Monterey Seabirds
Sept. 30, 2006 Seabird Cruise Trip Report


Saturday September 30, 2006

Before we have even boarded the boat some of our 17 participants are ticking off a life bird. Richard Ternullo has found a female HARLEQUIN DUCK on a mooring buoy on the other side of Fisherman's Wharf from the Monterey Bay Whale Watch Center.

Along the Coast Guard jetty we find a BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON, a few BLACK TURNSTONES and many BRANDT'S CORMORANTS. Outside of the harbor we find our first PIGEON GUILLEMOT and then a concentration of COMMON MURRES and some ELEGANT TERNS pass overhead.

As we motor along the infamous Cannery Row a MINKE WHALE crosses the bow and most on board get a look at the distinctive dorsal fin of the smallest of baleen whales. Minkes in the Pacific are very shy but we get a rare second look when it resurfaces again off the stern. Not a bad start to the day!

We round Pt. Pinos and head toward Carmel Bay where we come upon a great deal of bird activity. It consists mainly of gulls (WESTERN, HEERMANN'S and CALIFORNIA) but there are SOOTY SHEARWATERS around and we find our first PINK-FOOTED here as well.

About this time I have Don Roberson try my new 12X marine bins with vibration reduction. Don has used the 24x Big Eyes on the NOAA research vessel the McArthur while doing a four-month seabird survey throughout the Pacific. He puts them up to his eyes, turns the vibration reduction off and on a few times. He focuses on a couple of birds and then turns to me and says, "Roger, these binoculars are very impressive!" Soon everyone wants to try them and most give similar reviews.

Breaching humpback whale, photo by Don RobersonWe make a U turn to the north to cross the bay and find a few NORTHERN FULMARS. The birding activity subsides but the whale activity increases. We get into an area where there are HUMPBACK WHALES blowing all over the place. Three of them get friendly and begin a fantastic breaching show right next to the boat. They come flying out of the water from the same spot repeatedly. Everyone with a camera gets a shot. The only complaint is from the people with long lenses. They're too close. See Don Roberson's photos of this at:

Crossing the bay we are joined by PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED and NORTHERN RIGHT WHALE DOLPHINS that come in to ride the bow.

Once we're on the northern side of the bay we start finding birds again and pick up a few BULLER'S SHEARWATERS and begin seeing a lot of ASHY STORM-PETRELS here and there along with an occasional BLACK STORM-PETREL. Eventually we find a flock sitting on the water and when they take flight we find a few LEAST STORM-PETRELS too.

Don Roberson calls out that he's found an interesting storm-petrel with a white belly. Perhaps it's the one I reported last weekend. This time we manage to get several people on it and get some photos too. The consensus is that it appears to be a leucistic Ashy but an interesting one nevertheless.

Leucistic Storm-petrel, photos by Eric Preston

While combing through the storm-petrels we find some RISSO'S DOLPHINS. In that we are on an eight-hour trip we have to leave the storm-petrels too soon, to begin our journey back to the harbor.

We come across a group of Pink-footeds and as we draw close we see in their midst is a length of very thick rope. My duties as deckhand include the occasional retrieval of balloons that we pick up to keep Leatherback Turtles from trying to eat them. I manage to gaff the 20-foot section of diamond braid rope that is 5 inches wide. I can barely get it up to the rail and then it is a real chore getting it all in the boat. It must weigh several hundred pounds altogether and takes up quite a bit of room. Richard says I've set a new record for trash retrieval.

We have seen several SOUTH POLAR SKUAS and many POMARINE JAEGERS and as we return to the southern end of the bay we find even more with a few PARASITICS too. At one point we find a group of ten Poms sitting on the water and as we approach them we discover that there is a FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER in with them. Everyone gets on this bird. A few minutes later Don Roberson and Dan Singer find a MANX SHEARWATER that parallels the boat and crosses the bow so everyone gets a decent look.

DALL'S PORPOISES, considered the fastest of all small cetaceans, slow down enough to ride the bow.

A small gull sitting on the water off the bow is our only SABINE'S GULL.

RHINOCEROS AUKLETS are numerous and seen throughout the day.

We tally four pinniped species. Three NORTHERN FUR SEALS, a bottling NORTHERN ELEPHANT SEAL, many CALIFORNIA SEA LIONS and a HARBOR SEAL.

For additional nature photographs including a variety of seabirds, see Eric Preston's website.

Roger Wolfe for Monterey Seabirds


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Photos copyright © 2006 Don Roberson and Eric Preston, all rights reserved.

Last updated October 4, 2006