Saturday May 31, 2009
We start our day in an uncustomary way. We blow by the Coast Guard
jetty, we blow off Cannery Row and the stops for Pigeon Guillemots
and Pelagic Cormorants. We pick up speed as we leave the harbor and
keep it up. Today we are on a mission. Having seen Murphy's Petrels
in the bay the prior weekend and having received reports of more Murphy's
from a seabird researcher aboard an NOAA survey vessel I decided to
schedule an impromptu trip to see if we can find them again. We are
able to attract a nice sized group of 18 who sign on with two days
notice so they can have a shot at seeing Murphy's Petrel. Being a
week later than our earlier sightings I hesitate to characterize it
as a chase trip per se but it is in that spirit that we take to the
All on board are veteran seabirders with Monterey Bay experience so
we don't do the usual routine we do when we know we have new visitors
to the area. This way we have more time to work with and can cover
more ocean in our search. With six Monterey Seabird leaders/spotters
and the other experienced sets of eyeballs on board, if a Murphy's
Petrel flies by we are going to see it!
Mike Johns takes us out over to the south rim of the Monterey Sea
Canyon and we follow it offshore. We don't stop for SOOTY or
PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATERS or even BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS.
We do slow down for RISSO'S DOLPHINS to avoid any collisions. We have
brief looks at some COMMON DOLPHINS and have PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED DOLPHINS
ride our bow.
We do stop for a LONG-TAILED JAEGER. This is a surprise and
the first spring record for the Monterey Bay ever according to Don
Roberson who is on board today. Interestingly we have sightings of
all three jaegers today, one PARASITIC and two POMARINES
on the day (plus one jaeger sp.).
NORTHERN FULMARS get our attention but not any stops. We do
stop for the terns we see sitting atop bull kelp patties long enough
to id them as COMMON TERNS.
Working our way westward we begin to approach the shipping lanes and
see a large container ship heading north; soon we are nearly to the
1500 fathom spot about 20 miles offshore. But aside from the occasional
shearwater and the gulls at our stern we find these waters quiet.
We take a right turn on a northern heading towards "the Bump" where
we had our initial sighting of Murphy's Petrel the weekend prior.
Crossing into Santa Cruz waters we see 2 more COMMON TERNS
and start seeing more RHINOCEROS and CASSIN'S AUKLETS.
The call to STOP THE BOAT is for a pair of XANTUS'S MURRELETS,
presumably a father chick pair and one of the earliest records for
a non-warm water year. (Don Roberson pers. comm.) The water temp is
11.7 C or 53 F.
keep moving toward the Bump, but wait, what is the alcid off the bow?
We stop the boat for a TUFTED PUFFIN and a bit later we stop
for a second one (both 1st summer birds). Passing over the Bump we
continue on and have two young SABINE'S GULLS cross our wake.
We manage to get nearly as much coverage as we do on some of our 12-hour
Back in Monterey County we pause for a pair of HUMPBACK WHALES and
the cameras come out, so I ask if anyone wants to wait five minutes
for them to resurface. Kris Olson flaps her arms and shakes her head
no. "We want birds!" she says.
But the bird we want most remains elusive, the nemesis of many a North
American birder, no Murphy's Petrel today but we gave it a valiant
||See the Google
Earth image showing our track and
locations of selected sightings (opens in new window).
See Jeff Poklen's photo gallery of this trip at: http://www.pbase.com/jpkln/31may2009
GREAT BLUE HERON
CALIFORNIA SEA LION
NORTHERN FUR SEAL
Roger Wolfe for Monterey