TR: 8-24-02 (long)
- Hi all,
The next deepwater trips on the Condor Express from Santa Barbara are Sept 28, and Nov. 30. Pterodroma are very possible on both dates. Call 805-963-3564 or: http://wwwcondorcruises.com
The next two very good LAAS day trips worth
getting on are: Oct.12 from Marina del Rey,
and Nov 9 from Ventura. Call 323-876-0202
TR: Condor Express 8/24/02 from Santa Barbara
A light breeze at the 5 a.m. departure typically does not bode well in the protected sheltered harbor... The first 90 minutes in the flat channel is deceptive too. Smooth and glassed off, cruising at 30 MPH you can feel the speed, but I know the standing wall is waiting for
us when we round Pt.Conception. And we weren't disappointed. The real open ocean is a rude awakening just as day breaks. Dead calm flat for the prior three weeks, an Alaskan low pressure system dove south to greet us.
Several on board were on the Bodega trip the prior Monday, considered one of the roughest trips ever by many who were there. Well, it was that weather that we were going full speed ahead into here. 5-6' swells, allegedly 9 seconds apart, but at our speed they were only a few seconds apart. Stacked up and squared off,
with 20 Knots of wind on it. It was far too rough for many. Some even thought they recognized a few of the larger swells from the week before at Bodega. :)
I am always amazed on the take afterwards.... I heard from people who weren't there, that 85% of the people were sick. However 20 or so were up top all day, and had the time of their lives, and half a dozen who stayed on the lower deck in the main cabin, never got sick, so no way was half actually sick. The sick tend to exaggerate how many were sick by far it seems...
Seas got smoother once we got away from Pt. Conception, and out to deep water, away from the upwellings of Arguello, and the shallow inshore waters. But the wind kept half the boat soaked with spray most of the time regardless. I'm still shaking saltwater out of my ears! It was amazing to see the cold water upwellings of the
Arguello Canyon area, drawing a chilly 53 degrees, and as we got off the shelf into the California Current, the slow constant rise to a balmy 62 degree water.
Right around Pt.C. itself, there was a huge flock of feeding Pink-footed and Sooty Shearwaters. Perhaps 500 P-foots, and a couple hundred Sootys. Someone saw a small dark and light shearwater sps. Some Red-necked Phalaropes were around, and a Pomarine Jaeger, plus one
Ashy Storm-Petrel. As we got over Arguello the first group of at least a couple dozen Blue Whales were seen, some very close, next to the boat. Also Arctic Terns started showing, and a Sabines Gull flew by. This about 21 mi. West of Point C..
Heading across Arguello we started picking up scattered Ashy Storm-Petrels, Sootys, Pink-foots, Arctic Terns, and our first Buller's Shearwater. We headed out to the 948 (fathom) knoll, a favorite high spot of mine. There we found our first Leach's Storm-Petrel, also a
Black St-Pet, our first Long-tailed Jaeger, and our first nominate Hypoleucus Xantus's Murrelet. It was approached closely on the water for great views.
From there we headed SW to smooth out the ride for folks. It drops off to the abyss from there too. Its a high spot at the edge of the shelf. We started seeing more scattered Storm-Petrels, especially dark rumped Leach's. A few Black's too, more Arctic Terns, and after noon, we found another pair of Hypoleucus Xantus's which we
were able to approach for good looks for all.
We stopped on a couple Fin Whales and everyone went to the bow to see them at point blank. I went to the stern to tail-gun, and have a cigarette. A small blow appeared just off the wake 100 meters behind us. I binoced it, and as it blew again in the wake, and I thought, this
is a beaked whale, a bird bounced over the small blow.
I tracked off the whale onto the bird, which continued to bounce, at incredibly high speed. Like the dot over the lyrics on TV. But so fast as to be nearly impossible to keep up with, as it went into troughs, becoming momentarily out of view. Trying to get a handle on it, I saw white underparts, and cryptic very hard to discern upperparts. It went up 8' and down 8' faster than would seem physically possible. Like a roller coaster in the straight-away. I was shocked stuipid, and thought it was a Pterodroma Petrel, but for fear of making a mistake, wanted to know, and make sure before I yelled.
This I regret, as the hesitation cost others seeing the bird. As it went from the 5 to the 4 position I got a fair enough look at the upperparts to see it was gray, with an 'M' pattern, dark tail tip, and essentially snow white underparts, and a dark behind the eye patch.
I started yelling "get on this bird at 4", ran to yell into the cabin, and came back out trying to relocate it. I saw it break the horizon bouncing still, a few times between 4 and 3, but never got it back in my bins. It was clearly a Cookilaria Pterodroma Petrel. We sped off
after it, but it was not refound. So we layed an oil slick, which turned out to be the least response of any slick I've ever sat on for 50 minutes.
Except for the two Albacore that were jigged whilst we waited! At least everyone was going to get Sashimi! And this leader doesn't believe in going asea in fall without WASABI, so we were set for snacks! The bird was at approximately 70 n.mi. WSW of Pt. Conception, in approx. 1968 fathoms of approximately 62 degree F water.
We spent the next several hours over the deep waters, but only a single Black-footed Albatross added to our sps. lists. Fair numbers of Arctic Terns and Long-tailed Jaegers were around, Leach's Storm-Petrels, Red and Red-necked Phalaropes, and tons of Whale blows. Surely I saw
a hundred blows in the course of the day. A couple more Buller's Shearwaters were seen, a Parasitic Jaeger too.
We moved in behind San Miguel Island about 7 p.m., for a quiet dinner in the calm protected waters. A large Elephant Seal rookery on the beach was approached where we watched young males chest butting, a huge ad.male laying like a giant slug, and lots of cows and pups...
So, I feel horrible for all those who were sick. And I feel worse for not getting everyone on the Pterodroma, since it turned out to be the only one, and my fear of making a "call mistake" kept me silent for 3 seconds too long.
I want to thank everyone who came, especially the co-leaders: Peter Cantle, Guy McCaskie, Don DesJardin, and Bernardo Alps. I had a great time, as did at least half of the people there. It was great to see again, or meet, some of CA's great birders, and bird reporters! Not to mention to be asea with some great seabirders!
Thanks to Captians Ron Hart and Mat Curto for making the trip a great one, despite the conditions.
Like Guy said after it all, "Under those conditions, how much did we miss out there?". Yeah, I bet we missed alot!
You wouldn't have wanted to be there on any other boat, I can assure you. You probably couldn't have been there in a regular single hulled vessel. Not birding anyway. At least there's a place for 50 to sit comfortably,
inside, dry, at a table, on a cushion, at all times. And a place for the couple dozen maniacs enjoying it to death, to bird from at the same time. It is levels ahead of the next best birding boat in the state, and probably the west coast. The Captains and crew are the best too!
And of course, for myself, its always so nice after a day, of being thrashed asea, to go home, and lay down, .....on my waterbed.
Let's face it, pelagic birding rocks!
The sps. list was previously posted....
Mitch - Torrance
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