrank, leader of the Santa Cruz birders who ticked some new county birds and even a life bird, or two. It was a banner day for County Birder! Even though the marine forecast was not the best, we made a good trip out of it by heading straight to Moss Landing where the HUMPBACK WHALE SHOW and STREAMING SOOTY SHEARWATERS, continue. After that, we followed the 50 - 100 fathom line north into Santa Cruz County, hiding in the lee of the Santa Cruz Mountains for protection from the northwest wind. All in all a great day!
It takes a team to pull off such a great day. Leaders on this day were: TIM MILLER, CLAY KEMPF, NICK LEVENDOSKY, JENNIFER GREEN, MEL PRESTON, ALEX RINKERT, DEBI SHEARAWATER.
THE COMPLETE SPECIES LIST FOR SHEARWATER JOURNEYS' SEPTEMBER 5, 2015 TRIP FOLLOWS:
MONTEREY/SANTA CRUZ COUNTIES/TOTAL:
COMMON LOON- 1/1/2
BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS- 6/25/31
NORTHERN FULMAR- 18/12/30
PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER- 400/50/450
BULLER'S SHEARWATER- 0/2/2
SOOTY SHEARWATER- 850/150/1000
BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATER- 35/0/35
WILSON'S STORM-PETREL- 0/2/2
ASHY STORM-PETREL- 7/19/26- most of the storm-petrels were found in 50-70 fathoms which is unusual. I think these are "scouts."
From Monterey Bay to Half Moon Bay to Bodega Bay — the shear numbers of seabirds and marine mammals is UNPRECEDENTED!
Not simply the streaming SOOTY SHEARWATERS, but many other species as well.
The diversity amongst seabirds in this area this season has been astounding.
During the past forty years, I have seen a lot of stuff — but, never anything like this!
And, we've only just begun.
SEPTEMBER is the single best month of the entire year to see seabirds based on my forty years of experience. Get thee on a boat, post haste!
September offers the greatest diversity of seabirds & marine mammals.
There is no better month of the entire year!
September generally has the best marine weather.
Shearwater Journeys has some 14 trips on offer during September!
Like a gigantic mixing bowl of warm water, swirling cold water currents, bubbles, and eddies are making this year very special. Seabirds seldom found along the Central California Coast, are turning up. These GUADALUPE MURRELETS, above, are one of the most prized of all murrelet species. We may not see this species in our area again for another decade!
Get out there!
Image, courtesy and copyright, Steve Howell.
LAYSAN ALBATROSS, above, is not easily found — there is no reliable time of year for this species.
However, recent trips have recorded a number of these gorgeous albatrosses, especially off Bodega Bay.
All Laysan images, courtesy and copyright, Steve Howell.
The year 2014 saw a huge influx of BROWN BOOBIES, such as this one on the Half Moon Bay weather buoy. Their displacement continues this season.
STORM-PETRELS which were virtually absent last fall, have been showing up in good numbers on some trips.
Image, courtesy and copyright, Debi Shearwater.
The image below is a mixed species flock as seen on our August 2, 2015 Half Moon Bay trip.
BODEGA BAY has been the main stomping grounds for the vast majority of storm-petrels.
We once recorded a record breaking flock of 12,350 mixed species flock!
True to my prediction and post, STREAMING SHEARWATERS, SCHOOLING FISH & COLD WATER, rafts of thousands of storm-petrels were found near Cordell Bank within days of that post.
Many birders heeded that advise and had splendid views of Cook's Petrels.
Some birders, decided to "wait for next year."
Well, next year came and went, and the next, and the next, and the next.
So, here we are — some six years later — and it has not happened, again.
Birders lamented: I should have followed your advise.
MORAL OF THE STORY:
WHEN EVENTS ARE UNPRECEDENTED — GET OUT THERE!
My good friend, Todd McGrath, has a ball cap with this embroidered on the back:
There is no excuse for not getting on a September pelagic trip!
Next year: LA NINA is already being forecast!
Finally, the BBC & PBS were so certain that Monterey Bay would produce marine life that they filmed, live: BIG BLUE LIVE. Part 2 is tonight, and Part 3 tomorrow night.
UPCOMING TRIPS & LEADERS:
SEP 5, SAT: MONTEREY with Nick Levendosky, Jennifer Green, Clay Kempf, Mel Preston, Tim Miller, Alex Rinkert SEP 6, SUN: HALF MOON BAY with Gerry McChesney, Jim Holmes, Will Brooks, Steve Tucker. SOLD OUT. SEP 8, TUE: MONTEREY BAY with Rick Fournier, Christian Schwarz SEP 9, WED: MONTEREY BAY with Tim Miller, Nick Levendosky, Christian Schwarz, Mel Preston SEP 10, THU: MONTEREY BAY with Nick Levendosky, Christian Schwarz, Jennifer Green SEP 11, FRI: MONTEREY BAY with Mary Gustafson, Jennifer Green, Christian Schwarz SEP 12, SAT: MONTEREY ALBACORE with Scott Terrill, Linda Terrill, Nick Levendosky, Mary Gustafson, Rick Fournier. SOLD OUT. Wait list, email Debi. SEP 13, SUN: MONTEREY BAY with Mary Gustafson, Chris Wood, Jessie Barry, Clay Kempf. Debi's Birthday Trip! SEP 15, TUE: HALF MOON BAY with Mary Gustafson, Chris Wood, Jessie Barry, Tim Miller, Marisa Ortega-Welch SOLD OUT SEP 16, WED: MONTEREY BAY with Tim Miller, Chris Wood, Jessie Barry, Annie Schmidt SEP 18, FRI: BODEGA BAY with Nick Levendosky, Peter Pyle, Abe Borker, Steve Tucker, Steve Howell. SOLD OUT. Wait list, email Debi. SEP 20, SUN: HALF MOON BAY with Gerry McChesney, Nick Levendosky, Scott Terrill, Linda Terrill, Steve Hampton SEP 25, FRI: MONTEREY BAY with Rick Fournier, TBA. SEP 26, SAT: MONTEREY BAY with Scott Terrill, Linda Terrill, TBA. SEP 27, SUN: MONTEREY BAY with Nick Levendosky, Alex Rinkert. OCT 3, SAT: MONTEREY BAY with Tim Miller, Dena Spatz, Jennifer Green OCT 4, SUN: HALF MOON BAY with Steve Hampton, Will Brooks, Annie Schmidt, Christian Schwarz OCT 10, SAT: MONTEREY BAY with Todd McGrath, David Vander Pluym, Lauren Harter, Jennifer Green OCT 11, SUN: HALF MOON BAY with Todd McGrath, Jim Holmes, Tim Miller, Will Brooks, David Vander Pluym, Lauren Harter, Marissa Ortega-Welch OCT 18, SUN: FARALLON ISLANDS GREAT WHITE SHARK & SEABIRDS with Peter Pyle, Gerry McChesney, Jim Holmes, Steve Tucker
Do whatever you can to get on a boat trip this month — call in sick, take a personal holiday — but, get out there! And, October — well, the Southern Hemisphere seabirds have departed for the next breeding season. That thins the shearwaters out quite a bit, making is so much easier to spot mega-rarities. October mega-rare seabirds are one story for the book — but, that's another blog post!