Albatross chase trip report
- In case anyone wants to know what happened to the Short-tailed Albatross
chase trip, please read on. Sorry for cross-posting.
On Saturday March 30th, a group of 26 hopeful birders set off for Santa
Barbara Island in search of a Short-tailed Albatross that had been reported
near the island as recently as March 22nd. This was our second attempt, as
our first trip the previous week had been cancelled due to high winds.
Santa Barbara Island lies 40 miles offshore, so we left early in order to
have as much time at the island as possible. In contrast to the previous
week, there was hardly any wind for much of the day, which in combination
with overcast skies gave us good viewing conditions.
We departed Channel Islands Harbor at 0445, and as soon as it grew light
enough to see had a nice variety of pelagic species. A Common Loon in full
alternate plumage was one of the first species seen, along with Common Murre
and Black-vented Shearwater. As we continued we had regular sightings of
Rhinoceros Auklets every half mile or so. We also had good looks at a
Short-tailed Shearwater, Risso's Dolphins, Long-beaked Common Dolphins, and
a couple of Bottle-nosed Dolphins. More surprising were a couple of
Yellow-rumped Warblers that decided to follow the boat for some distance.
Upon approaching Santa Barbara Island we came across huge numbers of feeding
Western Gulls, and a massive pod of Short-beaked Common Dolphin, at least
2,000, if not more. Accompanying them were many Brown Pelicans, several of
which did excellent albatross imitations - especially when sitting on the
water. Expectations were high as we approached the eastern side of the
island. This was where on the 22nd the island's ranger had been able to
take his boat to within 20' of the bird and take frame-filling shots of it.
Unfortunately our expectations were replaced with disappointment as it
became evident the bird wasn't near the island.
Given our location and the time of day (10:30 AM) we decided to make a
pelagic trip out of it, but not before taking a closer look at the island.
Our captain took the boat in close giving us excellent views of breeding
Brown Pelicans and their awkward offspring, California Sea Lions, Northern
Elephant Seals, and 4 Western Kingbirds. Spring migration must be on its
way. We then headed south towards Osborn Bank, but since reaching the bank
would take us so far south we'd have no time to stop elsewhere, we decided
instead to head west towards the deep water of the Santa Cruz Basin. This
proved a good decision as the number of Xantus's Murrelets observed
increased, while as soon as we hit a water depth of 4,000-5,000', we found a
pod of 8-10 Cuvier's Beaked Whales. They dove before we came closer than ¼
mile to them, but we did get to see them on the surface for several minutes.
We then headed north back to land and docked at Channel Islands Harbor
around 5:30 PM. While it was disappointing to miss the Short-tailed
Albatross, this impromptu pelagic trip did provide good views of a large
variety of southern California seabirds as well as providing a group of
hard-core birders the opportunity to bird together under very congenial
Common Loon, 4; Pacific Loon, 32; Eared Grebe, 1; Western Grebe, 2;
Pink-footed Shearwater, 4; Sooty Shearwater, 9; Short-tailed Shearwater, 1;
Black-vented Shearwater, 200; Brown Pelican, 250+; Brandt's Cormorant 50+;
Pelagic Cormorant, 5; Surf Scoter, 2; Whimbrel, 22; Lesser Yellowlegs, 1;
Willet, 3; Western Sandpiper, 6; Calidris sp., 20+; Pomarine Jaeger, 3;
Bonaparte's Gull, 17; Heerman's Gull, 19; California Gull, ~10; Herring
Gull, 2; Glaucous-winged Gull, 2; Western Gull, 2,500; Elegant Tern, 3;
Pigeon Guillemot, 50; Common Murre, 3; Xantus's Murrelet, 15; Cassin's
Auklet, 15; Rhinoceros Auklet, 59; alcid sp. 6; Western Kingbird, 4;
Yellow-rumped Warbler, 2.
Gray Whale, 4; Whale, 5; Bottle-nosed Dolphin, 2; Long-beaked Common Dolphin
100+, Short-beaked Common Dolphin 2,000+, Risso's Dolphin, 30+, Cuvier's
Beaked Whale 8-10, Northern Elephant Seal, 30; California Sea Lion, 300+.
Others: Blue Shark, 1; Mola Mola 1.