info on the N. Gannet trips
- Here's a bit more information on chasing the Northern Gannet out on the Farallones to supplement that posted earlier by John Luther. See John's post for the web address of the whale-watching outfit we used over this past weekend. Other outfits go out there as well, but at least the captain of this particular boat knows where we saw the bird Sunday! On Saturday, Luther and Lomax tried for the bird and failed. I can see how: there are lots and lots of nooks and crannies and masses of other birds for even a bird the size and coloration of a Gannet to get lost! On the Sunday boat, there were about 15 birders on board, organized by Marantz, and the Gannet was found and photo'd amidst a mass of nesting murres at a site known at "Fertilizer Flat" on Southeast Farallon after we had already been in that area (actually over 100 yards offshore from there, as boats are not legally allowed closer to shore than that) for a fair amount of time and were about to leave
to continue our circumnavigation of the island. The "best" site previously for the gannet was actually hundreds of yards away, so this wasn't where we were originally planning on spending most of our effort. So, the MORE BIRDERS on board the better so that many more eyes are looking. Also, once we found the bird, the ocean waters in the cove were unusually calm on Sunday and we could have set up a scope on deck to get a better look--if we had thought to bring one!
Very important to know ahead of time are the limitations on searching for this bird on these trips. Let me start by saying that the captain and crew on this particular boat were very nice, were excited by the prospects of finding the Gannet, and were quite accommodating to us birders. BUT, these are primarily whale-watching trips! The 15 of us constituted about 1/3 of the paying customers on board. The boat first visited the waters off the North Farallones rocks to see a duo of Humpback Whales (including impressive breaching) for an extended period. We THEN went to Southeast Farallon to look for the gannet and were told that we would do so for about one hour in one slow circumnavigation of the island. So, unless the trip is a dedicated gannet search or at least primarily a general birding trip (which I gather might be scheduled for July 4 and July 7, and then later on w/ Debbie Shearwater), then your time in Gannet-Land will be limited. Also, the
boats used for these whalewatch trips are primarily used for fishing during the week, and this year there is good salmon fishing to be had, so the fishing trips are doing well financially and the whalewatch/birding trips may continue to be offered only on weekends and holidays. But it's worth checking on this over the ensuing weeks.
The trip was also good for Tufted Puffins near the island. A few Cassin's and Rhino Auklets. Tens of thousands of murres. Sooty Shearwaters were the only tubenose we saw.
--Paul Lehman, San Diego
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