October 1, 2004 Trip Report-Monterey is HOT
- Wow, Seabirders!
What a day the Shearwater Journey's folks had today on Monterey Bay! Just
amazing. We began with uniformly, high overcast skies, and flat, calm seas,
and ended the day with sunshine, and absolutely glassy seas! That, alone was
nice. Lucky for us, the overcast lasted for most of the day, as this allowed
us to look in all directions, plus its easier on the eyeballs.
Along Cannery Row, we saw the usual fall suspects: BLACK TURNSTONES on the
jetty, ELEGANT TERNS, BRANDT'S and PELAGIC CORMORANTS, EARED GREBES, PIGEON
GUILLEMOTS, and PARASITIC JAEGER. This morning, the PEREGRINE FALCON was
sitting on its usual roost, the radio tower on the Row.
Immediately, shearwaters began appearing off Point Pinos: SOOTY,
PINK-FOOTED, and BULLER'S, boom, boom, boom. I sensed that something had
really changed in Monterey. It seems that the red tide has moved out! So,
things were looking pretty good. We headed up to the place where our
skipper, David Lemon, had found the storm-petrel flocks in previous weeks.
Since the seas were so calm, we could see for miles. I spotted a gigantic,
dark mass of storm-petrels off at our 3 o'clock. As soon as we finished
looking over the CASSIN'S AUKLET that we were watching, we headed for this
mass of seabirds. It was absolutely astounding. It was a sight like I used
to see in the good ol' days of the late 1970's and early 1980's!
Soon, it became apparent that we were really in for a bigger treat than we
had imagined: thousands upon thousands of storm-petrels! We estimated 12,000
before the rafts broke up. There were so many LEAST STORM-PETRELS that the
leaders were able to easily point them out to every participant. I was even
able to point out LEASTS sitting on the water before they took flight.
Masses of BLACK STORM-PETRELS were everywhere. Then, I saw a Black
Storm-Petrel chasing a much smaller storm-petrel that was reddish or rusty
in coloration!! I've seen lots of partial albino shearwaters and
storm-petrels over the years, but I have never seen anything that was RUFOUS
in coloration! It was stunning! Some of the other participants on our trip
got on this bird. We refound it about 4 times, and three of those times the
rufous was being chased by a black. Once, the rufous morph least was being
chased by an ashy storm-petrel. It was wild! I'd love to know if anyone has
ever heard of such coloration in storm-petrels. I shot a couple of frames on
my camera, but I doubt that the little thing will be much more than a dot.
It had translucent rufous wings, and I thought that it was rufous all over,
although another observer thought that it had a dark belly. Several WILSON'S
STORM-PETRELS flew around the area. In all, our tally was: ASHY-8000, BLACK-
3250, LEAST-750, WILSON'S-3 to 5. Some RISSO'S DOLPHINS, PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED
DOLPHINS, and NORTHERN RIGHT WHALE DOLPHINS cut through the flocks,
escorting two HUMPBACK WHALES! It was a busy time for us.
Finally, we departed the storm-petrel scene and headed north toward
Davenport. We spotted a long line fishing vessel, pulling its line, and
discarding chili peppers (cod), overboard. Many PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATERS were
sitting around. This was the same area where we had found a fishing vessel
on the September 25th trip (report not yet complete). I spotted the same
MELANISTIC PINK-FOOT in the flock that we had seen on Sep. 25th! Then, the
call came for FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER! Several flesh-foots flew around our
boat, while one sat on the water for a great photo-op! At least 11
BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES were in the wake of the fishing vessel.
Turning toward our home harbor, I said to our skipper, David, that I would
be impressed if he managed to spot the same TUFTED PUFFINS that we had found
on September 24 & 25! Ten minutes later, David stopped the boat on a TUFTED
PUFFIN! Both puffins were in Santa Cruz County. We passed more HUMPBACK
WHALES and groups of DALL'S PORPOISES, and two NORTHERN ELEPHANT SEALS while
we basked in the afternoon sunshine, worn out from a spendid day of
Tomorrow, we have an offshore, albacore trip from Monterey, departing at
5:30 am. We plan to head south, depending on what we see on today's sea
surface temperature chart. There is space available on the boat. Just show
up at 5:15 am at Chris' Fishing .
Sunday, October 3, we will head up to Davenport to search for the
storm-petrels and all other seabirds. This area has been so productive for
the past month. If the weather stays relatively the same, this might be the
best chance that you could possibly have for finding a least storm-petrel.
There is space on the boat. Please email me, or leave a message on my
answering machine. (I'll be out on the albacore trip), if you would like to
go on Sunday's trip. This is a bit longer trip, and we won't return until 4
The complete species list for Friday, October 1, 2004 follows:
PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER-405 (1 MELANISTIC)
ASHY STORM-PETREL-80000 (1 RUFOUS MORPH)
CALIFORNIA SEA LION-+
NORTHERN ELEPHANT SEAL-2
NORTHERN RIGHT WHALE DOLPHIN-112
PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED DOLPHIN-350
SOME THOUGHTS: To answer a few questions, as I have not completed the trip
reports for the September 24, 25, 26, and 28 trips: No, I still have not
seen the Arctic Tern migration, nor any large numbers of Sabine's Gulls. I
suspect they must have migrated further offshore this year. I cannot
remember a year when I have seen so few Arctic Terns, in particular. The red
tide is rapidly moving out of Monterey Bay. I did see some evidence of the
red tide in the nearshore waters off of Bodega Bay on September 26th. So,
its not surprising that there is less of it in Monterey today. The bulk of
the Cassin's Auklets are north of Monterey, around the Cordell Bank, and
especially north of Fort Bragg, where we saw nearly 2000 of them on
September 28th. No surprise hereas the krill must be up north too, based on
the presence and number of Blue Whales that we saw there. The pieces of the
puzzle are really fitting together nicely. Its great to be able to witness
what is happening at a variety of places along the coast. Many thanks to the
folks who join us on these trips, providing this rare opportunity of the
spectacle of seabird migration!
Debi Shearwater <debiluv@...>
P.O. Box 190
Hollister, CA 95024