Monterey Bay Seabirding
- Saturday Sept. 14
Our 75' vessel the Seawolf II got underway at 7:30 in the am. The fog
was quite thick and remained so into the early afternoon making for lees
than ideal conditions for seabirding. Seas were Beaufort 4 and we also
had to contend with some winds from the NW. Ah but we made the most of
it with a great group of folks on board. A nice mix of locals, many of
high caliber and out of staters
You can always tell the folks from out of the area by the excitement
generated by the presence of a pair of SURFBIRDS foraging along the
Coast Guard jetty. Here we also had a BLACK TURNSTONES, ELEGANT TERNS
and the expected gull species. On our way out along Cannery Row we had
our first COMMON MURRES, RHINOCEROS AUKLETS and a few PIGEON GUILLEMOTS
and RED-NECKED PHALAROPES.
Passing Pt. Pinos we started seeing our first of 7,300 SOOTY SHEARWATERS
and soon we were seeing many PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATERS as well. Thanks to
the diligent chumming by Jonathan Carpenter and Erin McDonald, interns
at the Big Sur Ornithology Lab, we had a contingent of gulls following
our wake which in turn attracted BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS-we saw 25 on the
day. COMMON TERNS passed by the boat numerous times but only one
ARCTIC TERN was seen over a large group of PACIFIC-WHITE SIDED DOLPHINS
who upstaged the birds with some high flying gymnastic maneuvers. One
was very impressive linking a number of complete head over tail flips.
Don Roberson awarded him an 7.5 claiming that his reentry into the water
could have been a bit cleaner. There were also a good number of NORTHERN
RIGHT WHALE DOLPHINS in this group that joined the others in riding our
bow, one of these preferred to do so upside down revealing his tuxedoed
appearance, and another would leap over him. It was quite a thrill to
watch them from a few feet above at the bow looking right down into
More marine mammal excitement ensued when our skipper Richard Ternullo
spotted a group of BAIRD'S BEAKED WHALES!
We could see their short round blows ahead of us but they dove and
evaded us before we could get any really good looks.
A few PARASITIC JAEGERS paid us a visit but only a single dark morph
POMARINE JAEGER. Passing into Santa Cruz county waters we came upon
thousands of Sootys. A call came in on the radio to tell us of the
presence of a group of KILLER WHALES/ORCAS feeding on a CALIFORNIA SEA
LION. En route we found our bird of the day-a single brilliant TUFTED
PUFFIN(good spot Jay Withgott!)
A single SABINE'S GULL was seen in the distance in stark contrast to the
flocks seen a month earlier. There were three other boats present when
we arrived at the Killer Whale banquet. This pod of 5 Richard identified
as the Friendly Pod by the distinctive notch in the young male's dorsal
fin. They have been dubbed friendly because they are known to approach
people in inflatable boats and sometimes like to ride the bow wake.
Conversely they have also been documented killing a Gray Whale.
The highlight of our day in my book was when two female Orcas appeared
just below the surface at the bow and we could seen the seal carcass in
both of their mouths. I mean they were right there! We spent a fair
amount of time with this pod and everyone on board was pretty thrilled.
Back to birds we had our first of 6 BULLER'S SHEARWATERS, a lone COMMON
LOON. About then I remarked to Richard that I was surprised we hadn't
seen any larger whales and is if on cue a BLUE WHALE blew and we ended
up seeing 3. Curiously we saw no Humpbacks whereas nearly 30 had been
seen the previous weekend. RISSO'S DOLPHINS were also seen but only a
On way back in we had about 6 of those shy little CASSIN'S AUKLETS on
the water then quickly flying away.
Thanks to all on board for a great trip and special thanks to our
leaders Don Roberson, Stephen Bailey and Craig Hohenberger.
Our next outings will be on Oct. 13 and 20. Hope to see you out there.
Roger Wolfe for Monterey Bay Whalewatch