Shearwater Journeys had a very successful and surprising trip on Monterey
Bay on August 29, 2004. By any standards, it was a very strange day. The
highlight of the trip was a LESSER SAND PLOVER, formerly Mongolian Plover,
FIFTEEN nautical miles west of Point Pinos!
It was the much hoped for, typical fall weather with uniformly high overcast
skies, no whitecaps, and excellent viewing conditions. It was foggy at my
house in Hollister, 45 miles inland from Monterey when I left home in the
morning for the commute to the dock. I had expected that some migrants might
land on our boat. A TOWNSEND'S WARBLER was the first migrant to land. After
flying round and round the boat, it nestled itself inside one of the life
rafts on the top deck. Sometimes, it would fly around the boat, land on
people, and then return to the life rafts. Ryan Terrill got a great photo of
it perched on someone's Leica bins! Next a LEAST SANDPIPER began flying
around the boat. Ryan saw the sandpiper land on the gunnels of the stern of
the boat, and walk around for awhile. Even the sandpiper would land on
people's heads! Quite comical! Clay Kempf, Don Doolittle, and I were sitting
on the bow of the boat, watching the sandpiper fly around, when suddenly
another shorebird appeared with it. We were not sure about this second bird.
Meanwhile, Ryan and his dad, Scott Terrill, who were at the stern, were
pondering whether or not it was a Lesser Sand Plover. Ryan shot forward to
tell me, and Don Doolittle snapped images of the plover with his digital
camera. We stopped the boat, and the plover returned once, but then it flew
away and was not seen again. We were 15.2 nautical miles west of Point
Pinos. This was a first for us, and I suppose for the statefinding a Lesser
Sand Plover on a pelagic trip. Two of Don's images should be up on the web
site within a few days: www.shearwaterjourneys.com.
Our day began with the usual Coast Guard Jetty cruise-by for BRAND'TS
CORMORANTS, BROWN PELICANS, HEERMANN'S GULLS, BLACK TURNSTONES, etc. Along
Cannery Row, we found the usual ELEGANT TERNS and PIGEON GUILLEMOTS. But,
something was clearly amisswe were surrounded by a red tide! It seemed that
the entire inside of Monterey Bay was filled with a red tide. The thousands
and thousands of Sooty Shearwaters that had been inside the bay had cleared
out. Nearly all of the large whales had also cleared out. Gone were the
Red-necked Phalaropes along the kelp beds. Upon assessing this situation, I
immediately decided that we would spend a large chunk of our day offshore!
This was a dramatic change since my last trip on Monterey Bay on August
13th. It will change, yet again. But, on this day, offshore was clearly the
plan of the day.
As further evidence of the the choking of the food chain inside the bay, we
encountered Elegant Terns and Brown Pelicans in large feeding flocks over
schools of fish 6-8 miles offshore. Soon, we also encountered flocks of
shearwaters, too. The Lesser Sand Plover event occurred at 11:34 am.
Thinking that was our best show of the day, we were delighted to come across
our first whales of the trip2 FIN WHALES! While Humpbacks and Blues are
common at this time of year, Fins are not so easily found. Then, some
storm-petrels began skipping into view. Finally, we were able to count
thousands of storm-petrels, among them 4 species: ASHY, BLACK, LEAST, and
WILSON'S STORM-PETRELS. Most folks were able to pick up on the Wilson's and
the Leasts. Perhaps with the predictions of a pending El Nino, this will be
a good year for Least Storm-Petrels. It is hard to tell at this stage of the
season. One thing of note, is that we rarely have seen Leasts this early in
the season, and certainly they do not make it to Monterey Bay every year.
So, if you are looking for this hard-to-find species, now might be a good
time to get on a boat.
The full trip list follows:
**LESSER SAND PLOVER-1**
PIGEON GUILLEMOT-14 (2 JUVS)
XANTUS/CRAVERI'S MURRELET-1 fly-away
CALIFORNIA SEA LION-+
NORTHERN FUR SEAL-1
The leaders on this trip were Clay Kempf, Ted Chandik, Scott Terrill, Linda
Terrill, and Debi Shearwater. Our pro chummers were Matt Brady and David
Vander Pluym. There were many happy seabirders at the end of the day
Our next trip from Monterey is this Sunday, September 5th. We do have spaces
available. Contact Debra Shearwater (below) for more information. WHAT'S
Debi Shearwater <debiluv@...
P.O. Box 190
Hollister, CA 95024