Monday, June 17, 2013


Mangere Island, Chatham Archipelago

Early morning on DAY 16: Birding Down Under Voyage, we shall cruise around spectacular Pyramid Rock a basalt-outcrop south of Pitt Island. This is the only breeding place of the Chatham Island Albatross. Landings are not possible (nor practical — a fact you will appreciate once you see it!). However, great views of nesting albatrosses can be had from the ship. Hundreds of the albatrosses will follow the ship!

From the Pyramid we shall cruise to nearby South East Islands. This has to be one of the world's greatest nature reserves and landings are not permitted. However, we should have great views of the very rare and critically endangered, New Zealand Shore Plover (now reduced to only 20 individuals.— let's hope there are still some left when we visit) and Chatham Island Oystercatcher from the Zodiacs as we cruise along the coast. We should also see the Pitt Island Shag which nests on the island.

This afternoon we shall cruise past Mangere and Little Mangere Islands situated to the west of Pitt Island. Mangere is known as one of the only two sites in the world where Black Robin are found. We will hear the story of how this endemic species was rescued from the brink of extinction in the 1970's. when the total world population consisted of just six birds

DAY 17: Birding Down Under Voyage will find us at Waitangi for breakfast. You and your luggage will be ferried ashore by Zodiac and taken by coach to the Chatham Island Airport. A special charter flight (scheduled for approximately mid-day) will fly you to Christchurch. Customs and quarantine formalities will be completed either before departing the Chatham Islands or on arrival at Christchurch.

In case of delays due to weather and/or operations, we ask that you not book any onward travel from Christchurch until the following day. Full details of this charter flight will be provided to you on receipt of booking with Shearwater Journeys, Inc. On arrival in Christchurch you will be transferred from the airport to a central city location. 

PLEASE NOTE: During our voyage, circumstances may make it necessary or desirable to deviate from the proposed itinerary. This can include poor weather and opportunities for making unplanned excursions. Your Expedition Leader will keep you fully informed. Landings of the Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand are by permit only as administered by the Government of New Zealand. No landings are permitted at The Snares, Antipodes or Bounties.

PRE-TRIP: SOUTH ISLAND: This voyage begins on South Island, New Zealand. I am currently preparing a pre-trip, on land, which will include pelagic trips from Kaikoura in particular. 

POST-TRIP: TASMANIA: Tasmania is a delightful island to visit, hosting twelve endemic species of birds, and seven endemic subspecies. It is also a great place to view wildlife such as the Tasmanian Devil and platypus, among others. 

If you are interested in either pre or post trips, please contact Debi directly at: Spaces will be limited to fewer than the number of folks signed on to the main voyage. 
Debi Shearwater


The Chatham Archipelago consists of one large island and numerous smaller islands and rocky islets. Only two of the islands are inhabited. They represent New Zealand's eastern territory. The islands were originally settled by East Polynesians (either directly or via New Zealand as the evidence supports some contact there). In the 1400's, the population became isolated and interestingly developed its own culture. The islands were discovered by Europeans in the 1790's. Sealers and settlers followed and then in the 1830's, Maoris from New Zealand invaded, killing and enslaving many of the indigenous people. The impact of the original settlers, the Europeans and later the Maori people on the native flora and fauna was disastrous. Introduced animals, hunting, fires and island clearing wiped out many species of endemic birds. Fortunately, a number survived on the offshore islands in the archipelago. 

Late on the evening of DAY 14 of our Birding Down Under Voyage, we hope to reach the Chatham Islands and cruise along the south coast into the archipelago near Waitangi. The south coast is where the only known population of the Taiko, Magenta Petrel, breeds. They are attempting to establish a new population of the Chatham Island Petrel in a predator free area. Past voyages have seen both Taiko and Chatham Island Petrel in this area. Cross fingers, that we shall see these two extremely rare seabirds. We are at anchor this evening.

On DAY 15 of our Birding Down Under Voyage, we shall visit one of the original private reserves established by a local family on the south coast of the main island where there is a good chance to see the endemic Chatham Island Pigeon and Warbler. The pigeon was close to extinction until recently, and is now in good numbers. We will travel by local bus to the reserve. The road takes us through developed farmland where we will undoubtedly see numerous introduced species, and possibly the Weka. Near our landing in Waitangi there is a good chance of seeing the endemic and critically endangered, Chatham Island Shag.

This evening, we cruise back along the south coast for another opportunity to see the Taiko and Chatham Island Petrel. 
Debi Shearwater

Saturday, June 15, 2013


When HMS Bounty sailed past these islands in 1788, Captain William Bligh recorded 'white spots like patches of snow.' What he observed was almost certainly not snow but areas of guano deposited by generations of seabirds, enameled to the granite surfaces. A more graphic symbol of the sea's dominance over land in these latitudes would be hard to imagine. The Bounty Islands resemble the last vestiges of a disappearing landmass — the tips of the submerged Bounty Platform. The twenty small, low islands form three groups. The Bounty Islands are rarely visited by scientists — or anyone else. On DAY 13 of our Birding Down Under Voyage, we shall cruise by Zodiac around the granitic outposts to have a closer look at birds and New Zealand Fur Seals which were hunted almost to extinction.

These islands are home to thousands of Salvin's Albatrosses, Erect-crested Penguins, Fulmar Prions and the endemic Bounty Island Shag, the world's rarest shag.

In the afternoon, we shall depart for the Chatham Islands. On this day, there will be great opportunities to see a good selection of birdlife, including: Wandering Albatross, Northern Royal Albatross, Mottled Petrel, Soft-plumaged Petrel and Black-bellied Storm-Petrel. Other possibilities include: White-capped Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel, Cape Petrel, Antarctic Fulmar, Sooty Shearwater, Little Shearwater and Grey-backed Storm-Petrel. We shall begin to keep a sharp eye out for the Chatham Island Petrel.
At sea en route to Waitangi, Chatham Islands.
Debi Shearwater


Perched on the southeast margin of the Bounty Platform, over 800 km from the South Island, the Antipodes group is the most remotest and also the youngest of the New Zealand subantarctic islands. At 49 degrees south, the group is more or less diametrically opposite London on the planet, hence the unusual name for the main island. Dense grasslands predominate, mostly Poa foliosa. The magnificent Antipodean Wandering Albatross is the featured seabird which we shall see on DAY 12 of the Birding Down Under Voyage. Except for a handful of nests on Campbell Island, the Antipodes Islands provide the only breeding sites for this species, which was declared a separate species from the other "wandering" albatrosses of the world. Compared to the Gibson's Albatross of the Auckland Islands, the Antipodean Albatross breeds three weeks later (eggs laid between January and early February) and has different feeding grounds, east of mainland New Zealand. Female birds are darker at all ages than their Auckland Island relatives.

Landings are not permitted. If the weather allows, we shall cruise by Zodiac along the coastline where we hope to see the Antipodes Parakeet, the largest of the New Zealand parakeets. This species has an entirely green head. We also look for the Reischek's Parakeet a strong subspecies of the Red-crowned Parakeet found in the Auckland Islands and on the Chatham Islands. We also see the Antipodes subspecies of the New Zealand Pipit. Good views of both Erect-crested, below, and Rockhopper Penguins can be expected along the coast as they often breed in mixed colonies. Antarctic Terns and Kelp Gulls are often seen in good numbers. 
At the end of our visit, we sail for the Bounty Islands.
Debi Shearwater


Campbell Island, New Zealand's southernmost subantarctic territory is as rich and diverse as the other islands. We shall spend DAY 10 of the Birding Down Under Voyage at Perseverance Bay, exploring a myriad of wildlife.

A world center for albatross diversity, the Campbell Islands host more species than any other subantarctic group except Crozet in the southern Indian Ocean. At Campbell six species are breeding and one of the six breeds nowhere else, the Campbell mollymawk, pictured below. An estimated 26,000 pairs of Campbell Albatrosses breed. They nest on the northern part of the main island, either in their own colonies, or mixed with the Grey-headed Albatross which is circumpolar. The Campbell mollymawk is distinguished  from the similar looking Black-browed Albatross, another species that breeds here in low numbers, by its honey-colored iris, a bolder black eyebrow and a bill of slightly different color and shape.
The Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, below, typically nests on rocky cliff ledges and other steep places.
Two great albatrosses nest at Campbell: the Southern Royal Albatross, below, and in very low numbers, the Antipodean Albatross. Campbell Island is the Southern Royal's main breeding ground. An estimated 14,000 pairs breed here.
Campbell Island is also the main breeding ground for the Yellow-eyed Penguin, a New Zealand endemic and one of the world's rarest penguins. Large numbers of White-chinned Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters breed here, along with Northern Giant Petrels, Diving Petrel and Grey-backed Storm-Petrel. The New Zealand Antarctic Tern has its stronghold here. It is a rare subspecies (possible species?) restricted to the New Zealand subantarctic islands and Stewart Island. Brown Skua also nests here.
Grassland covers much of the island, but megaherbs, above, occur from sea level to the summit ridges.
Three land birds occur here: a teal, above, a snipe and New Zealand pipit. The snipe was discovered in 1997 on Jacquemart Island. The flightless Campbell Island Teal, one of the world's rarest ducks was rediscovered on Dent Island, off Northwest Bay in 1975. Related to the Auckland Island Teal and endangered Brown Teal of mainland New Zealand, it feeds mainly on aquatic or marine invertebrates.

Among the marine mammals, seals are well represented at Campbell Island. There are populations of New Zealand Sea Lion, New Zealand Fur Seal and Southern Elephant Seal.

The removal of sheep and cattle changed the island. But it was the rat eradication program that really brought the island back, including the megaherbs. This is one of the most sensational stories in seabird conservation. The New Zealanders went on to become worldwide experts in the eradication of rats from islands. They are currently working to remove rats from South Georgia, another one of the world's most spectacular subantarctic islands.
We depart for the Antipodes Islands at day's end and spend DAY 11 at sea.
Debi Shearwater

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Southwest of Campbell Island, at 54 degrees south, Macquarie Island is a relatively young island with tangible links to the New Zealand groups. It shares a number of plants as well as several seabird and marine mammal species with the New Zealand islands. Macquarie has no woody plants among its 41 native species. Sprawling penguin colonies and large numbers of elephant seals are among the island;s wildlife features. 
The great Australian Antarctic Explorer Sir Douglas Mawson once called Macquarie Island,"One of the wonder spots of the world." We shall spend DAYS 7 and 8 during the Birding Down Under Voyage observing and photographing the wildlife of Macquarie Island which was one of the first subantarctic island to obtain World Heritage Status, largely due to its unique geology. It is one of the few places on earth where mid-ocean coastal rocks are exposed at the surface due to the collision of the Australian and Pacific Plates. 
Macquarie Island is home to four species of penguins, Kings, Royals, Gentoo and Rockhopper. 
 The Royal Penguin, above and below, occurs nowhere else in the world. 
 Royal Penguin with chick, below.
There is a pleasant boardwalk that leads to the heart of the colony.
Like all crested-type penguins, Royals are quarrelsome.
Mating Royal Penguins, below.
 At the beach, the Royal Pengins curiosity is quite amazing.
A Royal Penguin approaches Debi, below. 
The young folks, below, really did not know how to react to this!
The ever-present Brown Skua.
 This is a near magical experience, below, where King Penguins actually swim out to greet the boats.
 A Zodiac cruise along the shoreline reveals how huge the King Penguin colony is!
King Penguin colony, below.
 Scavenging Giant Petrels, below, as seen from the cruise in the kelp beds.
 This is the place to see Southern Elephant Seals, both in the water and on land.
 Nose of the Southern Elephant Seal, below.
 Pups are born in October and weaned in November when the breeding adults return to the sea. The weaners and sub adults lie about the beaches until they go to sea in January, running the gauntlet of Killer Whales who are waiting offshore!

Macquarie Island was discovered in 1810 and was soon ravaged by sealers who introduced various animals including rats, mice, cats and rabbits. The native bird population was virtually eliminated and plants destroyed. The Tasmanian National Parks and Wildlife Service which administered the island recently embarked on a very ambitious eradication program which seems to have been successful. The island is now predator free and both the birds and plants are responding. It is amazing to witness the regeneration and the increase in the numbers of birds. (When I last visited, rabbits, cats and rats still existed on this island!) 

We depart for Campbell Island on the afternoon of the second day.
Debi Shearwater


The largest, highest, and biologically the richest of the five island groups, the Auckland Islands lie 460 km south of Bluff in latitude 50 degrees south and at the western margin of the Campbell Plateau. The main island, Auckland Island (50,990 ha in area and 40 km long), is large enough to accommodate aoo of the other islands in the New Zealand subantarctic region. put together..

On the outside of a rata forest
The flora of the Auckland Islands is a feast for the eyes. From red-flowering rata coastal forest to the tundra-like tops, through scrubland, grassland and meadows of colorful megaherbs, the plant life is diverse and fascinating.
 Inside the rata forest, the twisted trunks form an open understory. This is a forest fit for goblins, a real Hansel and Gretel feeling.
Inside this deep forest, Yellow-eyed Penguins nest in recessed areas. About 500 pairs nest at Enderby Island.
 Some of the spectacular megaherbs.

A showcase for subantarctic wildlife, the Auckland Islands harbor a diverse community of marine mammals, seabirds, land birds and invertebrate animals. The sea lion is an outstanding feature. This is the home and castle of the New Zealand or Hooker's Sea Lion, a rare member of the seal family. About 90 percent of breeding occurs at just four sites Tiny Dundas Island off the east coast is the main one, and there are two on Enderby Island and another at Figure of Eight Island in Carnley Harbor. 

Seabirds abound here. Three species are outstanding. These are the Gibson's Albatross, a member of the Wandering Albatross group, the Southern Royal Albatross and White-capped Albatross, About 5,000 pairs of Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses also nest here. 
 Another prominent seabird at Enderby Island is the Auckland Island Shag which nests in colonies at the cliff edges.
There are more endemic land birds at the Auckland Islands than at other groups. The list runs to six: a rail, snipe, teal, banded dotterel, tomtit and pipit. The Auckland Island Rail was "rediscovered" in 1989 on Adams Island. A race of the New Zealand Falcon inhabits the Auckland Islands, the only raptor in the New Zealand subantarctic region. (I have seen it here!) It can sometimes be seen chasing smaller birds through the coastal forests. Two mainland parakeet species— red-crowned and yellow-crowned— have established colonies at the Auckland Islands. 

We shall spend DAYS 4 & 5 of the BIRDING DOWN UNDER VOYAGE at the Auckland Islands, exploring first, Enderby Island and at Carnley Harbor. We shall depart on the afternoon of the second day for Macquarie Island. DAY 6: At sea, birding, of course!

Debi Shearwater

Monday, June 10, 2013


The closest group to mainland New Zealand, and the most hospitable, The Snares are about 100 km southwest of Stewart Island— just half a day's sailing. There are two distinct clusters: a main group featuring North East Island and adjacent Broughton Island, and a line of small islands called the Western Chain, 3.5 kim southwest of the main cluster. These islands are appropriately called The Snares as they were once considered a hazard for sailing ships. They are uninhabited. 

We plan to arrive early in the morning on Day 3 of the Birding Down Under voyage, November 9 to 25, 2014. Landing on the islands is not possible, as there are so many nesting birds that one would literally be stepping on birds! We will Zodiac cruise along the sheltered eastern side of the main island. If the weather and sea conditions are favorable in the sheltered bays, we should see the endemic Snares Crested Penguin, Snares Island Tomtit and Fernbirds. Cape Pigeons, Antarctic Terns, White-fronted Terns and Red-billed Gulls are also present in good numbers. There are hundreds of thousands of Sooty Shearwaters nesting in underground condominium-like burrows on The Snares; the actual number is much debated. The Buller's Albatross breed here from January onwards. We hope to see some arriving individuals. 

Among the islands of the Southern Ocean, The Snares has the distinction of being the only forested group without introduced mammals, not even mice. As such it is a remarkable haven for wildlife. Granite cliffs surround the bulk of the group, and erosion by the sea has produced deep narrow caverns, sink holes and gulches. Lying close to the Subtropical Convergence, The Snares group enjoys a climate that is surprisingly uniform throughout the year. The mean annual temperature is 11 degrees C, 51.5 degrees F. 

After the Sooty Shearwater, or titi, the bird most closely associated with The Snares is the Snares Crested Penguin. They typically gather in groups under the tree daisies and sometimes perch on the bent over trunks. Around the coastline, the New Zealand Fur Seal and New Zealand Sea Lion are breeding. Forests of the large tree daisy are the dominant feature across about 80 percent of the main islands. It may seem strange to see penguins standing on tree limbs! There are other plants, birds and insects. This is a simple introduction to a very unique place. 
Image by Doug Koch, copyright.

For those who have seen Sooty Shearwaters on West Coast pelagic trips—
Debi Shearwater


NOVEMBER 9 - 25, 2014

Image by Debi Shearwater, copyright.
Listen to the names: Snares, Bounty, Antipodes, Campbell, Macquarie and Chatham Islands. They are music to the ears of 'birders.' Apart from the Chathams, these islands are probably more isolated now than they were when they were discovered in the late 1700's and early 1800's when they were regularly visited by sealers, whalers and government steamers searching for castaway sailors. It is relatively simple to get to the Chatham Islands but opportunities to visit the others are rare. This expedition is the only one to include all of the islands. 

The islands occur the tempestuous latitudes of the Roaring Forties and the Furious Fifties, but they are also known as the Albatross Latitudes and with great reason. Ten of the world's albatross species breed in the region; five of them nowhere else in the world! In fact this zone where the air is never still, hosts the most diverse collection of seabirds in the world! More than 40 species green down here— that is at least 11 percent of the entire world's seabird population. 

With the exception of the Chathams, the islands are all designated UNESCO World Heritage sites, and are afforded the highest conservation status and protection by the Australian and New Zealand governments. So passage to their shores is not granted lightly. There are also islands that we visit within the Chatham Archipelago with similar status and protection. 

This expedition has appeal to pelagic enthusiasts, penguin fanatics and those interested in island endemics. You do not have to be a keen birder to enjoy this voyage. People interested in islands and island ecology, botany, geology and an increasing number of photographers have enjoyed this trip immensely, as have those interested in the history of southern ocean discovery and exploration.

This is Heritage Expedition's signature expedition, one that has operated for over 20 years. You will enjoy the benefit from the knowledge and expertise they have gained over time. 

The itinerary, below, will be expanded in future blogs. This is a brief outline.
Passengers should  make their way to the Kelvin Hotel in the central city where you will stay overnight, complimentary. This evening there will be an informal get together at the hotel for dinner, an excellent opportunity to meet fellow adventurers on your voyage and some of the expedition team. Dinner included.
Take breakfast (included) at your leisure in the hotel restaurant before transferring to the port to embark the Spirit of Enderby. You will have the opportunity to settle into your cabin and familiarize yourself with the ship. We will take the opportunity to conduct a number of safety briefings. You are invited to join the expedition team and captain on the bridge as we set our course to The Snares. Our adventure begins!
As we make our way south through the Furious Fifties also known as Albatross Latitudes, the birding especially south of the Auckland Islands should be quite good. We will have a series of lectures on the biology and history of the Subantarctic Islands. We will also prepare you for our visit to Macquarie Island. 
Species that we may encounter include WANDERING ALBATROSS, ROYAL ALBATROSS, LIGHT-MANTLED SOOTY ALBATROSS, SALVIN'S ALBATROSS, GREY-HEADED ALBATROSS; NORTHERN and SOUTHERN GIANT PETRELS; SOOTY and LITTLE SHEARWATERS. There should be plenty of PRIONS, including FAIRY, FULMAR and ANTARCTIC. Identifying prions is not easy— but, we should have some great views.
Today is a similar day to Day 6 except we are northbound and hopefully running with the prevailing weather which should make it a bit more comfortable. There will be lectures, opportunities for birding or just relaxing.
At sea en route to the Antipodes. It is a day for pelagic birding. Species commonly seen in this area include: WANDERING ALBATROSS, SOUTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS, BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS, CAMPBELL ISLAND ALBATROSS, GREY-HEADED ALBATROSS, LIGHT-MANTLED SOOTY ALBATROSS, SALVIN'S ALBATROSS; NORTHERN and SOUTHERN GIANT PETRELS; SOOTY and LITTLE SHEARWATERS. This region of the Southern Ocean is one of the few places where the FAIRY PRION, FULMAR PRION and ANTARCTIC PRION occur together, providing good opportunities for comparison. Other species to be on the lookout for include: SOFT-PLUMAGED PETREL, GREY-FACED PETREL, WHITE-CHINNED PETREL, GREY-BACKED STORM-PETREL, WILSON'S STORM-PETREL, BLACK-BELLIED STORM-PETREL and COMMON DIVING PETREL. 
As we continue toward the Chatham Archipelago there are excellent opportunities for pelagic birding. In particular, we will be on the lookout for the CHATHAM ISLAND PETREL which has been seen on this leg of past voyages. On past voyages, the very rare CHATHAM ISLAND TAIKO has been seen here. Endemic to the Chatham Islands, the Chatham Island Taiko also known as the MAGENTA PETREL— is among New Zealand's most endangered species. It is one of the world's rarest seabirds, with a population estimated to number less than 150.
Late into the evening we will arrive at the Chatham Islands. It is our intention to cruise along the south coast into an anchorage near Waitangi. The south coast is where the only known population of the TAIKO breed.s and also where they are attempting to establish a new population of the Chatham Island Petrel in a predator free area. We have seen both Taiko and Chatham Island Petrel in this area on previous expeditions. We are at anchor tonight.
This morning after breakfast you and your luggage will be ferried ashore by Zodiac and taken by coach to the Chatham Island Airport. A special charter flight (scheduled for approximately mid-day) will fly you back to Christchurch. Customs and quarantine formalities will be completed either before departing the Chatham Islands or on arrival in Christchurch.

In case of delays due to weather and/or operations, we ask you not to book any onward travel from Christchurch until the following day. Full details of this charter flight will be provided to you on receipt of booking with Shearwater Journeys, Inc. to allow you to plan from this date forward. On arrival in Christchurch, you will be transferred from the airport to a central city location. 

NOTE: During our voyage circumstances may make it necessary to deviate from the proposed itinerary. This can include poor weather and opportunities for unplanned excursions. Your Expedition Leader will keep you fully informed. Landings at the Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand are by permit only, as administered by the Government of New Zealand. No landings are permitted at The Snares, Antipodes or Bounties. Conditions permitting, we will Zodiac cruise these areas, however, in order to view the wildlife more closely. 

DATES: NOVEMBER 9 — 25, 2014
MINI SUITE: $14000 pp- 1 available
SUPERIOR PLUS: $13500 pp- 2 available
SUPERIOR: $12400 pp- 1 available
MAIN DECK: $11000 pp- 1 male sharing available
MAIN DECK TRIPLE: $10000 pp- 2 female berths available (Male cabin is SOLD OUT)
LANDING FEES: $750 pp.

DEPOSIT: 25% of the berth rate that you select is due at the time of booking. Please contact: Debi Shearwater; before sending your deposit to confirm that you are sending payment and that the berth(s) is available. A signed Booking Form must accompany the deposit. Send payment to: Shearwater Journeys, Inc., PO Box 190, Hollister, CA 95024. 

INCLUDED: Pre/post cruise transfers, one night hotel accommodation in a twin share room (dinner and breakfast included), all on board ship accommodations with all meals and all expedition excursions. 

NOT INCLUDED: Landing fees, $750; international/domestic flights; visas and travel insurance; laundry; drinks; customary gratuities; all items of a personal nature. Medical evacuation insurance is mandatory. All expedition companies require this sort of coverage today. We can offer guidance for making this purchase. 


The BIRDING DOWN UNDER VOYAGE has been described as the greatest pelagic birding trip in the world. The 2012 voyage covered 2,718 nautical miles and saw:



GLORY with aircraft shadow in the center. 

Howdy, Birders,
For a very long time, I've been wanting to see this phenomenon. On June 6, 2013, I flew from Oslo to Kirkenes, Norway. This "GLORY" appeared out of the window of the aircraft for only a few seconds. (This is not my image. Used from Wikipedia). The phenomenon resembles a saint's halo with the shadow in the center. "Glories" are often seen from aircraft but can also been seen from mountains and tall buildings. For a more technical explanation and details, click here

Now, if only I could find a wolverine!
In the land of midnight sun,


Pomarine Jaeger, dark morph, Stercorarius pomarinus, a sure bet on our offshore Albacore pelagic trip, often numbering more than a hundred. 
Image, courtesy, Doug Koch, copyright. 


Some years, migratory albacore, a type of tuna, come to the Monterey Bay area. Sometimes, they are within reach of a one day trip, sometimes not. Their presence causes a hot stir among fishermen. September is often the best month to try to catch one of these prized tunas. Whether albacore are present, or not, we still operate the albacore trip. Usually, but not always, we go 20 to 45 miles offshore in search of a warm water break. If we can find a "hard edge" in the temperature break, we will likely find the albacore and the seabirds associated with them! The prized and highly sought after species include: SCRIPP'S, GUADALUPE and CRAVERI'S MURRELETS and LEACH'S and LEAST STORM-PETRELS (not usually found on most Monterey trips). Rarities on this offshore trip have included RED-TAILED and RED-BILLED TROPICBIRDS. One year when albacore were not found off Monterey, I elected to go where I had previously found large concentrations of feeding seabirds. On that day, we set a world record for the second time by finding EIGHT SPECIES OF SHEARWATERS! STREAKED SHEARWATER and BROWN BOOBY were among the highlights of that day. Shearwater Journeys holds the world record, twice over, for the highest count of shearwater species recorded in one day! On almost every albacore trip, we record high counts of POMARINE, PARASITIC and LONG-TAILED JAEGERS. Some trips have recorded more than 100 Long-tailed Jaegers. This is the single best trip where SOUTH POLAR SKUA is practically guaranteed. Photographic opportunities of jaegers can be outstanding. We typically find Black-footed Albatroses. Scattered storm-petrels appear at dawn, but sometimes, we have encountered flocks of hundreds on the water in rafts. Tuna fishermen refer to BULLER'S SHEARWATERS and ARCTIC TERNS, as "tuna birds" because they are often associated with albacore. Buller's Shearwaters can sometimes be found, sitting in flocks of 50-300, presenting stunning photo-ops as they take off in flight like a ballet. Of course, if we do find albacore, we shall try to catch one or two. You can take your hand at it, too. But, fishing is not the sole purpose of this trip. Albacore trips have proved to be excellent for sighting HUMPBACK, BLUE, FIN (sometimes) and BAIRD'S BEAKED WHALES. 

This trip can easily be combined with another Monterey trip (there are many surrounding this date), or one of the Half Moon Bay departures, September 8 or 9. Past Trip Reports can give one an idea of the species list. This trip sometimes covers three counties: Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Mateo.

DEPARTURE: 5:30 a.m. SHARP. Be there about 5:15 a.m. Allow time to park and walk to the boat.
RETURN: 5:30 p.m, exactly.
PARKING: Same as for Monterey trips. 
PRICE ADJUSTMENT: There will be a price adjustment for this trip, as the cost of the boat has changed by $1000 for this trip. Yeah, that's up, not down. Please be prepared and bring $25/per person, cash to the dock. Exact amount will speed things up for an on-time departure. 
FOOD & DRINKS: Please bring all food & drinks with you. It will be a long and hopefully, productive day! 
MOTELS & RESERVATIONS: See Monterey trips. This trip typically sells out every year.
In the land of midnight sun,
Debi Shearwater

Sunday, June 9, 2013


Buller's Shearwater, Puffinus bulleri, is a common seabird found on most fall pelagic trips. 
Image, courtesy Todd McGrath, copyright.

Monterey's seabirds are well known the world over, in no small thanks to Shearwater Journeys which pioneered pelagic trips here beginning 1976. For more years that any other individual person or business, Shearwater Journeys has been the single leading seabird company offering the most annual departures for novice and expert seabirders alike. Large numbers of seabirds, sometimes in the thousands, or tens of thousands, feed on the nutrient-rich waters of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary each fall. This sanctuary is contiguous with the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries, forming one of 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 part in the huge upwelling which brings the cold, nutrient-rich waters to the surface, feeding everything from BLUE WHALES to ASHY STORM-PETRELS. It is one of a very few such rich and diverse areas in the world. Some marine ecologists consider Monterey Bay to be the single richest area in the world. In addition, Monterey Bay is half-moon shaped, lending protection from the prevailing northwest winds. This means that we generally have very good to excellent marine weather conditions, especially during fall migration. What could be better — lots of food and great conditions! Of course, we see far more than birds. Marine mammals also take advantage of this huge concentration of food. From California Sea Lions lazing on the Coast Guard jetty to Sea Otters along the kelp beds, to hundreds of Pacific White-sided Dolphins or dozens of Humpback Whales, there is always something happening on Monterey Bay! 

Here, we present our 2013 schedule of trips departing from Monterey. No other organization offers more trips, nor has the depth of knowledge or decades of experience as Shearwater Journeys does. These trips can easily be combined with trips departing from Half Moon Bay, Sausalito (to the Farallones Islands), or 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 board every trip. By being out there on so many trips that cover such a large area of the Central Coast, Debi can get a good picture of how and where the seabirds are distributed— something that changes, year to year. Below, we present 15 pelagic trips departing from Monterey Bay. One additional trip not listed below, is the ALBACORE GROUNDS; OFFSHORE MONTEREY trip on SEPTEMBER 7, SATURDAY (see next blog post). You can also view the complete 2013 schedule on our web site. Or, view it in calendar format, here. You can find past trip reports here.


AUG. 2, FRI.
AUG. 9, FRI.
AUG. 16, FRI.
AUG. 23, FRI.
SEP. 6, FRI.
SEP. 10, TUE.
SEP. 11, WED.
SEP. 27, FRI.
OCT. 5, SAT.
OCT. 13, SUN.
OCT. 25, FRI.

Shearwater Journeys is proud to be the ongoing pelagic trip operator for the Monterey Bay Birding Festival. Register now for the festival! Sign up for pelagic trips directly with Shearwater Journeys. 

DEPARTURE: 7:00 a.m. Fishermans' Wharf Monterey. Stop at Chris' Fishing Shop in the right hand side as you walk down the wharf. They will direct you to the boat.
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 and let them know you are on the Shearwater Journeys' trip. They will give you a parking coupon which will reduce the cost of parking significantly. Allow at least 10 minutes to park and walk to the shop, more time if you do not know where you are going. Try to check it out the day prior. 
PRICE ADJUSTMENT: All rates quoted at the 2012 rate. Price adjustment may be necessary at the dockside, from $5-15 per person, payable only in cash. Do not send ahead with your payment. 
FOOD & DRINKS: None available on the boat. Please bring all food & drinks in a small day pack.
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 plan. Motels in the sleepy town of Pacific Grove are located in an especially nice area, with easy public access to birding Ocean View Blvd. for rocky shorebirds. For the Monterey area, any motel along Munras Avenue should be fine. 
RESERVATIONS: Please follow instructions on the web site for booking a reservation. Debi will be working in Norway until July 11th, but will send return confirmation letters immediately once she returns. In the case of any sold out trips, reservations will be confirmed based on the postmark date. 

From the land of midnight sun,
Debi Shearwater

Friday, June 7, 2013


A small portion of a raft of FORK-TAILED STORM-PETRELS photographed by Dave Pereksta, copyright, near Bodega Canyon. This folk comprised 3000 FORK-TAILED STORM-PETRELS, 1000 ASHY STORM-PETRELS and 1000 BLACK STORM-PETRELS on September 21, 2012. As if that wasn't enough leader, Todd McGrath spotted a HAWAIIAN PETREL that zipped by! 

Since 1980 Shearwater Journeys has offered pelagic trips departing from Bodega Bay, north of Point Reyes and San Francisco. The vessel for our three departures this season will be the New Sea Angler, a 65' comfortable sport fisher that can accommodate 49 birders. This vessel is an excellent birding platform. Our captain, Rick Powers is intimately acquainted with birding and birders. 

The areas that we cover on this departure have recorded more mega-rare seabirds than any other port in North America! The list is very long: SHORT-TAILED, SHY (three different times), LAYSAN, LIGHT-MANTELED ALBATROSSES; MURPHY'S, COOK'S, HAWAIIAN, WHITE-CHINNED, PARKINSON'S and GREAT-WINGED PETRELS; GREAT, MANX, STREAKED, CORY'S, WEDGE-TAILED and FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATERS; LEAST STORM-PETREL; LONG-BILLED MURRELET and CRESTED AUKLET. These are some of the rarest of the rare seabirds in all of North America, and in some instances, the northern Pacific Ocean. (Great-winged Petrel represented the first record for the Northern Hemisphere, as well as North America). 


AUG. 30, FRI.
SEP. 20, FRI.
OCT. 18, FRI.

DEPARTURE: 7:00 a.m., SHARP.  The boat will not wait for latecomers. Check in with Debi at the dock. 
RETURN: About 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Allow for delays of several hours. 
PARKING: is free in the large, dirt lot. Try to find the location the day prior, as it can be confusing in the morning darkness.  On Highway 1, heading north from Bodega Bay, proceed north of the Tides' Wharf, past the Boat House restaurant on your left. Turn left, heading downhill at the large, brown sign for EAST SHORE ROAD. At the stop sign at the bottom of the hill, proceed straight to Port O'Bodega. It will seem as if you are heading out to the water. Park here. 
PRICE ADJUSTMENT: All fees quoted are at the 2012 rates. A price adjustment of $10-20 per person may be collected, in cash only, at the dockside should rates increase. 
FOOD & DRINKS: Bring all of your food and drinks. Nothing is available on the boat. There are no restaurants open in the morning hours prior to departure.
MOTELS: in the area can be fully booked and can be expensive. Bodega Coast Inn and Suites is only 5 minutes from the dock. You might try asking the manager for the "Shearwater Discount" which they sometimes honor. Bodega Harbor Inn is conveniently located. Be sure to ask about their refund policy. And, the Inn at the Tides is very nice, if you have family members traveling with you who will not be doing the boat trip. Cheaper motels can be found along the Highway 101 corridor. However, be SURE to allow a minimum of one hour to get to the dock from any motel along 101. The two lane roads are winding, confusing and can be fogged in.  It is possible to get stuck behind a truck pulling a trailer with a boat on it, going only 30 mph. Birders have missed the boat by not allowing enough time to make this trip! NO eating facilities are open in the morning hours in Bodega Bay. 
GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE: Be sure to check toll payment details regarding crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, if you plan to cross it when southbound.

Petrels forever,
Debi Shearwater


Howdy, Seabirders,

Once again, Shearwater Journeys is pleased of offer a wonderful selection of pelagic trips departing from Half Moon Bay for 2013. Half Moon Bay is within easy reach for birders traveling from San Francisco, San Jose and the East Bay areas. Shearwater Journeys first offered pelagic trips from this port in 1999. However, it has only been in recent years that regular trips with dependable boat operators  have been organized. I'm happy to say that for 2013 all of our charters will be with Dennis Baxter on the New Captain Pete, except for the November 16th departure which will be with Tom Mattusch on the Huli Cat (both vessels depart from the same location). As with all of our trips, friendly expert leaders will be on board to point out birds. We will be chumming.

In the few years that pelagic trips have operated from this port, quite a number of mega-rare seabirds have been sighted. These include: YELLOW-BILLED LOON; SHORT-TAILED and LAYSAN ALBATROSSES; GREAT-WINGED, COOK'S, HAWAIIAN and PARKINSON'S PETRELS: GREAT and MANX SHEARWATERS. On some trips, huge rafts of mixed species of storm-petrels have been observed. These have included: ASHY, BLACK, WILSON'S, FORK-TAILED and LEACH'S STORM-PETRELS. On all of our trips. we search the nearshore waters for the federally endangered MARBLED MURRELET which is not usually found on departures from any other ports, including Monterey.

Trips from Half Moon Bay can easily be combined with trips from Monterey. Trips from Half Moon Bay should be backed up with a second trip, in case your trip is weathered out. Unlike the half-moon shaped Monterey Bay, Half Moon Bay is not protected from the prevailing northwest winds. Although fall (August through October) experiences the best marine weather, trips departing from Half Moon Bay and Bodega Bay can be weathered out at any time of the year. Over the past 38 years, only one fall trip from Monterey has been weathered out, however. Back up your trip by reserving a second trip!



DEPARTURE:  7 A.M. SHARP, meet Debi and check in at H Dock, Johnson Pier at Pillar Point Harbor on Half Moon Bay, El Granada. Location here.
RETURN: We should return about 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Allow for delays of up to several hours.
PARKING is free in the lot near the dock. Do NOT park in the spaces labeled "two hour" parking. Allow yourself about 10 minutes to park and walk to the dock.
PRICE ADJUSTMENT: All rates quoted are 2012 rates. A price adjustment may be collected at the dock of $5 - 10 per person. This is payable only in cash.
MICROWAVE is available on board for your convenience. Bring all food and drinks.
Take seasick prevention medications. Dress warmly with waterproof outer layers. This is a non-smoking trip.
MOTELS: It is possible to arrive and find all motels fully booked. Best to book in advance. As anywhere along the California coast, motel rooms can be quite expensive. Local motels in the area include: COMFORT INN (Where I have stayed often and found to be quite good. Early booking on their web site results in a lower rate, although it is non-refundable); HARBOR VIEW INN is low priced and possibly within walking distance of the dock. Check it out. Under no circumstances should you book: American's Best Value Inn because they have bed bugs! If you really want something cheap,  check out the MOTEL 6 in Belmont. Tricky on and off ramps from Highway 101. Allow yourself at least 45 minutes to drive from the motel to the dock, more time, if you plan to stop for food or you do not know exactly where the dock is located! Get directions to get there from Google Maps. Highway 92 is a winding two lane road that is often enshrouded in fog. Take care.

Hope to see you out there!
Shearwaters forever,