Monterey Seabirds
Feb. 11, 2007 Seabird Cruise Trip Report
Group Charter for the Pacific Seabird Group


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Sunday February 11, 2007

"Such a beautiful bird," are her words in heavily accented English as we slip past the male HARLEQUIN DUCK perched atop the mooring buoy in the outer harbor. The expression on her face is one of awe. She is seabird researcher Lei Cao from Taiwan who along with other attendees from the Pacific Seabird Group's annual meeting at Asilomar we have the distinct pleasure of showing around the Monterey Bay for a group charter.

This group's enthusiasm for seabirds goes beyond what we typically experience with birders on the boat. They're not here to add to their life list per se, they are here because of an affinity for birds of the sea. It was supposed to be a three-hour tour but Richard Ternullo and I enjoyed this group so much we stretched it into four. Germans, Norwegians, Taiwanese, Russians and Canadians are on board today.

Atop the rocks of the breakwater are displaying BRANDT'S CORMORANTS and a few BLACK TURNSTONES. Outside the breakwater we are surprised to run into a small pod of COMMON DOLPHINS. We don't get really great looks to identify them to species but these are the first seen in the bay in a month.

Soon we are pointing out brilliant, alternate plumaged PELAGIC CORMORANTS along Cannery Row and find our first COMMON MURRES also. There is a single COMMON LOON which along with a single flyby PACIFIC LOON are the only loons we see all morning, which is odd. Both HORNED and EARED GREBES are in this area as well.

Then we find our first of many RED PHALAROPES. Richard had not been seeing any on the whale watches up to today and they are abundant with one flock of 60 birds spinning along a line of convergence.

I get the popcorn chum going and soon we have a nice gull flock in tow. We asked the group what their hopes were and seeing an albatross was number one. This is a tough request this time of year but we are going give it our best shot. Chumming will be the key.

We have a good day with gulls, 8 species in total. In no time at all we have WESTERN, HEERMANN'S, GLAUCOUS-WINGED, CALIFORNIA and HERRING. THAYER'S takes a bit longer. On the day we have around 50 BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES. Our best gull is a second cycle GLAUCOUS GULL that flew by the boat then landed at the stern to try for some popcorn. This bird is only the third record for a second cycle GLAUCOUS GULL for Monterey County (Roberson 2002).

Finally the diligent chumming pays off and there is a collective gasp when a BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS flies into view just minutes after Richard says over the PA, "Let's just sit here and chum for a while and see what shows up" How did he know? There are high fives all around.

ANCIENT MURRELETS have been uncooperative all morning but finally we manage to sneak up on a pair so everyone can see them well. RHINOCEROS AUKLETS are spread out all over the bay. The alcid highlight for the morning is a TUFTED PUFFIN that flies along the side of the boat then keeps going.

Shearwaters have been sparse since the Black-venteds departed a few weeks ago but we do find some dark ones. 5 SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATERS come in close to the boat and we also manage to find a single SOOTY SHEARWATER.

Other Marine mammals seen are a few PACIFIC WHITE SIDED and RISSO'S DOLPHINS, a NORTHERN FUR SEAL and CALIFORNIA SEA LIONS. The highlight being the RISSO'S that comes in to ride the bow just seconds after Richard announces that they, "very rarely ride the bow." First time I've ever seen that.

On the way back in to the harbor we find our only BROWN PELICAN and the first BLACK OYSTERCATCHER I've ever seen on the breakwater prying off limpets. A pretty good day for a four-hour tour!


Roger Wolfe for Monterey Seabirds

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Last updated February 17, 2007