Sunday September 24, 2006
I'm always amazed at how things can change so dramatically in the
Monterey Bay. I'm not just referring to the wind and swell but to
the seabird activity as well. Fortunately the weather was much nicer
than the previous weekend, no wind and the swell at 1-2 feet. It was
so still that we had flies landing on us when were several miles from
land and under power. Days like today are the perfect conditions locating
After a spin through the harbor we cruised along the Coast Guard jetty
to point out the numerous California Sea Lions and BRANDT'S CORMORANTS
and finding a few BLACK TURNSTONES and a single SURFBIRD.
Much to our surprise we spotted a pod of RISSO'S DOLPHINS just outside
the harbor. They are typically found in much deeper waters. A single
BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN swam nearby.
We picked up a few EARED GREBES, PIGEON GUILLEMOTS,
a RHINOCEROS AUKLET and COMMON MURRES with ELEGANT
TERNS flying overhead.
We then began our transect of the bay. It was very quiet birdwise,
a SOOTY here, a PINK-FOOTED there. Nearing the county
line we came upon a megapod of marine mammals comprised of three species
of dolphins: NORTHERN RIGHT WHALE, RISSO'S and PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED.
This pod numbered in the thousands, stretching across the water for
a great distance. Dolphins like wildebeests on the Serengeti plains.
One of my favorite things is looking down from the front of the boat
and right into the blowholes of dolphins riding the bow listening
to them breathe. What I would give to swim like that!
Crossing into Santa Cruz county waters we finally found a few BULLER'S
sitting on the water and began seeing a lot of bird activity up ahead.
Lots of gulls flying about: HEERMAN'S, CALIFORNIA and
WESTERN with SOOTIES and PINK-FOOTEDS low on
the water. A look at the fish finder revealed tons of bait below the
up the coast we began seeing ASHY-STORM PETRELS off Wilder
State Park and they increased in number as we moved north until we
were seeing them all over the place and then we found a flock of sitters!
There were two flocks and the larger one consisted of about a thousand
birds and the second was slightly smaller. We estimated there was
one BLACK STORM-PETREL for every 10 ASHY.
Poring through the flock making sure everyone was seeing the BLACKS
we found a WILSON'S and then I saw a storm-petrel that banked
so I could see it ventrally. It was unlike any of the others we were
observing. It appeared to have a white belly. I started screaming,
"Look at this bird straight out at 9 o'clock with a white belly!"
I'm trying to get an eyeful and get the other spotters and participants
on it. Unfortunately only one other person saw it as it banked.
Using my new 12X vibration reduction bins is proving to be problematical.
I'm seeing birds farther away and in greater detail than others on
board. My friend Todd Easterla said it was cheating to use them and
Richard Ternullo thinks they're going to get me in trouble.
This interesting bird would have to be a storm-petrel. Perhaps the
most difficult to point out or photograph and they seem to disappear
in the blink of the eye sometimes.
We turned up a FORK-TAILED STORMY as we tried to relocate the
interesting storm-petrel again and again until we ran out of time.
We found one bird that looked like it might be the interesting storm-petrel
but we had difficulty seeing the bird ventrally again. Sadly we turned
back towards Monterey and found a couple of semi-friendly Humpback
Unlike last weekend when we had so many jaegers and skuas these are
scarce today. We see only a handful of POMARINE JAEGERS and
no albatross. RED-NECKED PHALAROPES are numerous with a few
RED PHALAROPES scattered here and there.
For additional photos, see Jeff
Poklen's photo gallery for this trip.
Roger Wolfe for Monterey