Sunday May 18, 2008
Back in December while visiting Kaikoura, New Zealand I met up with
skipper Gary Melville of Albatross Encounters. The morning was drizzly
with dense fog as we drove to the boat ramp. As he switched on the
windshield wipers he turned to me and said, "Nothing stuffs it like
Alas our May 18 outing had to contend with similar weather conditions.
Gary was right. After two days of bright sunny weather with some record
setting highs the marine layer came in to cool things off. Wind can
put a damper on birding at sea but the seabirds themselves thrive
on it. Dense fog puts a damper on visibility for both seabirds and
seabirders. We made the most of it.
A strong pulse of migrant PACIFIC LOONS was still evident but
the fallout of RED and RED-NECKED PHALAROPES that occurred
the prior weekend had abated, we had only a few sightings.
BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS numbers were up with 25 sitting at
the back of the boat at one time. We were able to see the colored
bands on some individuals as they took flight.
COMMON MURRES were the most numerous alcid. We saw only a few
RHINOCEROS and CASSIN'S AUKLETS. There were nesting
PIGEON GUILLEMOTS on the underside of the wharf next to our
dock and along Cannery Row.
Shearwaters came only in two flavors: PINK-FOOTED and molty
We totaled 6 gull species with a pair of SABINE'S GULLS the
highlight. The foggy conditions did create nice viewing conditions
for COMMON TERNS that approached the boat low on the water
so that we could easily view them dorsally for a change. There was
nothing "Commic" about them when seen from above.
I made the biggest mistake to date when I called out Killer Whales.
I thought I was seeing tall dorsal fins along the edge of the fog.
These turned out to be BROWN PELICANS sitting on the water!
saw both DALL'S PORPOISE and PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED DOLPHINS up close
but the real show stealer was the trio of HUMPBACK WHALES that put
on an incredible show right next to our boat. We saw them at the end
of the trip just outside Pt. Pinos. Don Roberson, who has 30 years
of pelagic birding in Monterey Bay under his belt was so impressed
with the Humpbacks that he put together a web page with photos devoted
to this trio of breaching, chin and pec slapping Humpbacks. Check
it out at: http://montereybay.com/creagrus/MtyBay18May08.html
CALIFORNIA SEA LION
NORTHERN FUR SEAL
For additional photos, see Jeff
Poklen's photo gallery for this trip.
Roger Wolfe for Monterey