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HAWAIIAN PETRELS IN NW CALIFORNIA & OREGON

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  • DEBRA SHEARWATER
    Hello, Seabirders, Three sightings of HAWAIIAN PETRELS on Shearwater Journey s August 8, 2008 pelagic trip from Fort Bragg thrilled seabirders with repeated
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 9, 2008
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      Hello, Seabirders,

      Three sightings of HAWAIIAN PETRELS on Shearwater Journey's August 8,
      2008 pelagic trip from Fort Bragg thrilled seabirders with repeated
      passes as close as 50 feet to the boat! Other highlights of this day
      included two XANTUS' MURRELETS, sitting on the water providing
      excellent views of this small alcid that rarely reaches northern
      California; a BLUE WHALE just outside of the harbor, over 90 BLACK-
      FOOTED ALBATROSSES; great views of CASSIN'S AUKLETS; a grand slam on
      all three species of jaegers, POMARINE, PARASITIC, and LONG-TAILED
      JAEGERS; over 550 COMMON MURRES, many with chicks, 55 RHINOCEROS
      AUKLETS, and other assorted wildlife.

      THE STORY:

      Well, its been in the news� 8-8-08 was supposed to be a very lucky
      day! Indeed it was for the folks who journeyed on the Shearwater trip
      that day from Fort Bragg. Billed as a "Search for Mega-rarities," we
      departed Noyo Harbor at 7:10 am with many a seabird veteran, and a
      few folks who were making their very first pelagic trip, ever. I
      announced in the morning that the recent, strange southernly storms
      may have created what I dub, The Great Southerly Push"� a movement of
      warm water from southern California, in finger-like streams to
      central (Monterey and environs) and sometimes, northern California
      (Fort Bragg), and even into Oregon. The marine forecast was for great
      sea conditions, and practically no wind from the north, any north!
      This presented a rare opportunity for us to travel south with no
      fears of being "creamed" on our return trip to the harbor by the
      prevailing northwest winds! Yippee! However, the very lack of wind,
      meant, in my opinion, that we had little chance of encountering any
      Pterodromas. And, so I announced that folks should not plan on any
      Hawaiian Petrels on this day! Maybe, better luck on our Sunday trip.
      But, perhaps, we could find some murrelets. I gave instructions for
      the proper calling of murrelets, meaning, "murrelets on the water,"
      or "murrelets flying."

      As we headed out of the harbor to a well known past fishing haunt,
      Casper Heights, Al De Martini bellowed out, "BLUE WHALE!" Turning the
      boat around, we followed this giant leviathan for several minutes. It
      seemed to be traveling and not feeding. Trouble is, it was traveling
      in the wrong direction for us. So, we resumed our track to the
      Caspers. The Caspers are three high knolls or pinnacles which attract
      fish. Leader Clay Kempf, dubbed them the "Casper Heights." It was
      immediately apparent when were within shouting distance of the
      "heights" as the shearwater numbers increased dramatically. The sea
      surface temperature was a very chilly 51.3F. I held out little hope
      for murrelets in such cold water. I was to be proved wrong, and it
      would not be the last time I would be proved wrong on this day! The
      holler came from the stern of the boat, " XANTUS MURRELET ON THE
      WATER!" Sure enough, at N39.07.25/W124.03.76 in 51.6F water, a sweet
      little Xantus was on the water for all to see.

      Conditions were so great, that I decided to take a hunch and head to
      a "Life" canyon for me�Navarro Canyon off of Point Arena. This area
      of ocean has practically never been explored by any seabirders. On
      one past trip from Fort Bragg, I headed south, but I do not think
      that I reached this canyon. On the famous trip from Bodega Bay to
      Fort Bragg, overnighting in Fort Bragg, and returning to Bodega Bay
      (a once-only trip), we found the first North American record of an
      ADULT WHITE-CAPPED ALBATROSS! But, we did not make it to Navarro
      Canyon on that trip because the weather was so bad that we could not
      get more than 8 miles offshore. So, this would be the first birding
      trip, ever to reach Navarro Canyon!!

      Looking at the chart in the wheelhouse with our skipper, we descended
      down a steep canyon wall some 22 miles offshore. This pleasant day
      gave way to one seabird after another, with jaegers flying in to
      check out the masses of BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES following our boat.
      When we reached the Point Arena weather buoy, a large structure, a
      BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD flew off the buoy and to our boat! I began to
      ponder where the heck to lay out a menhaden oil slick, and I kept
      thinking, "a little further, a little more down the canyon slopes."
      On deck, leader Lisa Hug and I were casually discussing this. I told
      Lisa of my plan to head downhill to deeper water. She asked if that
      would be good for anything-- any good seabirds, and I replied, well,
      it might if we wanted to see a pterodroma! Just about at that very
      moment, a tubenose flew within 50 feet of us, and whoaaa! It was the
      first HAWAIIAN PETREL OF THE DAY!! Running up to the bow, we locked
      our bins onto the bird, and followed it for 5 minutes before we could
      no longer see it. Immediately, I stopped the boat, and dumped out the
      oil. The petrel never returned. We were at: N39.06.05/W123.08.71,
      with a sea surface temperature of 54F. This petrel was in view from
      11:06 until 11:11 am, by my watch. We estimate that we were 22 miles
      north off Point Arena lighthouse. Not only had we hit some great
      underwater topography, but also a good sea surface temperature break.
      In all the pandemonium, it is a miracle that no one stepped on the
      cowbird who was constantly underfoot, picking up crumbs of popcorn
      and such!

      After all of that drama, and a great many "high fives" and broad
      smiles all around, we continued on our way. Ted and Chris Koundakjian
      logged a life bird that they have been searching for on many boat
      trips for the past several years. Ted estimated that this was his
      161st pelagic trip with Shearwater Journeys! It didn't matter what we
      saw after this mega-rarity!! Well, ever the persistent one, I did
      tell stories of a few rare pelagic trips where we recorded TWO mega-
      rarities in one day. At 12:47 pm, the call went out again�HAWAIIAN
      PETREL!! This one seemed to fly thru the wake, and up the side of the
      boat. We were at N39.11.69/W124.11.36, some 5 miles from the previous
      sighting. Sea surface temperature was now a whopping 55.9F. This
      individual also flew within 50 feet of the boat. I dumped oil
      immediately, but it did not return. Whew!

      The third sighting of HAWAIIAN PETREL came at 2:04 pm, some 12 miles
      from the second sighting at N39.18.77/W124.04.53, about 12 miles off
      Mendocino. Sea surface temperature was 55.8F and the depth was 2066
      feet. This time, the petrel flew off rather quickly, making
      photography impossible. However, some of the passengers on board were
      able to obtain images of petrel #1 and petrel #2. We hope that these
      images might help us to learn whether we are dealing with one
      individual petrel, or two, or three. It seems extremely unlikely that
      we could be so lucky as to run into the same individual petrel three
      times in one day, over the course of our long travels.

      Coming home, we encountered another XANTUS' MURRELET, on the water,
      sitting next to a CASSIN'S AUKLET. This was a great comparison. The
      Xantus was at N39.20.37/W123.58.95. Sea surface temperature was down
      to 53.6F. We were impressed with the numbers of Cassin's Auklets on
      this trip. It is no coincidence that Cassin's Auklets and a Blue
      Whale were both recorded on this day, as both are krill feeders.

      Exploring Navarro Canyon was a great idea. Heading south was a great
      idea (although, bear in mind that all of the previous records of
      Hawaiian Petrels from Fort Bragg have been on trips that headed
      north). The Great Southerly Push seems to have materialized, in that
      we had 'fingers" or "streams" of warm water currents. Whether these
      currents and the the fact that we were over a steep, deep canyon
      attracted the Hawaiian Petrels, remains to be determined. Certainly,
      Fort Bragg pelagic trips offer one of the best opportunities to find
      Hawaiian Petrels anywhere on the California coast. I've also seen
      Hawaiian Petrels as many times on Bodega Bay trips that visit Bodega
      Canyon. Navarro Canyon needs much more exploration, and I fully
      intend to do this!

      We doodled along the kelp beds on our return to the harbor, hoping
      for one of the small, rare alcids, but found none. We had nice views
      of many HARBOR PORPOISES and PIGEON GUILLEMOTS. Nevertheless, all on
      board were thrilled with this wonderful day of seabirding on a "mega-
      rarity search" trip, that actually found a mega!!

      My friend, Sophie Webb, who is working on the ORCAWALE (see previous
      blog report at www.shearwaterjourneys.com) research cruise, reported
      a HAWAIIAN PETREL on August 7 and another sighting of HAWAIIAN PETREL
      on August 8, both off of OREGON. We are unsure if records of Hawaiian
      Petrel exist for Oregon. Sophie also reported seeing BLUE and SEI
      WHALES.

      We thank all of the seabirders who joined us on the August 8, 2008
      pelagic trip from Fort Bragg. Shearwater Journey's leaders for this
      day were: Lisa Hug, Clay Kempf, Al De Martini, and Debra Shearwater.

      It is possible to join us on the August 10 Fort Bragg pelagic trip,
      if you live relatively close to town. We meet at 6:30 am in Noyo
      Harbor for a 7 am departure on the Trek II. We also have spaces
      available on the August 12 Bodega Bay pelagic trip. We meet at 6:30
      am in Port O' Bodega for a 7 am departure on the New Sea Angler. You
      might try emailing me, if you are interested in either of these trips.

      The complete species list for our fantastic trip is below:

      AUGUST 8, 2008 FORT BRAGG PELAGIC TRIP MEGA-RARITIES:

      BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS- 94
      NORTHERN FULMAR- 25
      **HAWAIIAN PETREL- 1 to 3
      PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER-68
      SOOTY SHEARWATER- 350
      BROWN PELICAN- 48
      BRANDT'S CORMORANT- 100+
      PELAGIC CORMORANT- 6
      SURF SCOTER- 1
      BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER- 16
      BLACK OYSTERCATCHER- 1
      WANDERING TATTLER- 1
      WHIMBREL- 2
      MARBLED GODWIT- 1
      BLACK TURNSTONE- 1
      SANDERLING- 1
      RED-NECKED PHALAROPE- 85
      POMARINE JAEGER- 2
      POMARINE/PARASITIC JAEGER- 1
      PARASITIC JAEGER- 3
      LONG-TAILED JAEGER- 7
      Jaeger sp.- 2
      HEERMANN'S GULL- 40
      WESTERN GULL- 150
      WESTERN/GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL- 1
      SABINE'S GULL- 2
      ELEGANT TERN- 3
      CASPIAN TERN- 1
      COMMON MURRE- 550
      PIGEON GUILLEMOT- 35
      XANTUS' MURRELET- 2
      XANTUS/CRAVERI'S MURRELET-3, get-away birds
      CASSIN'S AUKLET- 150
      RHINOCEROS AUKLET- 55
      BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD-1, HY
      CALIFORNIA SEA LION- 12
      STELLER'S SEA LION- 1
      NORTHERN FUR SEAL- 3
      NORTHERN ELEPHANT SEAL- 1
      HARBOR SEAL- 2
      BLUE WHALE- 1
      RISSO'S DOLPHIN- 12
      HARBOR PORPOISE- 28
      DALL'S PORPOISE- 32
      SALMON SHARK- 1
      OSPREY- 15

      Today, was a lovely day on shore in the Fort Bragg and Mendocino
      area. The weather is perfect! Tomorrow morning when we meet for the
      next pelagic trip, I'm sure we shall discover where folks went
      birding today and what was found. This is a great area for birding! I
      only managed a couple short hours of birding with my friends, Les &
      Cindy Lieurance. It seems like it was a great day for migrating
      Orange-crowned Warblers. The highlight of the day for me, though, was
      a family of five RIVER OTTERS that Les spotted at 10 mile bridge,
      just north of Fort Bragg. It was delightful to see them swimming
      across the river, and eating, and going up the river bank.

      See you tomorrow morning for more adventures at sea,
      Debra

      Shearwater Journeys, Inc.
      PO Box 190
      Hollister, CA 95024
      831/637-8527
      www.shearwaterjourneys.com
      debi@...



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