It always seems a bit strange showing up at the dock at 5 a.m. It
is dark out but our hardy group of 24 is assembled and ready to leave
by 5:30. Our guests today include a nice group of folks from the Colorado
Field Ornithologists. After the safety talk and spotter introduction
we leave the dock and begin our journey offshore. We power out until
it gets light enough to see a few NORTHERN RIGHT WHALE DOLPHINS come
in to the boat.
is a lovely morning and the sunrise out in the bay is a memorable
one. In this early light the white wing flash on the underwings on
the SOOTY SHEARWATERS jumps out and you see they really are
a sooty color. These are soon joined by the languid wing beats of
Before we know it we are in the area off Davenport the storm-petrels
have favored the last few years. We find the occasional ASHY STORM-PETREL
but find no signs of a flock. A single FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER
is seen in this area. Again today the wind is not in our favor. There
was some doubt about getting very far offshore today but the word
from the albacore fishing boats out ahead of us is that the wind is
not picking up from the northwest as it was forecast to do. We continue
to push offshore.
POLAR SKUAS are numerous today -- we see at least 10 -- and so
are POMARINE JAEGERS -- we must have seen almost 50. My favorite
part of the trip is when we have 6 different jaegers flying around
the stern harassing the gulls to give up the anchovies Tanner Easterla
and Max Baer have thrown from the stern. There are different color
morphs, ages and two species (PARASITIC and POMARINE).
It's a great comparative study for all on board. We have a passable
look at a LONG-TAILED JAEGER to complete the skua slam for
Word from the fishermen is that there is a lot of bird activity and
they are catching albacore but when we arrive where the fleet is we
see very few birds and none of the boats are stopped to reel in a
tuna. We scratch our heads wondering what is up with that? But you
know what they say about fishermen and their stories.
We also cannot locate a clear break in the water temperature, which
is what we are hoping for. At this point we are 40 nautical miles
off Año Nuevo. From here we begin heading south and then back
toward the coast along the rim of Año Nuevo Canyon.
We find several different color morphs of NORTHERN FULMAR,
and a single SABINE'S GULL puts in a brief appearance at the
stern along with a handful of BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS.
We start seeing more ASHIES and then a distant FORK-TAILED
STORM-PETREL. Still no sign of a big flock but we do find some
small groups of ASHIES sitting on the water, and while we're
watching these a single BLACK STORM-PETREL flies in close to
the boat and everyone gets on it.
There are lots of RED-NECKED PHALAROPES around and we also
see several REDS.
We get passerine flybys of a juvenile BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD,
a CHIPPING SPARROW and what we think was a VESPER SPARROW.
Passing through the Soquel Canyon we find alcids: COMMON MURRE
and RHINOCEROS AUKLETS.
the area known as The Corner we happen upon a pod of KILLER WHALES
who come right up to the boat. It's the Friendly Pod and they're finishing
up a pinniped meal and seem to want to show it to us. There are a
lot of people on board who are seeing their first wild Killer Whales
and couldn't be more thrilled. We've also seen other marine mammals
including RISSO'S DOLPHINS, NORTHERN FUR SEAL and CALIFORNIA SEA LION.
Nearly 12 hours after leaving the harbor we are rounding Pt. Pinos
and finding a great deal of shearwater activity. We comb through thousands
of sitters on the water and do turn up a white-headed Sooty but not
anything out of the ordinary.
On the way in we find some PIGEON GUILLEMOTS and PELAGIC
CORMORANTS to complete the day.