Monterey Seabirds
April 22, 2007 Seabird Cruise Trip Report

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Sunday April 22, 2007

I'll admit it, I was cursing on the drive down to Monterey. Rain showers I can deal with but the wind did not look friendly. This would have to happen when we had a sold out trip! My car was buffeted when I drove over the bridge at Moss Landing Harbor. Damn this wind, look at those whitecaps!

I met our skipper Richard Ternullo at the base of the Fisherman's Wharf and asked him how things looked. He seemed pretty nonplussed. "It sounds like conditions will improve significantly as the day progresses."

And they did, dramatically. We never felt a raindrop, the wind lay down very nicely, and as things turned out the seabird gods were with us.

We drove the boat about 15 yards from the dock and then stopped for everyone to get photos of the wintering drake HARLEQUIN DUCK. As we pulled around to the outside of the breakwater we found a single RED-NECKED GREBE.

The word came in on the radio that the Killer Whales found the previous day feeding on a dead Gray Whale calf were still present. The rpm went up and we headed across the bay to find them. Upon arriving at the designated spot we managed to find the calf carcass floating at the surface. It was a grisly gut pile with the rear part of the body and tail still intact. Most of the head, tongue and blubber on the upper body had been eaten.

But no sign of the Killer Whales, so we headed in the direction they were last seen heading. Along the way we found some NORTHERN FULMARS, SOOTY SHEARWATERS and our first PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER. Tight little flocks of RED-NECKED PHALAROPES flew by. Richard spotted the dorsal fins of the Killer Whales. As we drew closer we found there were many BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS drawn to the Killer Whales.

I've been lucky to have seen a lot of Killer Whale behaviors but today was special. There were about 15 in the pod and they turned out to be quite friendly, coming right up to the boat. At one point they even acted like they were going to bow ride. Everyone was thrilled.

Killer Whales near our boat

I was standing at the stern with Todd Easterla and I thought we'd be hanging out here for a while so I took a wing from a Humboldt Squid we brought along and tossed it in the water to see if the albatross would gather on it. It was in the water only a few seconds when two of the KWs came after it. The first one jumped on the wing and the second one slapped it with its flukes. Then they repeated this another time. They were playing with it no more than 20 feet from where we stood! It was awesome.

We stayed with the KWs for a while and when they began to travel west we did the same. Then they turned around, and we kept going west.

In a flock of BONAPARTE'S GULLS a single basic plumaged SABINE'S GULL tried in vain to escape our detection. RHINOCEROS AUKLETS were somewhat scarce and COMMON MURRES even more so. A large pod of RISSO'S DOLPHINS paid us a visit.

Just after noon Richard turned the boat around and we started heading in the direction of Carmel Bay where a BROWN BOOBY had been reported the previous day. It was lunchtime so I told Todd that I was going in to eat my burrito and now would be the time when the megararity showed up. I'd taken only a few bites when we stopped to look at some CASSIN'S AUKLETS. Three quarters of the way through the burrito all hell broke loose when Todd started yelling about the SHORT-TAILED ALBATROSS that Matt Sadowski was pointing at.

Short-tailed albatross

One of the rarest seabirds in the world had landed on the water very close by. All around me shutters were clicking. I was standing there with my jaw on the deck until I finally came to my senses and raised my binoculars to see the bird in detail. Then it was time to grab my camera. Ah yes, the long awaited bubble gum bill! It is huge. This is about the most cooperative bird you could hope for. He came in close several times and when we have had our fill and leave he keeps returning to the stern, then flying around the boat. What a privilege!

Our group is quite sated as we start to head for Pt. Pinos, but wait...there are two HUMPBACK WHALES. Then Don Roberson spots a flyby ARCTIC TERN and a distant JAEGER SP. Cruising along Cannery Row off of the Aquarium we find an ANCIENT MURRELET just to top off the day.

We finish up the day with a total of 8 gull species with a late THAYER'S GULL the highlight.

It was a great trip and even though I was very tired I could not get to sleep at night. I was still feeling the thrill of our day on the bay and savoring it. There's no place like the Monterey Bay!

For additional photos, see Jeff Poklen's photo gallery for this trip.

Roger Wolfe for Monterey Seabirds

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Photos copyright © 2007 Jeff Poklen, all rights reserved.

Last updated April 26, 2007