Re: [CALBIRDS] Northern California Pelagic Trips
- WARNING: anyone not interested in this topic should simply stop reading
this (admittedly over-long) message; no need to drop out of the mail list!
If this sort of thing is off-topic for the list (I've had a little concern
about that), the listowners should clarify it.
I have to say that I largely disagree with the conclusions reached by
John Mariani and some other previous posters. Of course, everyone has his
or her own style of birding, including pelagic birding, and those who are
already convinced one way or the other won't have their minds changed....
First, as to cost. The boats typically charge in proportion to the
length of the trip. Hence a 6-hour whalewatch trips will cost less than a
9-hour trip which can explore more territory. In addition, Shearwater
Journeys and other professional tour companies are businesses, and hence
will charge more than the mere cost of the boat -- there has to be some
amount of profit! (By the way, the only North Carolina boat I've been on
was considerably larger and more luxurious than the Monterey or Bodega Bay
boats typically used for birding trips.) So one next should ask what one
gets for the extra cost - beyond just the ability to get farther out.
I think the answer can focus on two areas: whether a particular trip
is dedicated to birds, and the qualities of the trip leadership. Pelagic
birding is difficult. One has to contend both with sightings that are most
often flyby, and with the effect of the sea - that is, there are no trees, and
the "ground" is moving in often unpleasant ways. Even if an experienced pe-
lagic birder on board can identify a bird under such conditions and tell you
what it is, is that really enough? Well, if the bird is nearby and sitting in
the water, it probably is. But otherwise, if you are the sort of birder who
really wants to see the bird clearly for yourself, you may well be frustrated
by the conditions -- believe me, this isn't backyard birding, even for those of
us who have been on many trips. One often wants the possibility for the boat
to go after birds farther off in the water, to follow an interesting bird as it
and the boat drift around, to maneuver into a good orientation with respect to
it, to follow it when it flies off, to chum in birds to the stern, maybe put
out an oil slick in a particularly promising location, and above all to pause
for a while, to wait - even if there are no whales around. A dedicated birding
trip can provide all of that. (I do admit, however, that spending some time
with feeding whales is sometimes a great way to view birds. The birding trips
look for this sort of opportunity too.)
Even among dedicated birding trips, there can be a considerable range of
quality. A really experienced trip operator can work with the boat captain
to see that the above is done and done well. No doubt, in time, a good
captain (and Richard Ternullo, already mentioned, is excellent) will learn to
do that on his own -- and even to serve as a leader, picking out and identi-
fying the interesting birds. (Of course Richard learned that part through
years of trips with Debi Shearwater.) A randomly selected whalewatch boat
is rather unlikely to provide this. Whereas the experienced operator can
still provide it even with a less birding-wise captain.
Finally, the Shearwater trips (to take the most prominent example) come
equipped with three, four or more top-notch pelagic birding experts as leaders,
providing more opportunities for the birds to be spotted and recognized in the
first place, and much greater awareness of rarities. Some of these folks are
really superb at this.
Some will prefer a lower-cost trip, but at least the tradeoffs should be
understood. (Some even prefer to do pelagic birding with a scope from solid
ground!) It really depends upon what sort of experience you are after, and how
much it is worth to you. There's no way to predict how good an individual trip
of either type will be. But the organized trips surely increase the odds. (I
personally don't regard the cost as outlandish or somehow "not middle class".
It's certainly gotten a lot more expensive, but so have other things, especial-
ly anything using fuel. And of course dedicated pelagic birders are obsessive
fanatics, who will find a way to feed their habit.)
I'm really not trying to push anyone in one direction or another. I just
wanted to outline some of the counter-arguments to the prevailing sense of
the thread so far. I have no connection to any of the trips except as a
customer, sometimes satisfied and sometimes frustrated, but always trying to
improve my odds.
Cheers, Al Eisner
San Mateo Co., CA
- At 07:06 PM 2001-07-20 -0700, Al Eisner wrote:
>If this sort of thing is off-topic for the list (I've had a little concernWe're active list owners, but feel that more discussion is usually better.
>about that), the listowners should clarify it.
If we felt this were off topic, we would have said so by now. In fact,
Doug's post this morning encouraged this topic.
Steve <mailto:steve@...>, <mailto:mobile@...>
Co-listowner, Calbirds http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Calbirds
Steve Sosensky, photographer www.sosensky.com
10834 Blix Street #213 818-508-4946
Toluca Lake, CA 91602 34*09'02" N, 118*22'47" W
AIM ID: SteveS310 Yahoo Messenger ID: SteveSosensky
SoCal FRS: use channel 11 code 22
- Not to run this thing into the ground (or aground--oops, sorry!), but with
regard to rarities, you might have the old Patagonia Rest Stop syndrome.
More rarities are seen are pelagics trips because more birders go on them.
If more birders take whalewatching trips, whether or not they are "forced"
to by higher prices, it's likely that more rarities will be recorded on
them. Anyway, both kinds of trips can make sense for different folks with
different strokes at different times.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Al Eisner" <eisner@...>
Sent: Friday, July 20, 2001 7:06 PM
Subject: Re: [CALBIRDS] Northern California Pelagic Trips
> WARNING: anyone not interested in this topic should simply stop
> this (admittedly over-long) message; no need to drop out of the mail list!
> If this sort of thing is off-topic for the list (I've had a little concern
> about that), the listowners should clarify it.