Well, it was a wild four days at sea along the central California coast on
Shearwater Journey's September 10, 11, 12, and 13th trips. After days of
flat seas, the winds began to blow from the northwest on the 7th of
September. This had some dramatic effects on the sea surface temperature and
the distribution of seabirds, in particular, the storm-petrels.
On the September 10th trip from Bodega Bay, we discovered that most of the
storm-petrels had dispersed. The sea surface temperature had gone from 61 to
55 in a matter of days due to the winds. Although we had good views of some
scattered storm-petrels, we did not find any large flocks. There was a lot
of krill around, and hence BLUE WHALES and CASSIN'S AUKLETS. We had a clean
sweep on the jaegers and a dozen SOUTH POLAR SKUAS.
The September 11th trip from Monterey had a surprising male BLACK SCOTER fly
by along Cannery Row. In the morning, a single BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATER
cruised past the boat, as did two SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATERS. We made a
valiant effort to locate the storm-petrel flocks, but they were not to in
the areas where we had originally found them. We were stuck in 61-62 degree
water with no life in it! Our very experienced skipper, David Lemon,
suggested that we try the canyons off of Davenport on the north coast of
Santa Cruz. So, we did this, and were successful in finding petrels! The sea
surface temperature had dropped to 57! We had found a bubble of cold water
and a good edge, as well. In this bubble, we found, 4000 ASHY
STORM-PETRELS, 150 BLACK STORM-PETRELS, 25 LEAST STORM-PETRELS, and 1
WILSON'S STORM-PETREL in some pretty bouncy sea conditions, all in Santa
Cruz County. This area was teaming with life; thousands of shearwaters and
lots of dolphins and humpbacks. A surprise find on the return to the harbor
was an adult TUFTED PUFFIN, also in Santa Cruz County.
September 12th, we headed out from Monterey very early on our albacore trip
at 5:30 am. It seems that there is not going to be an albacore season in
Monterey this year, as these tuna did not come within 50 miles of the coast.
So, we headed out to the storm-petrel stomping grounds, once again. We found
the storm-petrels, once again in bouncy seas. But, this time there were far
fewer petrels present. The northwest winds, which continued to blow, must
have been scattering them other places. In Santa Cruz County, we did have
great views of a FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER. Another FLESH-FOOT showed up in
On September 13th the winds abated slightly, although there was still some
swell. We headed to Davenport, but the large numbers of storm-petrels had
really disappeared. The sea surface temperature had really dropped. It was
now 56-57 just off Point Pinos, whereas it had been 61-62 the past few days.
It was apparent that the large flocks of shearwaters and herds of dolphins
that had been up off of Davenport, were now just a few miles off Point
Pinos. So, much of the wildlife had moved many miles!
Some observations that I note so far: Black-footed Albatross numbers really
dropped this week. The Cassin's Auklets and Blue Whales are just about
absent from Monterey Bay, but are feeding at Cordell Bank and Bodega Canyon.
None of these trips had sea conditions that were condusive to finding
Xantus' or Craveri's Murrelets. So, I cannot comment on their absence or
presence. I don't know where the bulk of the Sabine's Gulls or Arctic Terns
are. Usually by now, we have had a day with a very high count of both
species. Maybe it is yet to come. Or, maybe they migrated further offshore
this year. In any case, our numbers are pretty low on any one trip of these
species. Ditto on the jaeger counts. I'm used to seeing much higher numbers
of jaegers. It was gratifying to see numbers of storm-petrels. Since is
seems that the northwest winds blew them somewhere, I'm guessing that they
might be closer in Monterey Bay, maybe near their old stomping grounds. It
seems unlikely that they flew uphill in the wind. This weekend's trips from
Bodega Bay and Fort Bragg will provide some much needed pieces to the puzzle
of seabird movements along the central coast. More to come....
The leaders on these trips were: Sep 10: Jennifer Green, Mike Danzenbaker,
Lisa Hug, David VanderPluym, Debi Shearwater, and Don Doolittle. Sep 11:
Denise Wight, Scott Terrill, Linda Terrill, David VanderPluym, Don
Doolittle, and Debi Shearwater. Sep. 12: Steve Rottenborn, Mike Danzenbaker,
Jennifer Green, Matt Brady, David VanderPluym, Don Doolittle, and Debi
Shearwater. Sep. 13: Sophie Webb, Debi Shearwater, Steve Howell, Matt Brady,
David VanderPluym, and Don Doolittle.
The species list follows for all four trips. You will notice that those
folks who went on all four trips racked up quite a list! This is the way to
do it, if you are coming from out of state.
SOUTH POLAR SKUA-5/4/5/1
CALIFORNIA SEA LION-+/+/+/+
NORTHERN FUR SEAL-0/1/0/0
NORTHERN ELEPHANT SEAL-1/0/0/0
BAIRD'S BEAKED WHALE-0/8/0/0
NORTHERN RIGHT WHALE DOLPHIN-6/1200+/6/130
PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED DOLPHIN-0/200/134/180
Debi Shearwater <debiluv@...
P.O. Box 190
Hollister, CA 95024