The annual LAAS fall "islands" trip was moved this
year to Oxnard, and an old friend, the Vanguard. We'd used it years ago to get to the Arguello Cyn. area. Our Red-TAILED T-bird out there 11/95 was on the Vanguard. But gone are the days of B-B-Q Tri-tip in 8' swells, sittin' on a slick, watching charcol smolder on the deck in mile deep water, occasionaly enlisting the hose for particularly determined embers...we wouldn't waste unused beer on that! It was with these fond memories I tried to hide my excitement about the trip.
At the dock while waiting to depart we lost a leader
who couldn't make it, and a few passengers didn't show up....I hate when that happens..... You know there's a sad story you'll hear... Anyway, a little late we finally get off.... Except for a very few locals, I hardly recognized anyone... which is great. Probably not anyone here I've pissed off before :):):)! Lots of out-of-staters, out-of-country, and never-been-seabirdin' types, all of which are easier to please.... Of course most of the locals have "seen it all" (they think), and know we "aren't going to see anything, anyway". :):)
Five weeks prior to the trip, there were only 6 signups, and it was nearly cancelled. Oh, how it would be easier for all those involved if people would sign up sooner than the last minute... Millies hair wasn't always gray.
So we head towards Hueneme Canyon which had only littoral species like Gulls and Pelicans, and then towards the south side of Anacapa Island. There are two high spots just south of the Anacapa Passage that I believe in. One is the 47 fathom knoll (the footprint to local skippers) and the other a few miles south of that is the 153. It
sits perched at the edge of the Sta.Cruz Basin (the only 1000 fathom water inshore in socal bight). The 153 is where the Tufted Puffin was in June, and the Flesh-foot was just south of it. Oct. 27, 1968 from the 47 to the 153 and vicinity, I saw 700+ Buller's Shearwaters and a Flesh-foot plus all the regulars,
on my first pelagic trip (LAAS!). I've seen a few other Flesh-foots in this area as well. Birds moving up from the south hit these two highspots with lots of upwellings, and other feeding seabirds, right before they hit the islands. From the north anything going around either side of Anacapa will find it. It's a funnel from the
north and the islands a backstop from the south.
As we crossed to the islands, hundreds of Common Dolphin were around, a few Pomarine Jaegers, some Pink-footed, & 4 Black-vented Shearwater. A couple Red-neck Phalarope, an Elephant Seal, and a dozen Risso's Dolphin. Just south of Anacapa a stunning juvenile Arctic Tern joined us. This bird would leave and return, but stay within sight of us for over an hour !!! A Blue Whale was right on top
of the 47. We headed south to the 153 and there was a pair of scrippsi Xantus's Murrelets on it, which allowed point blank views. A few Sooty and Pink-footed Shearwater were around, and there is usually a 'line' of 'em, just SW of this high spot. We found them, and worked in their direction and soon found the roosting rafts and began working through them.
First Co-leader Dave Pereksta found a Buller's Shearwater and as the groups would flush, move ahead of us, and then resettle, we would work through them. Then we found 2 Buller's in a group that flushed. There were hundreds of Pink-footed, many dozens of Sooty Shearwaters. We would have a couple large rafts and several smaller ones in view at one time. Working through them in fall is nearly a sure way for Buller's and Flesh-footed,
here in socal...
We eased up on a small group about 25 minutes into the game, and I was struck by a larger white-headed bird, with a large, long, pale bill. As I started to realize, I looked at the crown and nape hard. I saw thin black streaks. I bent over to grab the mic, and get a half-ass foothold on the hatch I was precariously perched on, and quietly said to Dave Pereksta, "we got a Streaked Shearwater in this group". He looked realizing I was dead serious in tone, (I'd give a dollar to have his picture when what I said registered). He then saw the bird and immediately yelled STREAKED SHEARWATER!
I guess I could take that as a corroboration :):):)
Before his voice blew into the wind, I'd found the mic, got footing, and was describing marks to look for. We saw it for a few minutes noting the yellow-horn bill, white-headed appearance, fine black streaks on rear crown, and nape, where more. Its larger size, sitting head and shoulders over the Pink-foots, and bold white sides were striking. The birds however were extremely ginchy, and flushed before we were close as we usually get. This was to be repeated many times, where the flocks would flush at twice the distance they normally do. Not now !!!!!!!!
We chased after the birds, getting excellent views in flight. They would resettle, we would relocate, and go through them and refind the Streaked. Usually someone saying "its there right of center", or "look for the white head", which was not obvious when it was faced away from you, but the white sides were then.
This happened 5 times. Each time we'd see it for
a couple minutes on the water, watch it fly off,
relocate it 5 minutes later, and do it again, for over 30 minutes. By which time, virtually everyone had seen the bird and attempts at pictures were made.
My camera chose a good time to fire at will, with
the shutter release stuck ON. So I had to advance
the film with the camera off, and upon turning it on
it would fire automatically, turn it off, advance, and turn it on to fire again! Great time for this! I got a very few shots out of 24 frames I think (lots of blurry water for webpage backgrounds :)) from the flybridge 18' up rocking, etc., you know the story...
Dave Pereksta tried to get some digital video, and
Jon Feenstra I think may have pulled the trigger a
few times as well, and might have gotten something.
Other observers were Onik Arian, and Ron Burns, who had just seen the one in Ft.Bragg a few weeks ago,, some real sharp guy from Germany (who'd have guessed?) that had seen Streaked in Japan, and a couple dozen very happy at this point trip participants. Now I had to break the news to them at 11 a.m., it was going to be downhill from here.... We lost it and the Buller's, so headed towards the Sta. Rosa Flats, via Cruz Cyn.
The line of birds detouring around SCruzI is usually between the 100 and 500 fathom lines. We followed them west, and as we hit the funnel of the Sta.Cruz Channel (the pass between Cruz and Rosa) the wind and swells whipped into a frenzy. Winds are funneled in from the north at the passage, and it can be howling monkees here when its calm out. Then the very deep Cruz Cyn., comes right
up to the passage. This is another extremely good area, almost always.
As we crossed the canyon we immediately had lots of
birds again... Pink-foots, Sooty, Pomarine Jaegers,
and just before 1p.m. our first South Polar Skua came by and buzzed us. That was quickly followed by our first Long-tailed Jaeger, then small groups of Arctic Terns, a juvenile Sabine's Gull, and an our only Storm-Petrel of the day, UNDER the bow at first, then right off the rail, an Ashy Storm-Petrel. You could see the gray tones, and I saw the pale wing linings when it foot pattered, wings aloft right next to us! It was the closest bird to the boat of the whole day! It was a great 30 minutes of birding! I also saw some Albacore come out of the water with Anchovies just out of snapping jaws reach. We were south of the gap
out on the edge of the Sta.Rosa Flats.
We turned east to cross the deep mouth of the canyon, and the edge of the deep S.Cruz Basin. The next couple hours we saw 15-20 Long-tailed Jaegers, mostly juveniles, but some adults with full tails came by and buzzed us too. Several Pomarines, and a couple Parastics were seen, and a total of 5 South Polar Skua rounded out the SKUA SLAM (anyone ever ask for that at Denny's?).
We looked for a group of Blue Whales seen earlier
north of Anacapa Passage, but couldn't find them,
just lots of Red-necked Phalaropes. We went to Arch
Rock at Anacapa to check the area for Boobies. Of
course the Pelican and Gull nesting are great to see. No Booby. We watched a pair of Peregrines go after a large shorebird, which went into orbital climb, so the Pergrines broke off quickly knowing thats a race they'll lose. We pulled up to the rocks, and saw them sitting at a ledge together. Then we found a Black Oystercatcher.
Now back across the channel to port. I saw a couple
Red Phalaropes quickly and a couple Black-vented
Shearwaters were seen nearer shore about half way back. Astounding was the juvenile Pigeon Guillemot someone spotted as we slowed to enter the harbor, just outside the breakwater. We had to turn around in the worst surf at the breakwater, and relocate the bird, and then follow it for some time before we got good enough looks for positive ID. It is a great bird to see near mainland shore anytime. Though there is a distinct pattern of some juveniles moving toward mainland from early
mid-August to mid-September in particular.
It was a great trip, with a great group of people,
a great co-leader (Dave Pereksta), and a great bird!
And, thanks to Millie for all her organizational help!
The next two likely-to-be very good LAAS pelagic trips are Oct 12 from Marina del Rey, and Nov. 9 from Ventura.
Or for those who really enjoy cutting edge birding,
GO DEEP on the Condor Express 9/28 or 11/30.
ADDENDUM: I am of the opinion 4 of the horrible frames I got, are barely identifiable, but will support the ID of the Streaked Shearwater, HOWEVER, will anyone who was on the boat please forward pictures or descriptions to Guy McCaskie, secretary of the CBRC?
Mitch - Torrance, CA
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