Summary of multiple pelagic trips out to the Farallons and offshore Half Moon Bay

Alvaro Jaramillo

Hello all,

    We did three trips to the Farallon Islands earlier in the month – Aug 8, 9 and 11. As well on the 15th we went SW offshore from Half Moon Bay, to waters just north of Santa Cruz county.

The Farallon Is. Trips were great and we saw that the major final fledge of Common Murres happened between the 9th and the 11th given that on the later date there were fewer around. Brown Boobies varied from 1 on the 8th, and 9th, to three on the 11th. They were all females and underwing features looked fine for the Brewster’s subspecies, the expected one here. Tufted Puffins are always stars of the show on the Farallons, with up to 40 seen, and multiples were also found away from the islands. We could not find the Horned Puffin which was seen by Farallon Is. biologists, oh well. We experienced amazing views of Cassin’s Auklets, and a few Rhinos (their numbers have been low recently), while a juvenile Cassin’s in Pillar Point Harbor on the 8th was a complete surprise! Buller’s Shearwaters were represented by only one on the 8th, but then the next day approximately 100 birds gave amazing views (photographed birds were adults, not juveniles); both Sooty and Pink-footed shearwaters were in abundance. All days included many Black-footed Albatross. Northern Fulmars were in low numbers near shore, and then a few offshore but few in-between; as expected most are first cycle, patchy looking as they are in heavy molt. Storm petrels which we rarely see on Farallon trips included multiple Ashy and Black on the 8th, and a few Ashy on the 9th. Red and Red-necked phalaropes were common, and we found some nice rip currents where they allowed super close approach for photos. As is expected the first lost passerine offshore of the season was a Brown-headed Cowbird, they are nearly always the first to show up in August. Overall it was an amazing Farallon Island season, the July Nazca Booby of course a highlight. Another highlight was an awesome Leatherback Sea Turtle on the 9th.

    Our offshore trip was incredible for weather, super calm, it was the calm before the storm as that night we had our spellbinding “once in a decade” thunderstorm in the Bay Area. Unfortunately many fires were stared by the storm, some of them making the news now. We found four species of storm-petrels, many Ashy, a few Black, 1-2 Wilson’s and a Fork-tailed. A bird that Lucas Stephenson spotted could have been a Least due to the small apparent size, but we could not confirm with a photo or a great close fly by unfortunately. We will be watching for this species this season! Lots of shearwaters, including a few Buller’s, and many Black-footed Albatross. We had a great whale show with Blue, Fin and Humpback as well as Risso’s Dolphin. It seemed like the farther south we went, the better it got. Unfortunately time ran out and we had to make our way back to port before we could finish exploring this area. But I am looking forward to this Saturday when we are going to try to get to this region from the south, from Monterey.

   Overall, some weird stuff is going on. I saw tuna jumping on the 15th, there were albacore caught in Marin, and a Swordfish seen near the Cordell Bank. Water reached 63F on the 15th, a local record since we have been going out of Half Moon Bay. Multiple Blue Sharks were in the warm water. This seems like a year to be on the lookout for unusual southern storm-petrels, throughout CA we should be on watch for Least and Wedge-rump. Sea Surface Temperatures are not only abnormally high here, they are also high to our south, perhaps allowing for a northbound push of these rarities. On the other hand we have been seeing very few jaegers and Sabine’s Gull, although in July we had a day with all three jaegers and South Polar Skua. My guess is that their migration is somewhat backed up, and the flow will resume soon. There have been more south winds offshore than we normally see, that may be delaying southbound migration perhaps? It seems like now that we are in late August, the jaeger and tern show will kick in to full gear. Masses of Sooty Shearwaters show up off an on in Half Moon Bay, for example there were 50,000 this morning! Marbled Murrelets have returned after an absence due to red tide.

   We are doing back to back trips out of Monterey this weekend, a longer one on Saturday (heading towards the hotspot noted above), shorter on Sunday. Weather forecasts look good thus far. Covid-19 procedures are in effect, masks, low number of people on the boats, and routine disinfectant use. Here is the upcoming schedule:

  Here is a page on how to pick a pelagic:


Looking forward to exploring the ocean this weekend out of Monterey. Come and escape from the real world, and see the marine world instead!



Alvaro Jaramillo



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