Pelagic trip reports - The Black Storm-Petrels are IN.

Alvaro Jaramillo

Hi folks,

    We had pelagics last Thursday the 12th, Saturday and Sunday (14,15), out of Half Moon Bay. We visited parts of SF and San Mateo counties offshore and overall a great diversity was out there, and some fantastic views of some species (South Polar Skua, Arctic Tern, Buller’s Shearwater etc.). The Black Storm-Petrels arrived! They were absent on the 12th and on Friday they must have come in as we saw many on Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday they outnumbered the Ashy Storm-Petrels. One Wilson’s was seen on Sunday; no Fork-tails on any of the trips recently.

   Seabirds seen on all three trips included: both species of phalarope, all three jaegers, Common Murre, Rhinoceros Auklet, Sabine’s Gull, Arctic Tern, Black-footed Albatross, Ashy Storm-Petrel, Pink-footed, Buller’s and Sooty shearwaters. The numbers of Arctic Terns continue to be high, over 40 seen on Thursday with many close up views. As expected that day was also the best for Sabine’s Gulls and Long-tailed Jaeger, these species associate. Pomarine Jaeger numbers seem to have increased by the Sat/Sun trips. Note that very few juvenile Sabine’s Gulls have been around, that pattern continues.

   Cassin’s Auklets are uncommon here this year, the numbers appear to be up north in Bodega from our experience thus far. Two Tufted Puffins showed up on Thursday, one on Sunday, as you would expect these adults were molting out of the bright breeding plumage. South Polar Skuas put on a show on Saturday and Sunday, a close fly by over the bow on Saturday and then two different ones on Sunday. One of them lingered and made a great many passes as it fed and harassed gulls nearby. Wow! This bird was a juvenile based on its late molt timing. Some of the best views we have had at Marbled Murrelet this season happened on Saturday, they have now molted out into gorgeous black and white non-breeding plumage. One Northern Fulmar on Saturday was distant, there have been very few over-summering fulmars this season and the arriving birds from the north should be showing up real soon.

   Migrants included flocks of Northern Pintail on Thursday and Sunday, the latter date with some Green-winged Teal mixed in. On Sunday a breeding plumaged Red-necked Grebe was seen by those on the stern of the boat. A small flock of Red Knot went by offshore on Thursday, our second flock of knots this season. This species is usually rare on the San Mateo coast.

    We expect that now that we have crossed the mid-September mark, and fall migrants have started to show up on land that new birds are going to be out there offshore. Water temperatures offshore are still high so my expectation is that numbers of Black Storm-Petrel will continue out of Half Moon Bay. Perhaps the number of Buller’s Shearwaters will begin to increase now as well, and we will be on the lookout for arriving Short-tailed and Flesh-footed shearwaters. We hope we can find another Laysan Albatross this weekend out of Half Moon Bay. We shall see.

    Lots of marine mammals are out there, Humpback Whales on all of our trips, Blue Whales on one date. We also found dolphins on Thursday and Sunday, with three species – Pacific White-sided, Northern Right Whale, and Common Dolphins that looked to be short-beaked. An amazing find was another Leatherback Sea Turtle on Sunday which gave amazing views! On Thursday one that got away was a possible Guadalupe Fur Seal that Steve Howell and I saw, it was gone before we could confirm but the face looked right. Lots of sharks out there, Blue as well as at least some that might have been Short-fin Mako. We are working on the ID, and clarifying the confusion of multiple sharks being seen on different trips as well as the difficulty of getting good photos of them. Shark ID – the final frontier.

    We are heading out tomorrow, and it is not too late to sign up, contact me or head to the website. Weather conditions are predicted to be nice for tomorrow!

good birding,


Alvaro Jaramillo