Monterey Seabirds
August 22, 2004 Seabird Cruise Trip Report

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Sunday August 22, 2004 Offshore Trip

Made to order was the phrase for the day. When you are going to go offshore of Monterey this is the kind of weather you hope for. In the vernacular of the local skippers the day was "greasy calm." Wind was virtually nonexistent and the marine layer stayed high and then abated, allowing for great viewing conditions.

We got underway at 5:45 am and headed south-southwest for the underwater geologic feature known as " the Weenie". Word had it that there was a temperature break west of here and albacore tuna were being caught. These places where the water temperature changes are where we go to look for Synthliboramphus murrelets.

Manx Shearwater, photo by Jeff PoklenBy about 6:30 it got light enough to start spotting birds like RED and RED-NECKED PHALAROPES, ELEGANT TERNS and COMMON MURRES for starters. Then as we moved farther offshore we began to pick up shearwaters. As usual we first found SOOTIES and then some PINK-FOOTS. Initially we saw a few here and there but soon we began to come upon numerous, good-sized flocks sitting on the water. We began seeing BULLER'S in the flocks and soon they comprised as much as a third of some flocks. We were having quite a time sorting them when Don Roberson spotted a small, black and white shearwater. We got a good look at the undertail coverts and were able to confirm a MANX SHEARWATER.

We arrived at an area where the water temperature broke and soon found our first pair of XANTUS'S MURRELETS. We were able to get fairly close to them for study. Shortly thereafter we came upon a pair of CRAVERI'S MURRELETS and had nice looks at these as well. This was a life bird for many on board, not an easy bird to find some years. On the whole we would see 7 XANTUS'S and 3 CRAVERI'S on the day. We also had the opportunity to hear the Xantus's vocalize. Very cool.

After passing over the Weenie we headed out another 20 miles to the Shepard Meander where the Monterey Canyon makes an oxbow turn.

As we were sorting through the shearwaters we were wondering where the heck were all the jaegers? Curiously we found them farther offshore, past the dense flocks of shearwaters. I think we came upon a SOUTH POLAR SKUA first. We would see 18 for the day and one on the water quite close to the boat. LONG-TAILED JAEGERS numbered 9, POMARINE and PARASITIC JAEGERS 4 each for the skua slam. (4 others were unidentified to species).

From the Shepard Meander we headed northeast toward 500 fathom spot over the Monterey Canyon and before heading back towards Pt. Pinos.

Common Tern, photo by Jeff PoklenFor larids we had a good showing of SABINE'S GULLS and both COMMON and ARCTIC TERNS which we had awesome comparative looks at, each atop some floating bull kelp.

BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS seemed shy but we did see 10 but only a couple of NORTHERN FULMARS and several CASSIN'S and RHINOCEROS AUKLETS.

Especially nice to see were 10 ASHY STORM-PETRELS which were more than our skipper Richard Ternullo has seen in the last 2 years combined. Many of these were spotted by a group of sharp-eyed birders who spent most of the day up on the bow with leader Dan Singer.

Craveri's Murrelet, photo by Les ChibanaIn the marine mammal department 4 NORTHERN FUR SEALS were the most we've ever seen on one trip. 1 NORTHERN ELEPHANT SEAL was caught napping at the surface. RISSO'S, PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED and NORTHERN RIGHT WHALE DOLPHINS put in appearances as well as DALL'S PORPOISE and BLUE and HUMPBACK WHALE.

We also saw many MOLA MOLAS or Ocean Sunfish. Some were in small schools and we did see one particularly large, nearly VW beetle sized and a BLUE SHARK.

On the way into the harbor we paused to pick up the PIGEON GUILLEMOTS and PELAGIC CORMORANTS we missed in the early darkness. All in all this was one of our best and most enjoyable trips thus far.

Also seen:
Brown Cowbird (quite a ways out)
Western Gull
California Gull
Heermann's Gull
Brandt's Cormorant
California Sea Lion
Sea Otter

See Monterey County Highlights 2004 on Don Roberson's website for more photos and information about the birds observed on this trip.

Roger Wolfe for Monterey Seabirds

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Photos copyright © 2005 Jeff Poklen and Les Chibana, all rights reserved.

Last updated February 4, 2005