Streaked Shearwater Aug 17, 02
- This is a late report of one of the most spectacular trips in twentyseven
years and nearly 1500 boat trips organized by Shearwater Journeys. The
highlights included: STREAKED SHEARWATER, YELLOW-BILLED LOON, XANTUS'
MURRELET, SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATER, and TUFTED PUFFIN. By all accounts it was
one of the top ten pelagic trips that we have ever done.
Shearwater Journeys had just completed six of the first fall boat trips
along the central California coast. Each one was quite spectacular (see
other reports), and the air was just buzzing with anticipation and
aggitation, especially among the leaders. Two nights prior to this trip, I
mentioned to a friend of mine that I could just feel sparks, like
electricity vibrating amongst the leaders! We were jazzed. We were juiced up
for this sold-out trip. The leaders were: Jim Danzenbaker, Jon Dunn, Tristan
McKee, Peter Pyle, Mike San Miguel, Brian Sullivan, and Debra Shearwater
(one leader for every five passengers!). The participants were just as
interesting. They hailed from 14 different states, and many were "regular"
Shearwater Journeys" patrons for over twentyfive years.
I arrived in Fort Bragg just prior to sunset the night before the trip. I
made a short walk to Glass Beach where I spotted 2 TUFTED PUFFINS flying by.
I was met by Jon Dunn, Mike San Miguel, and Guy McCaskie who were also
headed to the beach. Immediately, Jon Dunn zeroed in on a passing MANX
SHEARWATER (second Mendo county record). After excellent views through the
scope, he then pointed out an ARCTIC TERN feeding amongst the COMMON TERNS.
Good spot! This just added to our anticipation of the next days' trip.
We departed from Noyo Harbor, Fort Bragg at 7 am. Some fog and light seas
greeted us once we passed the numerous PIGEON GUILLEMOTS along the
breakwater. About six miles offshore, we encountered two shrimpers pulling
their nets with thousands of birds following them. This was exciting enough,
as one always hopes for that rare seabird to somehow materialize out of this
giant, swirling mix of wings and feet. But, alas, after spending about one
and a half hours with these birds, I sensed the urge among the passengers to
move on. On to what? I was happy learning about shrimp boats and how they
fish. I was happy watching the nets winding around the spools. True, we were
only finding about 2000 gulls, 50 BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES, 150 PINK-FOOTED
SHEARWATERS, and only 1 BULLER'S SHEARWATER in this mass of birds. Oddly, no
jaegers were with them. Oh, but those birders long for the offshore.
So, off we went. Twenty-some miles to Noyo Canyon. And, yes, this is where
we found jaegers, SOUTH POLAR SKUAS, SABINE'S GULLS, knock-out views of 4
XANTUS' MURRELETS, 1 TUFTED PUFFIN, more BULLER'S SHEARWATERS, 1
SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATER, outstanding views and photo ops of 1 FLESH-FOOTED
SHEARWATER, and more. Now, we were all pleased. For me, it was the first
time that I have ever heard a Flesh-footed Shearwater vocalize! It sounded
just like a Pink-foot. The seas had picked up a little. So, the skipper and
I decided to head back to the shrimpers, and then to check along the inner
coast for MARBLED MURRELETS, hoping for LONG-BILLED MURRELET. I keep
pointing out that we are never going to find the Long-billed Murrelets
because we do not spend enough time birding from the boat close to shore. As
I said, our hopes were quite high. In addition, we were into the noon hour.
This is a special time on pelagic trips. We have found a huge proportion of
rare seabirds after the noon hour! When everyone is feeling dozy, we down
our coffee and come alive!
Back at the shrimp boats, I finally sat down at the stern for the first time
during the trip. After one or two moments, someone said, "Manx Shearwater."
Well, I thought I guess I'll have to get up to look at this bird. I saw a
large, white shearwater flying with a Pink-footed Shearwater. Unknown to me,
Jon Dunn had already spotted the rare STREAKED SHEARWATER on the bow and
was calling it out to everyone up there! Somehow, it got translated to Manx
at the stern. Well, that's how boat communication can go. But, not for long.
Although I didn't hear Jon, I was soon shouting STREAKED SHEARWATER, too. It
was 2:13 pm. No worries, the shearwater flew around us for 45 minutes, being
chased by Pink-foots, and allowing for excellent views, photographs, and
even for some folks to get bored enough to sit down and stop looking! There
are fewer than 10 records of Streaked Shearwater for all of North America,
nearly all having occurred in California (mostly Monterey Bay). In Japan, it
is a nearshore species.
Finally, we wandered near shore to hunt among the MARBLED MURRELETS. Jon
Dunn turned up another goodiea YELLOW-BILLED LOON! It was off of Juan
Creek, and was apparently seen from shore later by birders. A great many
folks ended and celebrated the day, no doubt, happily checking off their
lists. It was a truly magical day. The electricity that sparked us will be
with us all season. It may well be the best pelagic trip of the year on the
This is the fourth year that Shearwater Journeys has organized trips from
Fort Bragg. Every year has produced a mega-rarity seabird. 2002: STREAKED
SHEARWATER, YELLOW-BILLED LOON; 2001: DARK-RUMPED PETREL; 2000: DARK-RUMPED
PETREL, MARKHAM'S STORM-PETREL 1999: WHITE-CAPPED (SHY) ALBATROSS.
Certainly, we will have a nice selection of trips from this area which can
be combined with other trips in 2003. Watch our web site. The entire species
list for the August 17, 2002 trip follows. Every species listed was seen
well by every passenger.
The Streaked Shearwater details are: first sighted at 2:13 by Jon Dunn at
3938.799/12353.802, about 6 miles west of Westport, sea surface temperature:
56.1 F, depth: 420 feet, heading south. Last sighted: 2:55 pm at
AUGUST 17, 2002 FORT BRAGG PELAGIC TRIP BY SHEARWATER JOURNEYS
YELLOW-BILLED LOON-1, SY
SOUTH POLAR SKUA-5
GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL-1 (in the harbor)
RING-BILLED GULL-2, juveniles
SABINE'S GULL-20 (2 juveniles)
XANTUS' MURRELET (scrippsi)-4
TUFTED PUFFIN-1 adult
PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED DOLPIN-12-15
STELLER'S SEA LION-1
CALIFORNIA SEA LION-+
Debi Shearwater <debiluv@...>
P.O. Box 190
Hollister, CA 95024