Sunday April 22, 2007
I'll admit it, I was cursing on the drive down to Monterey. Rain showers
I can deal with but the wind did not look friendly. This would have
to happen when we had a sold out trip! My car was buffeted when I
drove over the bridge at Moss Landing Harbor. Damn this wind, look
at those whitecaps!
I met our skipper Richard Ternullo at the base of the Fisherman's
Wharf and asked him how things looked. He seemed pretty nonplussed.
"It sounds like conditions will improve significantly as the day progresses."
And they did, dramatically. We never felt a raindrop, the wind lay
down very nicely, and as things turned out the seabird gods were with
We drove the boat about 15 yards from the dock and then stopped for
everyone to get photos of the wintering drake HARLEQUIN DUCK.
As we pulled around to the outside of the breakwater we found a single
The word came in on the radio that the Killer Whales found the previous
day feeding on a dead Gray Whale calf were still present. The rpm
went up and we headed across the bay to find them. Upon arriving at
the designated spot we managed to find the calf carcass floating at
the surface. It was a grisly gut pile with the rear part of the body
and tail still intact. Most of the head, tongue and blubber on the
upper body had been eaten.
But no sign of the Killer Whales, so we headed in the direction they
were last seen heading. Along the way we found some NORTHERN FULMARS,
SOOTY SHEARWATERS and our first PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER.
Tight little flocks of RED-NECKED PHALAROPES flew by. Richard
spotted the dorsal fins of the Killer Whales. As we drew closer we
found there were many BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS drawn to the Killer
I've been lucky to have seen a lot of Killer Whale behaviors but today
was special. There were about 15 in the pod and they turned out to
be quite friendly, coming right up to the boat. At one point they
even acted like they were going to bow ride. Everyone was thrilled.
I was standing at the stern with Todd Easterla and I thought we'd
be hanging out here for a while so I took a wing from a Humboldt Squid
we brought along and tossed it in the water to see if the albatross
would gather on it. It was in the water only a few seconds when two
of the KWs came after it. The first one jumped on the wing and the
second one slapped it with its flukes. Then they repeated this another
time. They were playing with it no more than 20 feet from where we
stood! It was awesome.
We stayed with the KWs for a while and when they began to travel west
we did the same. Then they turned around, and we kept going west.
In a flock of BONAPARTE'S GULLS a single basic plumaged SABINE'S
GULL tried in vain to escape our detection. RHINOCEROS AUKLETS
were somewhat scarce and COMMON MURRES even more so. A large
pod of RISSO'S DOLPHINS paid us a visit.
Just after noon Richard turned the boat around and we started heading
in the direction of Carmel Bay where a BROWN BOOBY had been
reported the previous day. It was lunchtime so I told Todd that I
was going in to eat my burrito and now would be the time when the
megararity showed up. I'd taken only a few bites when we stopped to
look at some CASSIN'S AUKLETS. Three quarters of the way through
the burrito all hell broke loose when Todd started yelling about the
SHORT-TAILED ALBATROSS that Matt Sadowski was pointing at.
One of the rarest seabirds in the world had landed on the water very
close by. All around me shutters were clicking. I was standing there
with my jaw on the deck until I finally came to my senses and raised
my binoculars to see the bird in detail. Then it was time to grab
my camera. Ah yes, the long awaited bubble gum bill! It is huge. This
is about the most cooperative bird you could hope for. He came in
close several times and when we have had our fill and leave he keeps
returning to the stern, then flying around the boat. What a privilege!
Our group is quite sated as we start to head for Pt. Pinos, but wait...there
are two HUMPBACK WHALES. Then Don Roberson spots a flyby ARCTIC
TERN and a distant JAEGER SP. Cruising along Cannery Row
off of the Aquarium we find an ANCIENT MURRELET just to top
off the day.
We finish up the day with a total of 8 gull species with a late THAYER'S
GULL the highlight.
It was a great trip and even though I was very tired I could not get
to sleep at night. I was still feeling the thrill of our day on the
bay and savoring it. There's no place like the Monterey Bay!
For additional photos, see Jeff
Poklen's photo gallery for this trip.
Roger Wolfe for Monterey