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Baltimore by the Sea

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Birding the Big Briny

Ok, you can level with me. Are headers like the one above corny enough to make you puke? Really? Well - if you're so easily nauseated then you would not have survived where I've been the past week. I'm just back from a jaunt on The Searcher; at sea between the Santa Catalina Islands off Santa Barbara County and the deep waters off Baja California. It was many a strange critter I saw and here are the highlights of the five day, four night Pelagic cruise.

We boarded the Searcher on Saturday and though the weather seemed nice enough, that evening the it turned hellish. How bad was the storm? I never get sea-sick but if I ever came close, it was Saturday night. All through the wee hours I lay bracing myself in my little cabin, least I get tossed from my bunk. A big storm was blowing in and we all discovered the truth of the phrase 'any port in a storm'. Our captain took us skurrying to duck the maelstom at Oxnard Harbor. All day Sunday we sat moored at the cusp of Ventura County, waiting for the storm to blow over. It was strange to sit in the calm, sunny harbor and know that just outside of the harbor the ocean was kicking up waves that could trip a whale.

The following morning we headed out of the harbor. There on the ocean all was dead calm and we could hardly believe it was the same ocean that only the night before had tossed us around like a sock in the grip of a playful terrier.

This trip there were no whales like when last boarded the Searcher in September 2005, but there were plenty of dolphins to enjoy; Dalls Porpoise, Bottlenose, Risso’s, Common Long-beaked, Pacific White-sided Dolphins and playful Northern Right Whale Dolphins. We even saw a Thresher Shark with its dorsal fin out of the water in true Jaw’s style. Don't forget to click on the photos to see them full size.

No whales, loads of dolphins but even more birds.

I know some of the photos above seem much ado about nothing, but honestly, if you could have seen how humongous the ocean was, and how eensie some of the birds, such as the Cassin's were, you'd be impressed by the stalwart little buggers too.

The trip paid birdy dividens, I got three new lifers: the Laysan Albatross, Short-tailed Shearwater and Ashy Storm Petrel. That puts my life list at 559. Keep in mind that I was birding on that boat with birders whose life lists were in the 700 range. GAK! Oh well. I'll get there eventually, if my purse holds up.

Oh! Before I forget, remember my whining about the camera zoom lens that would not focus? Uh... turns out it does focus... UNLESS you put a polarizer lens on it, which interfers with the ultrasonic focusing do-hickie.


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