Featured Post

Baltimore by the Sea

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Birthday Pelagic (One day late, but who cares!)

It was an awesome day for a pelagic cruise, to which I invited myself  birder buddy Don told me he was signed up for a Alvaro's Adventures Pelagic tour. As bad luck had had it, the last few jaunts I tried out of Half Moon Bay were either overcast, choppy, godawful, or all of the above. However, certainly because it was my birthday yesterday, today the sky was achingly blue and the equally blue bay waters were undulating and alive with birds.

Headed out of Half Moon Bay harbor at the crack of the first gull's fart
Elegant Terns

Leaving harbor we slowly cruised past the rocky breakwaters, covered with Elegant terns, pelicans, Surfbirds & Black Turnstones, oh, and gulls, loads of gulls. 

Barely out of the harbor we passed a big ole' raft of Sooty Shearwaters. The chocolate ocean dwellers are weren't more than a half mile off shore (uh... that's by my yardstick anyway).

Small portion of a large gathering of Sooties

Compact Sooty Shearwater shooting by
We traveled an hour or two to get to true ocean where we could be over waters at least 60 fathoms, or 360 feet deep. That's a depth that will get you true oceanic birds.

The Common Murres weren't too far from land either
On our way out we saw a bouy, which for the pinniped world is sort of a spa. The bouy had not one, but two species of Sea Lions, the giant & rare Stellar's and the more petite Californias.

The bruiser on the left is a Stellar's Sea Lion, and there is
one on the rear too - the others are California Sea Lions

Just when we spotted our first Common Murres, a Sabine's gull or two and other cool pelagic birds, I shrieked - scaring even myself - as I spotted a Pacific White-sided Dolfin pop out of the ocean just below where I stood on deck. Suddenly there were dolphins everywhere, headed for the boat.

"Hurrah! A boat to play with!"
Mini-spy hop by a curious passerby
A dolphin team leaves no chance to show off unexploited

I love dolphins and the way they hurry over to enjoy a free ride from the slip stream along side a speeding boat. I guess there were about 200 Pacific White-sides shooting around the boat. There were some mothers with their 'mini-me' babies trailing along beside them. I was in heaven.

There were also a half dozen or so Northern Right Whale Dolphins leaping about, but unfortunately by the time I would spot them, they were someplace else - they're sneaky like that. However, since it is my damned birthday, I give myself permission to post a shot I took of one during a Searcher trip out of San Diego one soggy gray day years ago.

Whale Redux:  There is no kind of dorsal fin on a Northern Right Whale Dolphin
Now, just because the dolphins were bouncing around, doesn't mean the birds had ceased to fly - there were shearwaters, gulls and such shooting around in the distance. I wasn't paying them much attention, when Dan Singer, a notable world class birder shouted, "Great Petrel"!

Happily I had my Canon camera up and ready as I'd been taking the above still shots of dolphins, so I managed to capture only 3 shots of the bird, only one of which is any good. HURRAH! I got a lifer, a Greater Shearwater, which in his own excitement Dan Singer messed up the name. I forgive him, as when I spot cool birds I often get so excited I can't spit out any words at all.

I got great looks at the bird, which has a white collar and a back cap. You can see it's other easily spotable feature in my photo, its white rump and black tail. What a fantastic treat, as I had no idea I'd see a lifer today. This was the best birthday present ever!

Greater Shearwater, headed lickity split, for parts unknown

The boat buzzed with the excitement of the Shearwater - it was expected to return to the boat as it had at first seemed to want a better look, but it seemed to change its mind and just head off into horizon. I thought Greater Shearwaters were limited to the Atlantic ocean, but apparently there are small numbers of them on the California coast. I still can't believe I was lucky enough to see that big bird fly by.

Really - with the boat rocking up and down, and trying to not fall on my face while holding my big-arse canon camera with both hands, pelagic photography is difficult at best. Enough excuses, here are some other birds I managed to get some kind of shot of.

Red-necked Phalarope (front) & pair of Red Phalaropes. These
little biddies always look too small to be on the ocean at all.

Rhinoceros Auklet

One of about 3 or 4 Pomarine Jaegers spotted during the day

Um... I'm calling this beauty a non-breeding Long-tailed Jaeger. 
A wet and groggy looking Tufted Puffin
 Oh, and one other solitary mammal we picked up on the trip was a Humpbacked Whale. I was kind of hoping to see lots of whales today, but sometimes Posiden holds back a bit - you know - so we appreciate the big things when we do get the chance.

I swear, the larger the whale, the smaller the dorsal fin

Love the water sheeting action on this Humpback's top
 All in all, it was a pretty decent day, as is any day that has a lifer bird for me. Totally enjoyed myself and at day's end, birder buddy Don and I sat down to hoist a beer (thanks for the Anchor Steam unidentified generous birder!) and dinner at Barbara's Fish Trap. The proverbial perfect end to a perfect day.

For no good reason, is a video I shot with my iPhone, a neat trick as I had no idea what was on the screen due to the glare. Look for dolphins dipping in and out of the waters as far as the eye can see.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! Thank you so much for these photos; I had no idea Puffins and others are sea worthy. And if ever you get to see a turkey in flight, please try and get a photo. A turkey in flight seems to be a rarity. (big smile)