Sunday, June 21, 2015


Monterey seabirds are well know, the world over, in no small thanks to Shearwater Journeys which pioneered pelagic seabirding forty years ago. For more years than any other individual person or business, Shearwater Journeys has been the single leading seabird company offering more annual departures for both novice and expert sea birders. 
More than 60,000 birders and lovers of marine life from all over the world have participated on Shearwater Journeys' trips. 
Your ocean birding trip begins right in the harbor where we may see PIGEON GUILLEMOT, BRANDT'S and PELAGIC CORMORANTS. Along the Coast Guard Jetty, we look for BLACK TURNSTONE, SURFBIRD, WANDERING TATTLER, and perhaps, the first RED-NECKED PHALAROPES in the kelp beds. Let's not forget the CALIFORNIA SEA LIONS piled up on the jetty, or the squeals of a young SEA OTTER, or an adult enjoying breakfast, below. 
Large concentrations of seabirds, sometimes in the thousands, as happened last fall with BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATERS, or more often, SOOTY SHEARWATERS, feed on the nutrient-rich waters of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary each fall. 
Above, one of thousands of BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATERS just outside the harbor on many of our 2014 fall trips. Amongst them, we found several MANX SHEARWATERS, a much rarer species, below. 
This sanctuary is contiguous with the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, forming the largest protected areas in the United States. the main feature at Monterey is the huge submarine canyon which bisects the bay. This canyon is as deep as the Grand Canyon and plays a major part in the huge upwelling which brings cold, nutrient-rich waters to the surface, feeding everything from BLUE WHALES to CASSIN'S AUKLETS. Monterey Bay is one of only a few such rich marine ecosystems in the world. Many marine ecologists consider it to be the top such system. 
ANCHOVIES, below, are the stuff of life and a keystone species of this system. 
Monterey Bay is a terrific starting point for beginner sea birders. The bay is half-moon shaped lending protection from the prevailing northwest winds. This means that we generally have very good to excellent marring weather conditions, especially during fall migration. Veteran sea birders know that Monterey Bay can turn up a MEGA-RARE seabird any day. Just ask SANDY KOMITO for whom the HAWAIIAN PETREL, was a LIFE BIRD!
PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATERS, above and below, often fly right up the wake of our vessel, giving excellent views and photographic opportunities. Other shearwaters we often encounter include: SOOTY, FLESH-FOOTED, BULLER'S, and rarely, STREAKED, WEDGE-TAILED and GREAT. 
By now, we have probably glimpsed the strange OCEAN SUNFISH, (Mola mola), basking at the surface. 
A large "blob" of warm water settled along the California coast last fall. With it came some species of seabirds that we haven't observed for a few years, including this SCRIPPS'S MURRELET, below. It looks like 2015 will continue the warm water trend. 
Typically, when we stop to look at a RHINOCEROS AUKLET, the BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES fly into the wake. They often sit on the water for close inspection, as below. 
 Off Point Pinos, during fall migration we find SABINE'S GULL, below, and ARCTIC TERNS, sometimes in large flocks. These birds are usually pursued by POMARINE, PARASITIC and LONG-TAILED JAEGERS, as well as SOUTH POLAR SKUAS
 Often we head to the northern canyons which lie off the coast of Davenport because this is where the STORM-PETREL FLOCKS were last found. These flocks can include the following species of storm-petrels: ASHY, BLACK, LEAST, WILSON'S, sometimes FORK-TAILED, and rarely, LEACH'S and WEDGE-RUMPED
 In addition to seabirds, marine mammals can be quite spectacular in Monterey Bay. A huge variety of whales, including HUMPBACK, BLUE, GRAY, MINKE, FIN (rarely); BAIRD'S BEAKED WHALES, ORCAS/KILLER WHALES (above and below) and dauphins: RISSO'S, PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED, NORTHERN RIGHT WHALE and BOTTLENOSE, as well as HARBOR and DALL'S PORPOISES. Many of these species are observed on our Monterey Bay trips. We often spot the whales for the whale watching boats!
KILLER WHALES, above two images, often approach our vessel very closely, especially when they have made a kill. This can be quite spectacular! 
 Over the past four decades nothing has changed more in Monterey Bay than the return of the HUMPBACK WHALES. For the past two years, no fewer than 100 HUMPBACK WHALES have been photographed, feeding on schooling fish in the bay! The Humpback above, is breaching just off the Pacific Grove coastline!
Returning to the harbor after a most enjoyable day, checking our checklists, and relaxing in the afternoon sunshine, we see the sailboats out doing the same thing. Oh, well, maybe not checking their checklists!
We present, below, the 2015 Shearwater Journeys' fall schedule of pelagic trips departing from Monterey. These trips can easily be combined with trips departing from HALF MOON BAY, SAUSALITO (to the FARALLON ISLANDS), or possibly BODEGA BAY, for a well rounded pelagic experience. It is always best to book more than one trip, from different ports, if possible. Debi Shearwater will be on every trip. By being out there on so many different trips that cover such a large area of the Central Coast, Debi can develop a good picture of how and where the seabirds are distributed — something that changes every year, and even within the season. The ALBACORE, September 12th trip which departs from Monterey is a specialty trip. Please note that on all of the trips, we shall not be out of the sight of land, unless it is fogged in. You can also view the complete schedule on on web site. Or, view it in calendar format, here. Generally, Monterey Bay trips head north, while Monterey Seavalley trips head south. However, we always go where we think we'll find the best diversity of seabirds!


JUL. 31 FRI. 
AUG. 7, FRI.
AUG. 21, FRI.
SEP. 5, SAT.
SEP. 8, TUE.
SEP. 9, WED.
SEP. 10, THU.
SEP. 11, FRI.
SEP. 13, SUN. 
SEP. 16, WED.
SEP. 25, FRI.
SEP. 26, SAT.
SEP. 27, SUN.
OCT. 4, SUN.
OCT. 10, SAT.

DEPARTURE: 7 a.m. Fisherman's Wharf Monterey. Stop at Chris' Fishing Shop on the right hand side as you walk down the wharf. They will direct you to the boat and give you a parking voucher. (Albacore trip meet at 5:15 a.m.). 
RETURN: 3:00 p.m. Allow for delays.
PARKING: Parking can be confusing in this area, as there are two different wharves. Park in the big lot near Fisherman's Wharf. Follow the signs. Take a ticket from the machine upon entering the lot. Stop at Chris' Fishing Shop and let them know you are on the Shearwater Journeys' trip. They will give you a coupon which will significantly reduce the parking fee. Allow 10 minutes to park and walk to the shop, more time if you do not know where you are going, or need to stop to use the restroom. Try to check this area out the day prior to your trip. 
PRICE ADJUSTMENT: Should the pricing increase, an adjustment may be necessary at the dockside, from $5-15 per person, payable in cash only. Do not send payment ahead with your reservation. This will only occur if rates increase. (Rates on this schedule were posted in October 2014). 
FOOD & DRINKS: Please bring all food and drinks, including water in a small day pack. None is available on the boat. 
MOTELS: There are thousands of motels in the Monterey area. However, they can be fully booked, if an "event" is happening — which is often. Booking motel rooms ahead of arrival almost always results in lower rates, as opposed to walking in the front door without a booking. Motels in the sleepy town of Pacific Grove are especially nice with easy access to birding along Ocean View Blvd. for rocky shorebirds. A bit closer to the wharf (but still requiring a vehicle), any motel on Munras Avenue is fine. 
RESERVATIONS: $168/person. DISCOUNT of $40 to celebrate our 40th year, if booked by 1 JULY. No refunds on discounted trips. The Albacore trip is $199/person (discount not available for that trip). Please follow instructions on the web site for booking

Debi Shearwater

Images in this blog post, copyright: 
Beth Hamel, Brian Sullivan, Debi Shearwater

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