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Sep 17 & 19, 2004 Trip Report

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  • Debi Shearwater
    Hi, Seabirders, Wow! What an exceptional two days of seabirding! The highlights (!) were a DARK-RUMPED PETREL AND A STREAKED SHEARWATER, both found by Steve
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 21, 2004
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      Hi, Seabirders,

      Wow! What an exceptional two days of seabirding! The highlights (!) were a
      DARK-RUMPED PETREL AND A STREAKED SHEARWATER, both found by Steve Howell,
      on the September 17th Shearwater Journey's pelagic trip from Bodega Bay. It
      is truly extraordinary to find two mega-rarities on one trip. To my
      knowledge, this has only occurred on three other trips: the Dark-rumped
      Petrel and Great-winged Petrel found on a late August trip from Bodega Bay;
      the Long-billed Murrelet and "Shy" Albatross found on a mid-September Bodega
      Bay trip; and the Dark-rumped Petrel and Markham's Storm-Petrel found on an
      August Fort Bragg trip. I cannot think of any other pelagic trips where two
      mega-rarities were found in one day. All of these trips were operated by
      Shearwater Journeys. It is worth noting that all were found on Bodega Bay
      and Fort Bragg trips. These trips have an incredible rate of turning up the
      true mega-rarities. Well, this certainly fills in some of the pieces of the
      puzzle of seabirds along the central California coast which I mentioned in
      my last report. We are still "high" about this trip!

      We departed Port O'Bodega about 7 am on September 17th, heading north of
      Bodega Canyon. There was a 4 foot swell and winds from the northwest. Some
      of the folks on board thought that the trip might be aborted due to the
      rough sea conditions. But, we slowly made our way out to the canyon. Once we
      were under the fog bank, the seas subsided, as they often do. We had seen a
      few scattered ASHY STORM-PETRELS, and decided to lay out an oil slick in
      hopes of attracting more storm-petrels. Most of us were standing at the
      stern watching birds fly into the slick. Suddenly, something larger than a
      storm-petrel flew in, and Steve Howell, yelled, "DARK-RUMPED PETREL!" All
      eyes were on the petrel, as Steve was continuing to call out the field marks
      of the bird. It flew effortlessly, banking several times, so that we could
      see both the dorsal and ventral views. Altogether, it was in view for about
      30-40 seconds, when it was chased off by a jaeger. None of us was ready with
      a camera, but we all had excellent views. It was the fourth Dark-rumped
      Petrel that I have seen in California (two off Bodega Bay and two off Fort
      Bragg). We were in 300 fathoms, the area where a steep dropoff occurs
      between the canyon and the Cordell Bank (3806.82N/12331.65W), about 24
      nautical miles WSW of Bodega Head. This is an area where we have seen gadfly
      petrels in past years. I'm not sure if this is Sonoma or Marin County, for
      those county listers. So, perhaps someone can let me know. It was a
      spectacular seabird. I've been told by seabird experts that there really is
      no definitive way to separate the two species of dark-rumped petrels in the
      field. No matter, we had just seen one of the mega-rarities of North
      America. There are only 10 or so records for this species for North America.

      We wandered on to Cordell Bank and various other areas, when a XANTUS'
      MURRELET was spotted off the bow. Usually, it is very difficult to find
      these little alcids in such bouncy sea conditions. But, we managed to stay
      with it long enough for everyone on board to have excellent life views. We
      put out a second cod liver oil slick, and our first BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS
      of the day. Suddenly, a LAYSAN ALBATROSS flew in! This was a young bird,
      likely from the Mexican breeding population.

      Finally, we busted out of all of the fog to discover multitudes of
      shearwaters, flying and sitting in small flocks on the water. Carefully,
      sifting over the flocks, we were looking for anything unusual. I stayed in
      the bow, while Steve went to the stern. It wasn't my imagination, when I
      heard him shouting STREAKED SHEARWATER! I ran to the stern, and easily
      picked out the streaked flying among many PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATERS. It was in
      view for about a minute. Having learned our lesson, Steve and one of the
      participants were able to get some images of the streaked. The Streaked
      Shearwater was at 3809.17N/12315.62W. Marin County? Two mega-rarities in one
      day was over the top! For some folks, this was their very first pelagic
      trip! Beginner's luck.

      We returned, jubilantly, to the harbor about 6 pm. One participant
      celebrated a wonderful birthday on this trip with his lovely family. It was
      one of those legendary Shearwater Journey's trips.


      Some of us birded our way up the coast along Highway One to Fort Bragg the
      next day. The weather was just beautiful along this scenic drive. I stopped
      at Stillwater Cove Park for a few minutes and found a nice flock:
      CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES (20), PYGMY NUTHATCHES (60), BROWN CREEPER (2),
      HUTTON'S VIREO (6), TOWNSEND'S WARBLERS (7), WILSON'S WARBLER (1), YELLOW
      WARBLER (1), along with Steller's Jays, California Towhees, and the usual
      residents. I also stopped at Point Arena Lighthouse and Miner Hole Road.
      Altogether a very pleasant drive to Fort Bragg. Watching the ocean all the
      way, I noticed as I have so many times in the past, the seas just flattened
      out, and whitecaps disappeared at Point Arena. It was another windy day in
      Bodega Bay, but this north coast seems to have something about it that
      really flattens out the seas.

      On September 19th a small party of us boarded the Trek II at 7am, heading to
      Noyo Canyon. Most of the shearwater flocks were concentrated about 8-10
      miles offshore, as has been the case in past trips. The conditions were so
      pleasant that we decided to head far offshore. We made it over 40 miles
      offshore. The offshore zone had very few shearwaters, but jaegers all
      around‹117 LONG-TAILED JAEGERS, alone. It seemed that any time we scanned
      the skyline, jaegers were there. A single CUVIER'S BEAKED WHALE surfaced, a
      rare find in California. We returned to the nearshore area where we had seen
      the shearwaters on our way offshore. Sure enough, this was the place to be.
      A very rare, dark-morph PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER was found right after we had
      seen a FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER and a SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATER. Many BLUE
      WHALES were feeding in the area. We returned to the dock about 6 pm.

      The leaders for the September 17th trip were: Steve Howell, Jon Dunn, Debi
      Shearwater, and David VanderPluym. The leaders for the September 19th trip
      were: Steve Howell, Peter Pyle, Debi Shearwater, David VanderPluym, and Matt
      Brady.

      Our next trips with spaces available are: Sep 28 from Fort Bragg; Sep 26 &
      Oct 11 from Bodega Bay (limited spaces available on the 26th), Sep 24, 25 &
      Oct 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, & 15 from Monterey. Please call or email for a
      reservation. Please be aware that I will be out of the office on the days
      where boat trips occur.

      The full species list for both trips follows: Sep 17/19, 2004

      WESTERN GREBE 0/1
      LAYSAN ALBATROSS 1/0
      BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS-2/6
      NORTHERN FULMAR-4/4
      **DARK-RUMPED PETREL-1/0
      **STREAKED SHEARWATER-1/0
      PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER-450/320
      FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER-0/1
      BULLER'S SHEARWATER-350/200
      SOOTY SHEARWATER-650/120
      SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATER-0/1
      ASHY STORM-PETREL-23/7
      BROWN PELICAN-1/8
      BRANDT'S CORMORANT-+/+
      DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT-0/+
      PELAGIC CORMORANT-2/0
      RED-NECKED PHALAROPE-20/0
      RED PHALAROPE-40/400
      SOUTH POLAR SKUA-9/14
      POMARINE JAEGER-34/32
      POMARINE/PARASITIC-1/0
      PARASITIC JAEGER-4/1
      LONG-TAILED JAEGER-7/117
      HEERMANN'S GULL-4/10
      CALIFORNIA GULL-18/50
      WESTERN GULL-80/80
      WESTERN/GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL-0/1
      SABINE'S GULL-14/25
      COMMON/ARCTIC TERN-0/1
      ARCTIC TERN-2/2
      COMMON MURRE-120/40
      PIGEON GUILLEMOT-6/2
      XANTUS' MURRELET-1/0
      XANTUS'/CRAVERI'S-0/2
      CASSIN'S AUKLET-34/35
      TUFTED PUFFIN-3/2
      CALIFORNIA SEA LION-4/0
      STELLER'S SEA LION-1/0
      HARBOR SEAL3/0
      BLUE WHALE-0/6
      HUMPBACK WHALE-8/1
      CUVIER'S BEAKED WHALE-0/1
      PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED DOLPHIN-100/0
      DALL'S PORPOISE-0/70
      OCEAN SUNFISH-10/0
      BLUE SHARK-0/1
      PEREGRINE FALCON-1/0 (offshore)

      Some comments: This weekend seemed to show a snapshot of the jaeger
      migration well offshore. The sea surface temperature varied from 58-54. The
      water color offshore was deep aqua blue, more greenish inshore, with some
      browns. I'm guessing that there must be krill in Noyo Canyon based on the
      numbers of blue whales that we saw there. Still, the Sabine's Gull and
      Arctic Tern migration is not showing up this year in the numbers that I am
      used to seeing. They must be migrating further offshore. Back to Monterey
      this Friday and Saturday, we will see what turns up, especially where the
      storm-petrels are concerned. Hope to see you out there!

      Tubenoses forever,
      Debi
      ---
      http://www.shearwaterjourneys.com
      Debi Shearwater <debiluv@...>
      Shearwater Journeys
      P.O. Box 190
      Hollister, CA 95024
      831-637-8527
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