Saturday 8/3 was LAAS' annual gruelling endurance test - "how much can you take to
get a tick" T-bird trip. 20 hours of racing along at 9.2 knots, slugging through 2' seas like a warthog wallowing at a waterhole. Goal:
to get to the outer banks, some 70 miles offshore, where there are usually Tropicbirds in season (late summer to early fall best).
The three major banks outside the channel islands
in socal, run SE to NW; Cortes, Tanner, Cherry.
Cherry is not named on maps, but unlike most not-
formally-named subsea features in socal, almost all captains from almost all ports call this one by Cherry. (Potato has also been recorded). It is about 24 nm South of San Nicholas Isl., rising to 45 fathoms. Tanner gets to 9fa (!) and Cortes 4fa (!). They are in LA Co., whilst Cherry is in Ventura.
The 5 previous trips had racked up over 20 T-birds, never missing the species. Victory was snatched out of the jaws of defeat, when just after 6 p.m., a Red-billed Tropicbird came to the boat, in LA Co. :):). It gave crippling views of its gleaming white plumage, red bill, and long tail streamers in the late, low sun. We gave chase and most saw it, but not all, as usual. We lost the bird, and executed the
standard T-bird search pattern (a trade secret).
A mile away, a Murrelet was spotted, the boat stopped and while I was able to ID the murrelet as it dove by its wing-linings (clear white), I scanned the sea and there it was, sitting a few hundred yards away, the T-bird. We eased up on it, and as always, like Orca or Butterflies, they may come to you, but don't like you coming to them. All had stellar looks of its cocked streamers as it sat, and when it took off there were 30 very happy campers, and some very relieved leaders! No refund checks to write :):)!
The whole last couple hours of the trip, before and after the T-bird were largely spent looking through distant Storm-Petrels. Least might have been most numerous. A very few Black were seen, and small numbers of Ashy were regular. Once, three Least were close enough for most to get good looks, right next to a couple Ashy.
A pair of Xantus's Murrelets with 2 nearly grown
young was followed for some time earlier off Cherry Banks. They were near an area of feeding Fin Whales, some of which came over to, and circled the boat a few times, only feet away! We could see their baleen! Amazing the Whales and Murrelets are feeding on the same krill! Apparently, the baleen filters out the Murrelets :)
Some Pomarine Jaegers were seen, including a couple of my favorites, the dark morphs. One Arctic Tern came in and gave great looks at point blank. A few Red, and many Red-necked Phalaropes were about. The Shearwater numbers, like other stuff, were soooo low, as to be unbelieveable. Maybe a couple dozen Sooty,
and a few dozen Pink-foots, most very early in the day right after sunup, made for lots of long, long, birdless stretches.
This trip usually has thousands of birds. Not the couple hundred we worked for this time. It was astoundingly dead over large areas. Overall species diversity of "pelagics" was down 30% or more, compared to all five previous trips. Note though this trip was two weeks earlier than the other 5. The difference however was far greater than the two weeks...
Early in the day we were given an incredible show
by a couple Blue Whales which allowed approach
to within 15 meters, and seemed very interested
in us. Staying up, circling, and checking us out
for an inordinate amount of time. They were great! Other larger "Blue blows" were seen but not chased, since we had such great looks at these.
A couple/few Minke Whales were seen, and some
Pacific White-sided Dolphins were in with some
Commons in one of many pods of them we saw. Very late in the day someone called my attention to a large dorsal they saw. I scanned for minutes before I got 4 views of a tall dagger shaped spike of a black dorsal, Orca! It disappeared again, and being 'past time' (late) we couldn't go after it. They don't respond well usually anyway. It/they had been trailing us far back along an edge of our wake.
Early in the day someone called my attention to
a flying alcid which crossed the bow at 100 meters. It was clearly a Craveri's Murrelet, with it's gray winglinings, but unfortunately, it was the only one seen, and only a few saw it.
It was a great trip, despite the lack of birds
much of the time, with a great group of people.
Special thanks to leaders: Mike San Miguel Jr.,
Kimball Garrett, and David Pereksta. Mind-blowing
looks at whales, along with finally getting our
T-bird, and the fun storm-petrel studies with Leasts, made for a good day for all.
may your birds have tubes in their noses...
sps. list 8/3/02 - LAAS pelagic to Cherry Banks
I haven't added up my numbers yet.....
Pink-footed Shearwater -4 doz.+-
Sooty Shearwater - 3 Doz.+-?
Ashy Storm-Petrel - 10-12, maybe 20+
Black Storm-Petrel - 3
Least Storm-Petrel - 20+-
Red-billed Tropicbird - 1
Red-necked Phalarope - some
Red Phalarope - few
Pomarine Jaeger - 6-8
Arctic Tern - 1
Royal Tern - 1
Xantus's Murrelet - 5+
Craveri's Murrelet - (MH in flight) few obs.
Rhinoceros Auklet - 1 - rarest record of trip
sm. Alcid sp. - few
Blue Whale Fin Whale Minke Whale
Orca (2 obs.) Common Dolphin
Pacific White-sided Dolphin
Calif. Sea Lion
A couple Sharks and lots of Mola were also seen.
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2002 schedule page has fall socal dates
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