Half Moon Bay Pelagic report - from last weekend.
We did two pelagics this last holiday weekend, both out of Half Moon Bay. One on Saturday and one on Monday. The weather was calmer on Saturday, a bit choppier on Monday. Saturday’s water temperature got to an incredible 65.5F, while on Monday it was 60.5 F or so. Offshore water was blue and plankton free, true offshore water. We were able to get out deeper on Saturday than Monday, and perhaps we would have found warmer water had we been farther out.
Diversity and numbers were slightly higher on Monday. On both trips we saw 20-30 Black-footed Albatross, and Monday we lucked out with a juvenile Laysan Albatross!! This was a banded individual, and a different bird than the ones we have seen previously this season. Four of our last 5 trips have had Laysan Albatross. That included 5 different birds, as out of Bodega we had two different individuals. This is a record for us. It seems like this is a year to be out there looking for Laysan Albatross. As the breeding colony in Guadalupe Island, Mexico continues to grow I expect that we will continue to see increases here as well. On both trips we found numbers of Ashy Storm-Petrel, although on the more northerly trip on Saturday we also found Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel in SF waters. Three species of shearwater were found on both days, and most memorable are the tens of thousands of Sooty Shearwaters close to shore in Half Moon Bay which spellbound most of the folks on the boat. Perhaps 50,000? The number there is staggering, birders have been visiting Half Moon Bay to see this spectacle from the shore. It is cool, last week even the Northern Gannet was in there. Monday had the greater number of Pink-foots (225) and Buller’s (6), we expect that these two will become more common particularly as the juvenile Buller’s begin to arrive.
All three jaegers showed up on both trips, with several Long-tailed offshore on the deeper water Saturday trip in SF waters. What a beautiful bird, most adults have shed their tail streamers, but 1-2 still had them. Gorgeous. We were happy on Monday to find a South Polar Skua, only our second this season, surely they will pick up in numbers now that the season is progressing. They tend to be more common a bit later on in the fall. Sabine’s Gulls were widespread with mostly adults found, but under 20 on each trip. I worry that they did not have a good breeding season in the Arctic given how few juveniles are being seen. They offered up some awesome photo opportunities, which was great. The Arctic Tern continues to be regular out there, with few to no Common Terns. It is interesting that this is still the case, perhaps the Commons are coming in a bit later? Phalaropes were more abundant on Saturday, perhaps due to the calmer waters, and many Red were in with the Red-necked Phalaropes.
Common Murre and Rhinoceros Auklets are common, murres more so closer in to shore, while Rhinoceros are out in the deeper water and more distant shelf waters. Tufted Puffins made a showing on both trips, 3 on Saturday, 2 on Monday. Half Moon Bay is a particularly good port to find puffins, especially post breeding, so right now is the time! Cassin’s Auklets were few on Monday, and a fly off offshore murrelet was not seen before it could be identified – likely it was a Scripps’s. Harlequin Duck was a nice bonus on Monday. Nice numbers of Humpback Whales were out there, and we had a good show of Pacific White-sided Dolphin with Northern Right Whale Dolphin on Monday.
I was getting worried that we were starting to see waning numbers after the Saturday trip which was diverse but not plentiful on some species. Yet numbers up ticked across the board for Monday, so I think that this is not a concern. There are lots of birds out there to see!
Come and join us. We are having a great time out there, folks are getting great photos, and many a lifer. We have a Saturday departure from Monterey which still has openings. Our Sunday trip out of Half Moon Bay is sold out. But the following weekend we have trips on Saturday and Sunday both with a few spots open. Note that we are now offering a reduced price for youth birders (19 or under) of $100. We have been having a super time with many young birders offshore, thanks to the California Young Birders Club. Also thanks to folks who have sponsored young birders this season. These young birders also have superb eyes, Wow!