Sunday September 16, 2007
We don't mess around this morning. The weather forecast is for the
wind to pick up in the afternoon. Our quest this day is for the storm-petrel
flocks, which can be very difficult to find in windy conditions or
choppy seas. We leave the harbor in a hurry to make a run for the
north coast of Santa Cruz to an area known as "the Fingers". These
are a series of parallel sea canyons - Ascension, Año Nuevo
and Cabrillo Canyons.
along we see SOOTY and PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER veering
about. Our skipper today is David Lemon and when he cuts the engine
speed he tells us there is a pod of BAIRD'S BEAKED WHALES blowing
at the surface just ahead. This is remarkable seeing these animals
on two consecutive days. We manage to get fairly close to this pod
of 15 but they dive and often stay down as long as 45 minutes. We
figure that was that but all of a sudden another group of 7 are blowing
right next to our boat! They come even closer for the best looks ever
at these strange looking cetaceans about which very little is known.
Bob Flood is on board again today and he smiles with his video camera
in hand, "Well, we can go home now. That was fantastic!" I know he's
kidding; he's on a mission to videotape storm-petrels. Bob is well
known in England where he leads pelagic birding trips off the Isles
of Scilly. Perhaps his greatest claim to fame is the rediscovery of
the thought to be extinct New Zealand Storm-Petrel in the Hauraki
Crossing the bay I'm distraught about the conditions but as the day
progresses the weather lays down a bit. We find a few SABINE'S
GULL, RHINOCEROS AUKLET, COMMON MURRE and BULLER'S
SHEARWATER. A single NORTHERN FULMAR flies up our wake
as do a few BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS to investigate the popcorn
and anchovy chum being dispensed by Jim Alford.
PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED and NORTHERN RIGHT WHALE DOLPHIN come in to ride
our bow. POMARINE and PARASITIC JAEGER and SOUTH
POLAR SKUA parallel the boat for some nice looks.
We also find both NORTHERN FUR SEAL and an ELEPHANT SEAL napping at
When we come to a spot known as "the Bump" we start seeing ASHY-STORM
PETRELS and Tim Amaral spots a WILSON'S STORM-PETREL too.
These fly by storm-petrels are frustrating. Some of our passengers
are having difficulty seeing them. I tell them to wait until we find
the flocks and they will surely get some glass on them.
As we draw close to the coastline north of Santa Cruz the wind lays
down and conditions are now conducive to finding the flocks. We come
to a long band of shearwaters resting on the water and spend a fair
amount of time sorting through them but find nothing out of the ordinary.
search continues until finally off of Davenport we find the flock
of stormies. They all appear to be ASHY but then we spot at
least one WILSON'S and a single FORK-TAILED STORM PETREL.
We spend the next hour combing through the restless flocks. We lay
down a slick of cod liver oil and BLACK-STORM PETREL suddenly
appear. Some of them come very close to the boat and the photographers
on board report getting their best shots ever.
Too soon it is time to head back for the Monterey Harbor. Just off
Pt. Pinos we stumble upon a small pod of RISSO'S DOLPHINS.
It has been quite a weekend. Those who came out on both of our trips
saw a total of a dozen different types of marine mammals and an excellent
cross-section of seabirds.
For additional photos from this trip, see Eric
Roger Wolfe for Monterey