Sunday Oct. 20, 2002
The Sea Wolf II got underway at 7:40 am under gray overcast skies
and relatively calm seas. The great thing about this 70-foot vessel
is that it is used for natural history tours exclusively so there
are no live bait tanks on the deck or old fishy doings about. In fact
the seabirding trips are the only time you'll find any fish, which
we use for chum, on board.
A nice group of folks on board included many locals, mostly from the
Santa Cruz side of the bay.
As always we start by cruising along the Coast Guard jetty in search
of rocky shorebirds and as in our previous tours the SURFBIRDS
and BLACK TURNSTONES don't disappoint. A nice addition is a
single RUDDY TURNSTONE on the jetty rocks. CALIFORNIA SEA
LIONS bark and sway on the top along with many BRANDT'S CORMORANTS.
Leaving the harbor we come upon our first of two winter plumaged PIGEON
GUILLEMOTS and the first of the many PARASITIC JAEGERS
we will see today. PELAGIC CORMORANTS put in an appearance
along with the expected gull species -- WESTERN, HEERMAN'S,
CALIFORNIA and our first GLAUCOUS-WINGED of the year
we will find later in the day. Still inside bay waters we have our
first BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATERS.
Moving out into deeper water we begin to see more shearwaters -- BULLER'S
and PINK-FOOTED actually outnumber the SOOTYS now. NORTHERN
FULMARS are common with about 60 seen on the day in a variety
of color morphs. Diminutive and shy CASSIN'S AUKLETS are also
quite common and it takes some doing before some of them allow us
to get close enough to see them well. RHINOCEROS AUKLETS and
POMARINE JAEGERS were also seen frequently.
At one point we get buzzed by a MERLIN who tears through the
gull flock at the stern, other landbirds include a group of 4 warblers
that we thought were likely Yellow-rumps and a Swallow that we weren't
able to ID to species. BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS numbered 7 on
trip highlight was when our skipper Richard Ternullo spotted a group
of BAIRD'S BEAKED WHALES. He powered the boat in their direction
and as we approached we could see the dorsal fins and a few of them
lifted their heads for us to see before initiating a deep dive that
they are known for. We waited for several minutes for them to resurface
and when they did Richard spotted them a quarter of a mile off.
When I went up to the wheelhouse to grab my camera Richard told me,
"Hey Roger, you are about to have the best look you've ever had at
one of these whales." Man, was he right. We managed to get close to
the pod of 16 and for several minutes they swam along beside the boat
giving us once in a lifetime looks. Everyone on the bow, myself included,
were stunned and delighted with what we were witnessing. Reputed to
be boat shy, very little is known about these strange cetaceans. Truth
be told they didn't seem shy at all. Unforgettable!
Other marine mammals on the day were DALL'S PORPOISE, 2
BLUE WHALES, 31 HUMPBACK WHALES. PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED,
LONG-BEAKED COMMON, NORTHERN RIGHT WHALE and distant
RISSO'S DOLPHINS. One male ELEPHANT SEAL was seen bobbing
at the surface.
Back to birds, we had single COMMON and PACIFIC LOONS.
The route we followed was offshore of the Monterey Bay just beyond
its widest point from the Monterey side to the Santa Cruz side crossing
over the deep water of the submarine canyon. This worked out nicely
for the county birders we had on board who were able to add to two
of their California county lists in one trip.
Bird of the day was the XANTUS' MURRELET we found just after
crossing back into Monterey county waters on the way back to the harbor.
Our leader to participant ratio was 1:4.2.
Trip Species List for Oct. 20, 2002
DOUBLE CRESTED CORMORANT
PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED DOLPHIN
RISSO'S DOLPHIN distant views
NORTHERN RIGHT WHALE DOLPHIN
CALIFORNIA SEA LION
Roger Wolfe for Monterey
Bay Whale Watch