Saturday May 19, 2007
I got a call from our chummer, 13-year-old Tanner Easterla Thursday
afternoon. The kid was on a field trip from school to visit the Monterey
Bay Aquarium. From the observation deck he described a bird he had
seen (without binoculars) that had to be a HORNED PUFFIN. I wasn't
too surprised. We have had an unprecedented number of sightings in
the Monterey Bay this last winter from both boats and shore-based
observations. Local birders on the chase found a second HORNED PUFFIN.
Richard Ternullo reported seeing a HOPU late in the day on Friday
off of Lover's Point so when I showed up at the dock Saturday morning
I was hopeful we could refind at least one of these for our participants.
we are underway and have pointed out the PIGEON GUILLEMOTS,
PELAGIC and BRANDT'S CORMORANTS along Cannery Row we
slow to fulfill a request for a CLARK'S GREBE when Don Roberson
calls out HORNED PUFFIN. Skipper Richard Ternullo maneuvers
the boat in close to the delight of the photographers on board. When
they have got all the shots they need we move on and then find a second
HOPU for still more photos. Finally we get to the neglected CLARK'S
GREBE in the company of several WESTERNS for a nice comparison.
Leaving the confines of the bay we round Pt. Pinos and head for Carmel
Canyon where there had been a great deal of whale and seabird activity
the day before. Our first SOOTY SHEARWATERS are in this area
as are HUMPBACK WHALES. Our first RHINOCEROS AUKLET is followed
by our third HORNED PUFFIN. We come upon a huge pod of PACIFIC
WHITE-SIDED DOLPHINS and about a dozen or so more HUMPBACKS. It is
a scene right out of David Attenborough's Blue Planet series (part
of which was filmed from the boat we are on, the Point Sur Clipper).
One of our participants is on his first pelagic trip. He's a local
from Santa Cruz. He just shakes his head in amazement, "I had no idea
it was like this in the Monterey Bay."
"Right here in your own backyard!" is my reply.
The wind from the west begins to pick up as we head offshore. A PINK-FOOTED
SHEARWATER is one of several seen for the day. A small pod of
NORTHERN RIGHT WHALE DOLPHINS rocket by. Offshore we find many CASSIN'S
AUKLETS, most of which fly by but we get a couple on the water
near the boat too. We find many flocks of RED-NECKED PHALAROPES
and some of these contain dazzling alternate plumaged RED PHALAROPES.
We get about eight miles offshore to the same area where we found
a Short-tailed Albatross our last trip but things are pretty dead
today and the wind is building so we head back into the bay. Diligent
chumming brings in many BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS to the back
of the boat and a single NORTHERN FULMAR.
have been seeing small flocks of COMMON MURRES throughout the
day but two TUFTED PUFFINS are new for the day. Now we're starting
to wonder, how many alcids we can find in a day? See Don Roberson's
Monterey County Highlights webpage with photos of all the puffins
The wind is starting to paint us into a corner. Well inside the bay
we find ourselves in a mass of SOOTY SHEARWATERS. It's another
Blue Planet episode. Hundreds of sooties swarm all around the boat,
land on the water, dip their heads below the surface to glimpse what's
below and then with a flap of the wings they continue their flight
underwater. Others pop out of the water and into the air. These birds
are as agile underwater as they are in flight. The first-timer from
Santa Cruz is incredulous again. "Wow, this is amazing".
In an effort to get out of the ever increasing wind and chop we find
ourselves back at the aquarium and find the 2 HORNED PUFFINS
again but wait, one of them shows a clean white face and lores! This
is a different bird. HOPU #4. (We did not realize this at the time
but discovered it upon later review of photos.)
We're on an alcid hunt now. We cruise past the harbor to see what
we can find along the shoreline near Del Monte beach and Tim Amaral
spots an ANCIENT MURRELET flying by for alcid species number
We patrol the shoreline and see a small bird in close to shore but
it isn't the hoped-for Marbled Murrelet. It is HORNED PUFFIN
When we get back to the dock the first timer from Santa Cruz thanks
me and says, "That was an incredible trip, I'll be back!"
NORTHERN FUR SEAL
SOUTHERN SEA OTTER
Roger Wolfe for Monterey