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Albatross chase trip report

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  • walter wehtje
    In case anyone wants to know what happened to the Short-tailed Albatross chase trip, please read on. Sorry for cross-posting. Walter Wehtje On Saturday March
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2002
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      In case anyone wants to know what happened to the Short-tailed Albatross
      chase trip, please read on. Sorry for cross-posting.

      Walter Wehtje

      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 ΒΌ
      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

      Bird List:

      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.
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