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Cook's Petrels off Southern California

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  • Walter Wehtje
    I just returned from a four day fishing trip aboard the Searcher out of San Diego. We spent much of our time in U.S. waters (Los Angeles County to be
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 3, 2005
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      I just returned from a four day fishing trip aboard the "Searcher" out
      of San Diego. We spent much of our time in U.S. waters (Los Angeles
      County to be exact). While I spent most of my time flinging sardines at
      albacore, I did see a nice variety of seabirds. Among the expected
      Black Storm-petrels and Leach's Storm-petrels, I had at least one Least
      Storm-petrel, and a Wilson's Storm-petrel. I also observed one
      Red-billed Tropicbird, and another unidentified tropicbird that dove on
      fish about 300 m from the boat (I didn't use my binoculars on the second
      bird because I was hauling in an uncooperative tuna at the time). Other
      species included at least two Black-footed Albatross, and multiple Sooty
      Shearwaters. There were also several Cassin's Auklets in 67-68 degree F
      water, and a flock of 150 Red-necked phalaropes that circled the boat
      one night. There were at least 2-3 Red Phalaropes mixed in with this
      flock.

      The birding highlight of the trip were 8-10 Cook's Petrel, with
      sightings on each of the three days spent fishing. They were feeding
      actively, and the captain saw several groups of 3-4 birds swarming over
      schools of bait at the surface. I missed that, but had several birds
      fly within 100 m of us as were trolling. All the birds showed bright
      white underparts and gray backs with a dark "M" pattern. On each of the
      three nights that we were out there, we had at least one Cook's Petrel
      approach the boat and circle around for several minutes. It was the
      first time I'd seen this species in U.S. waters, and I'm looking forward
      to going out in early September, when I'll be co-leading a pelagic
      birding trip on the "Searcher" with Don DesJardin, Mary Gustafson, and
      Todd McGrath. We'll be looking for Cook's Petrels, and may stray north
      to search for unusual storm-petrels. There's one space left on this
      trip, so if anyone is interested, please contact Celia Condit at
      searcher@..., or call her directly at (619) 226-2403.

      Hope to see you out there,

      Walter Wehtje
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