Recent SoCal deepwater trip
- Last Wednesday a group of birders went out of San Diego aboard the 95'
"Searcher" for a 115 hour pelagic trip. The leaders were Todd McGrath,
Phil Unitt and myself, Walter Wehtje. We went out into deep water off
Point Conception for the third year in a row in search of Murphy's
Petrels and other deepwater specialties. We were successful once again,
and observed 9 Murphy's Petrels over the course of two days in Santa
Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties. We also had Laysan and
Black-footed Albatrosses in all three counties, but our two Red-billed
Tropicbirds were both in Los Angeles County. Excellent views were had
of all four species. Other species observed included Pacific Loon,
Common Loon, Red-throated Loon, Eared Grebe (about 100 miles offshore!),
Northern Fulmar, Sooty Shearwater, Short-tailed Shearwater, Flesh-footed
Shearwater, Pink-footed Shearwater, Black-vented Shearwater, Black
Storm-petrel, Leach's Storm-petrel, all three cormorants, Black Brant,
Red and Red-necked Phalarope, Pomarine and Parasitic Jaegers, Sabine's
Gull, Bonaparte's Gull, Heermann's Gull, California Gull, Western Gull,
Glaucous-winged Gull, Herring Gull, Caspian Tern, Royal Tern, Elegant
Tern, Forster's Tern, Pigeon Guillemot, Common Murre, Xantus's Murrlet,
Casin's Auklet, Rhinoceros Auklet, and a single Rufous Hummingbird about
80 miles west of Ensenada.
As a bonus we did about 90 minutes of birding in Mexican waters on the
last day and picked up Black Storm-petel, Red Phalarope, Pomarine
Jaeger, Western Gull, Sabine's Gull, Xantus's Murrelet, Cassin's Auklet
and Rhinoceros Auklet.
Cetaceans included California Gray Whale, Fin Whale, Humpback Whale,
Sperm Whale, Northern Right-whale Dolphin, Risso's Dolphin, Dall's
Porpoise, Pacific White-sided Dolphin, and both common dolphins.
Pinnipeds included Guadalupe Fur Seal, Elephant Seal, and California Sea
Lion. There may have been a Harbor Porpoise at Anacapa Island, but our
looks were too brief to be sure.
Water temperatures ranged from 50 degrees F. SW of Point Conception to
62.5 degrees F. in the vicinity of 60 Mile Bank (60 miles SW of San
Diego). Wind ranged from calm to 35 mph, and swells from 2-3' to 12'+.
By heading SSW from Point Conception we were able to ride these larger
swells without any real discomfort; thank heavens we didn't try to head
The Murphy's Petrels came in to the boat on several occasions, and
provided several great looks for everyone aboard. We saw them in waters
ranging from 52 to 60.5 degrees F. Todd McGrath took several good
photographs that we hope to post on the web within the next week or two.
Our next trip is slated for September 5-9, when we're planning to target
Cook's Petrels and whatever else may be lurking in warm waters 100+
miles offshore of southern California. We'll be looking for Least
Storm-petrels and Craveri's Murrelets closer to shore before going as
far out as allowable and laying a slick overnight. This will be a more
exploratory trip than last year's tour, and may bring in some
surprises. We've learned quite a bit with each of the past 7 trips, and
intend to build upon our present knowledge to create itineraries that
provide a good variety of the expected pelagics, as well as good
opportunities for finding the more unusual species. For more
information go to http://www.bajawhale.com/birdingtrips.html