Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Howdy, Birders,
Traveling by ship through the isles of Scotland has long been a dream of mine. Well, it is about to become reality! I invite you to join me on a journey to the Hebrides and St. Kilda on an all inclusive voyage, 24 April through 2 May, 2012.
This unique voyage which begins in Oban, takes us to the Inner and Outer Hebrides. Followed by NORTHERN GANNETS, below, NORTHERN FULMARS and ATLANTIC PUFFINS, we will explore the lovely green island of Iona, the spectacular cave Fingals's Cave on the small island Staffa and other beautiful islands. This unique voyage is strictly limited to 12 guests. As of this writing, 8 berths are available.
Islay is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides and is often referred to as the "Queen of the Hebrides." It is renowned worldwide not only for its many distilleries producing single malts with smooth, full, rich and peaty character. We will visit the single malt distillery, Laphroaig, below. I've wanted to visit this particular distillery ever since the Scotsman, Peter Roberts, offered me my first glass of this distinctive, peaty single malt on my first Antarctica voyage on board the M/V Explorer, in 2001!
We will visit Iona, Staffa and Treshnish Islands. Iona has been an island of deep spiritual significance for more than 1000 years. No less than 62 Kings of Scotland are buried here, including Duncan I who was murdered by Macbeth. Weather permitting, we will make a stop at the island of Staffa to view the amazing Fingal's cave. We'll sail west and explore the tiny Treshnish Islands, located in the waters between Mull and Tiree. Now uninhabited, this group of low islands are home to thousands of seabirds and a large population of Common and Atlantic Gray Seals. We hope to land on the largest of the islands, Lunga, to walk amongst the surprisingly tame Atlantic Puffins and see remnants of past habitation that dates back to the Viking period.
Through the Sound of Harris we shall head to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of St. Kilda, a remarkable uninhabited archipelago some fifty miles beyond the Outer Hebrides. Far flung and breathtakingly wild, St. Kilda is one of Scotland's most outstanding natural spectacles. It is a dual World Heritage Site, listed for both its natural environment and cultural significance.
We will drop anchor in Village Bay on the main island Hirta and wander through the remnants of the village. The last islanders were evacuated in the 1930s. We will cruise past the impressive island of Boreray and the amazing Stac an Amin and Stac Lee, where tens of thousands, indeed the world's largest colony of NORTHERN GANNETS nest. (60,000 pairs) Up close it is difficult to know what is more impressive: the seething mass of life or the savage grandeur of the towering cliffs on which the seabirds nest. Along with the gannets are colonies of Northern Fulmars and Atlantic Puffins. GREAT SKUA also breeds here. Boreray is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), part of the North Uist Machair & Islands Special Protected Area (SPA) and a Ramsar site.
On the west side of the Isle of Lewis we shall visit the Callanish Stones, a cross-shaped setting of the standing stones erected around 3000 BC. This is one of the most incredible megalithic monuments in Scotland.
The main occupations on the islands are fishing, sheep farming and tweed production. Other wildlife we may encounter include MINKE WHALE and BASKING SHARK.
The small island of Canna has a tiny agricultural and cattle-rearing population. From a walk along the cliff top we shall have stunning views and may see Golden Eagles, White-tailed Eagles and Peregrine Falcons. The adjoining island of Rum is a nature reserve and an oasis for birders. We shall pay a visit to Kinloch Castle, an eclectic 19th century turreted castle built by the Bullough family. Manx Shearwaters formerly nested on Canna, but have declined seriously due to brown rats.
If this voyage interests you please contact me at debi@shearwaterjourneys.com; 831-637-8527, as soon as possible. It is expected to sell out quickly. The fee of $5585 per person INCLUDES the following: 7 nights on board M/S Stockholm; one night hotel in Glasgow; transfer Glasgow-Oban; all meals on board; all wine, beer and drinks; an experienced Expedition Leader/knowledgable naturalist guide; lectures on board and on shore; all shore excursions and activities by Zodiac; the customary gratuity to the ship's crew; a detailed log book. NOT INCLUDED: Flights to/from Glasgow; travel and cancellation insurance; personal expenses. Some excellently priced airfares are available during the time of this voyage.

Scotland by sea is a voyage not to be missed! I hope you will join me.
Gannets forever,
Debi Shearwater

Please note: Our exact route will depend on weather conditions and wildlife sightings. The places mentioned above are the planned itinerary, but can be changed. We always strive to maximize your experience. Remember, flexibility is the key to a successful expedition. This voyage will take place on board M/S Stockholm, a classic vessel built in 1953 for The Swedish National Maritime Administration. In 1999 she was totally refurbished and began her career as a comfortable passenger ship. She carries a maximum of 12 passengers in outside twin cabins, all with upper and lower berths and private facilities. She is a marvelous piece of maritime history with beautiful brass details and pine decks. This is an entirely different experience and perspective to that of a larger vessel. On board you will enjoy delicious meals in the company of likeminded travelers who enjoy the natural world. The food is of good quality. All beverages are included. A trip on board M/S Stockholm in this remote region with its unique wildlife and intact nature is a most unusual experience.
All images, copyright: Jonas Sundquist, Olle Carlsson, Oscar Westman, Shearwater Journeys.


Howdy, Birders,
This is a brief report for Panoche Valley, Paicines Reservoir and Santa Ana Valley, birding in San Benito County, California for Sunday, January 29, 2012. It was a gorgeous day for birding — I couldn't resist getting out there!

PRAIRIE FALCONS continued at all three locations. Birders who were already at Paicines Reservoir when I arrived, said that a Prairie Falcon had just been there. Look on the "H" shaped telephone poles on the west side. The Prairie Falcon, below, was along Santa Ana Valley Road.
By now you, dear reader know how much I love shades of brown. This tangle of oak branches easily conceals an adult GOLDEN EAGLE, below. This eagle repeatedly let out a plaintive call while sitting in this tree. It could have been calling for its' mate.
Sadly, one of my most favorite barns went down with the last storm. GREAT-HORNED OWLS have nested in this barn for the past 12 years.
At PAICINES RESERVOIR I found 1 EURASIAN WIGEON, 2 CACKLING GEESE, 5 WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, one 4th year BALD EAGLE in the morning and one adult MALE BALD EAGLE in the late afternoon, 1 SPOTTED SANDPIPER and an assortment of waterfowl. For some reason, this BUSHTIT, below, popped up, chattering and scolding, on the fence right in front of me while I was standing at the dirt pullout, scoping waterfowl at the reservoir!
On PANOCHE ROAD I found the "usual suspects," including PHAINOPEPLA, RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW, HERMIT THRUSH, etc. Quite a few singing CALIFORNIA THRASHERS, WRENTITS, OAK TITS, etc. as is normal for this time of year. Two HOODED MERGANSERS were at the pond at Summit Ranch. Be sure to look on the duck house! (I failed to find the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker which had been around for several weeks). At the intersection of Panoche and Recalde Roads, a MERLIN was present. Sixteen MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS were along Recalde Road. On Panoche Road from Silver Creek Ranch to Jackass Pass at least 28 MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS were in mixed flocks with House Finches. Unusual birds included one SAGE SPARROW and one male NORTHERN HARRIER. A FERRUGINOUS HAWK was hunting here, also.
Continuing with my love of old barns— this one, above, is located on Panoche Road. A CALIFORNIA THRASHER, below, was — well, thrashing away at the Miller Ranch. Thrashers are singing and on territory about mid-December. This one was no different. When it wasn't thrashing, it was singing from the tops of trees!
Large flocks of mixed sparrow species can be encountered on Panoche Road. This LINCOLN'S SPARROW, below, was with a large flock of WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS near McCullough Ranch.
A female, AMERICAN KESTREL, below, near the intersection of Panoche and Little Panoche Roads.
MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS, a male below, were scattered on the Panoche Valley floor— near Silver Creek Ranch on Panoche Road and on Recalde Road.
An immature RED-TAILED HAWK, below, was on Panoche Road near Jackass Pass. Flocks of HORNED LARKS and AMERICAN PIPITS were also in this location. However, I did not locate a single MOUNTAIN PLOVER.
A LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE, below, hangs around Shotgun Pass on Little Panoche Road.
It has been a good year for finding BURROWING OWLS in San Benito County. They can be found in both Santa Ana Valley and Panoche Valley.
Returning from Panoche Valley, I always take Quien Sabe Road just south of the small town of Tres Pinos. The presence of six YELLOW-BILLED MAGPIES in the image below indicates that the adult GOLDEN EAGLE (look closely— it is the hump in the middle), had just consumed some prey item, likely a ground squirrel.
Sunset began with pinks and purples.
Late evening shot of a SAY'S PHOEBE, below, a grassland specialist.
Sunset colors begin to change to oranges.
Ravens head to their roosts on the tower powers of Santa Ana Valley.
The boldest colors of sunset over the grasslands that I love.
Happy Trails,
Debi Shearwater
San Benito County Birding
All images, copyright, Debi Shearwater. Please ask permission to use.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Howdy, Birders,
I've been lagging with my San Benito County birding recently, working on other projects. However, last Saturday, I buzzed out for an hour. Found this first cycle (SY) GLAUCOUS GULL amongst a flock of 500+ gulls. This is a rare gull in San Benito County. As far as I know, it is the fourth county record, and the first photographed record. The last reported record was 6 January 1999 at San Felipe Lake by John Sterling and John Luther. Amazingly, I received a report from Peter Colasanti that he found a first year GLAUCOUS GULL at San Felipe Lake on 15 January. Perhaps, it is this individual, or not. The flock that I saw also had at least on THAYER'S GULL and one GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL. Best place to try to find the Glaucous Gull is San Felipe Lake which is on the north end of the county. Birding here, is extremely difficult and dangerous. The only reasonable place to stop is at the highway call box, and I only recommend it from the eastbound direction, otherwise it is necessary to cross traffic. Be aware: many fatal car accidents have occurred near this location. There is a pair of BALD EAGLES nesting here, just over the county line. The nest is in Santa Clara County. I would greatly appreciate any reports of the eagles or gulls.
And, for those of you who are gull lovers, if you have an opinion on the species, below, facing away from the photographer, ring out!
The GLAUCOUS GULL was a new county bird for me!
Happy Trails,
Debi Shearwater
San Benito County Birding

Saturday, January 7, 2012


Howdy, Birders,

If you should find yourself near Boston, Massachusetts about March 3rd, please stop by and see me at the 20th Mass Aububon Birders Meeting! I will be speaking along with a host of many other top birders, researchers and local folks. My talk will be, "35 Years of California Seabirding." Registration is open at this time.

Hope to see many of my East Coast friends!

Debi Shearwater

The latest news from Mass Audubon.

Published: December 22, 2011

20th Annual Mass Audubon Birders Meeting

Saturday, March 3, 2012
The LaCava Center
Bentley University
Waltham, MA

Registration fee (which includes lunch):
$55 Mass Audubon members
($63 after Feb. 20)
$62 non-members
($70 after Feb. 20)
Walk-in registration available

If you enjoy birds and birding, The Birders Meeting is an event not to be missed! It offers something for everyone:

  • Updates on changes in local bird populations
  • Vendors galore
  • Tempting raffle prizes


Abstracts and Speaker Bios

This year's speakers include:

  • Dr. Steven Kress, known for his efforts to re-establish Atlantic Puffins to the Gulf of Maine
  • Debi Shearwater, founder of the well-known Shearwater Journeys, Inc. tour company
  • Dr. David Wiley, scientist at Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary and highly acclaimed for his underwater studies of humpback whale foraging behavior
  • Shawn Carey and Jim Grady of Migration Productions, professional nature photographers and videographers who present stunning slideshows and videos.
  • Anne-Marie Runfola, Volunteer Coordinator for NOAA/Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, who developed the very successful Stellwagen Sanctuary Seabird Stewards volunteer program.
  • Dr. Julie C. Ellis, professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, Executive Director of the Seabird Ecological Assessment Network, and an expert on seabirds and their communities.
  • Brian Harrington, shorebird biologist at the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences who is helping "Untie the Red Knot" and more.
  • Joan Walsh, Director of Bird Monitoring at Mass Audubon, Coordinator of the Massachusetts Breeding Bird Atlas 2, has been key to the creation of Mass Audubon's State of the Birds.

Check back after January 1 for the complete schedule and to register online.

Monday, January 2, 2012


When dawn breaks as it did this morning, below—
Can the day be anything but spectacular?

So, it was for me, birding in San Benito County on the Pinnacles Christmas Bird Count. Today, January 2, 2012 was one of the most singular outstanding birding days of my life. Stay tuned for the details, because for now, I'm getting ready to do the Panoche Valley Christmas Bird Count, tomorrow.

Happy Trails,
Debi Shearwater
San Benito County Birding