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166Trip Report – Shearwater Journeys Sept 5 Fort Bragg Pelagic

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  • SKUA@MSN.com
    Sep 6, 2001
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      Mendobirders:

      At 7:00 AM we began our trek to the offshore waters of Mendocino
      County on the aptly named Trek II. Less than a mile offshore, we got
      quick glimpses of a coupe of Blue Whales. They showed us a few
      blows, and then disappeared under the choppy seas.
      Soon afterward, Sooty and Buller's Shearwaters appeared, at first
      distant, but eventually flying by quite closely. A nice Gull flock
      had formed behind the boat, attracted by the trail of stale popcorn
      being thrown from the stern. Expert Pelagic leader (and author of the
      justly praised Identification Guide to North American Birds, Part I),
      quickly spotted a juvenile Mew Gull in the attending flock. Fresh
      Juvenile Mew Gulls are a beautiful tan-gray mix, and we usually
      encounter one or two in the late August to mid-September timeframe.
      Strangely, we generally do not record them again until late
      October.

      After good views of the Mew Gull, we focused our attention back on
      tubenoses. As we progressed offshore, the numbers of Shearwaters
      began to increase, and we started seeing good numbers of Pink-footed
      Shearwaters. Some of the local Mendocino County birders were talking
      about their desire to see Flesh-footed Shearwater in the county.
      Shortly thereafter, Leader Lisa Hug and I screamed "Flesh-footed
      Shearwater" in stereo from different ends of the boat. We had both
      gotten on the bird at exactly the same time, as the bird approached
      from the port side. Flesh-footed Shearwaters often come directly to
      the stern to check out the chum, and this bird stayed true to form.
      Our skipper stopped the boat, and all on board were able to get good
      views as the bird circled leisurely in the stern.

      As we continued offshore, we began filling out the day's list. Red
      Phalarope, Northern Fulmar, Rhinoceros Auklet, and a few Jaegers put
      in appearances. Soon the first few Sabine's Gulls and Artic Terns
      were being spotted, and then the Long-tailed Jaegers kicked in. We
      had a conservative 93 Long-tailed jaegers over the course of the day,
      ranging in ages from juveniles to full adults complete with tail
      streamers. As many as 10 were in view at once, and one full-tailed
      adult made several close circles right off the stern. In the
      distance, flocks of Sabine's Gulls and Arctic Terns were being
      harassed by multiple Long-tailed Jaegers. At one point, a single
      Arctic Tern was chased down by three Long-tailed Jaegers. It looked
      like a battle scene from Top Gun, as the tern tried to every
      aerobatic maneuver to shake the pursuers.

      At about 16 miles out of Fort Bragg, the wind was blowing harder, and
      the seas looked even less inviting, so we decided not to venture
      further offshore. Besides, the birds slowed down after about 12
      miles, so we proceeded inshore to lay our first of three cod-liver
      oil slicks for the day.

      The first slick brought us good looks at Arctic Terns, Sabine's
      Gulls, but no storm petrels, so we proceeded in shore. A half-mile or
      so from our slick, one of the participants showed-up all the leaders
      by spotting a Wilson's Storm-petrel in the stern. The bird did not
      hang around, and we used our second oil slick, in the hopes of
      enticing it back, but to no avail. There are only a handful of
      records for Wilson's Storm-petrel in Mendocino County, although that
      is probably due more to the paucity of trips then the actual rarity
      of the bird, nonetheless, the Mendocino listers on board were all
      pleased to add a county tick.

      Two Ashy Storm-petrels were seen by a few as they flew by, and our
      third slick produced a brief view of a third. As we started to pull
      away from the slick, a South Polar Skua materialized right behind the
      boat, and hung in the air a few feet off the stern before making
      several passes around the boat, affording us excellent views. The
      Skua sealed the Jaeger Grand slam, all three species of jaeger, plus
      Skua! It was birdy the whole way to shore, and just a short distance
      outside the harbor, one of the participants spotted a breeding
      plumaged Tufted Puffin sitting on the water. A perfect cap to the
      day!

      As the crew tied up the boat, the ever observant Peter Pyle spied an
      early Herring Gull on the nearby rocks. One last good bird.

      I would like to thank Peter Pyle, Lisa Hug, and Luke Cole for co-
      leading what turned out to be an excellent day at sea. Information
      about future trips follows, as does a complete trip list.


      For Shearwater Journeys
      Todd McGrath


      Upcoming trips:

      Shearwater Triangle (Moss Landing))Sep 30. Oct 5,13,20,27
      Cordell Bank and Bodega Canyon (Bodega Bay) Sep 7, Oct 15
      Monterey Bay (Monterey) Sep 15,
      Monterey Seavalley (Monterey) Sep 9 (wailist only), Oct 7
      Albacore Grounds (Monterey)Sep 16(waitlist only), Oct 6
      Santa Cruz: Storm-petrels & Murrelets (Santa Cruz) Sep 8, Oct 8, 14

      Contact Debi Shearwater at 831-637-8527or Debiluv@... for
      more information on upcoming trips. See our new website at
      www.shearwaterjourneys.com for the latest trip info.

      Species 9/5 Fort Bragg
      Red-throated Loon 1
      Black-footed Albatross 14
      Sooty Shearwater 150
      Pink-footed Shearwater 200
      Buller'shearwater 100
      Northern Fulmar 12
      Ashy Storm-petrel 3
      Wilson's Storm-Petrel 1
      Pomarine Jaeger 18
      Parasitic Jaeger 5
      Long-tailed Jaeger 93
      Jaeger Sp. 4
      South Polar Skua 1
      Western Gull +++
      Herring Gull 1 at dock
      California Gull +++
      Heerman's Gull +++
      Mew Gull 1
      Sabine's Gull 49
      Arctic Tern 52
      Common Tern 2
      Common Murre 35
      Pigeon Guillemot 1
      Rhinocerous Auklet 10
      Tufted Puffin 1
      Red-necked Phalarope 2
      Red Phalarope 15
      Phalarope Sp. 3
      Whales and dolphins:
      Blue Whale 2
      Pacific white-sided Dolphin 12
      Other Marine Life:
      Harbor Seal 2
      California Sea Lion 1


      For Shearwater Journeys

      Todd McGrath
      SKUA@...
      Marina Del Rey