The first offshore pelagic of the season.
This last Saturday we operated our “summer pelagic” out of Pillar Point (Half Moon Bay), visiting the Pioneer Canyon in San Francisco county as well as the offshore waters to the south of there in San Mateo county. It was a heck of a good trip. We had low wind, which sometimes people worry about in terms of moving the birds around, but it was not an issue. Some of the common species were out in force such as Common Murre, Sooty Shearwater, yet we saw few Rhinoceros Auklets and Cassin’s Auklets, and moderate Pink-footed shearwaters and Northern Fulmar numbers. The Auklets might be hanging nearer to the Farallons still? As is typically the case at this time of year, great luck with Marbled Murrelets on our way out with 7 or so breeding plumaged adults.
Things got interesting from the Pioneer Canyon on south. We located a Black Cod fishing boat, with over 70 Black-footed Albatross around it! Amazing, unfortunately no other albatross joined in, but in the end we saw more than 100 albatross for the day. Astounding. Heading south from there a few Ashy Storm Petrels showed up and we began to pick up Sabine’s Gulls. Recall that last year we had nearly no Sabine’s or offshore terns, so seeing a number of Sabine’s on Saturday was welcome. Although a total of only 4 or so jaegers were seen, they included all three species.
The real surprises came a bit later when Zac Denning spotted a Leach’s Storm-Petrel, which was nicely photographed by Mark Rauzon. This bird showed up just as we saw a couple of Ashy and a Black storm-petrel rise from the surface. So unfortunately most of the boat were watching those, while the bow was looking at the Leach’s. Leach’s is seldom seen where we go, as they tend to feed well offshore. So it is definitely a local rarity. Just a tad later a Manx Shearwater took off from the water, and again was photographed by Mark, allowing us to see that it was molting inner primaries. Interesting! This bird was a county bird for Chris Hayward, who has been looking for one for years, and certainly was a “jinx” bird given how much time Chris has spent out on the ocean. Good stuff. A couple more Black Storm Petrels showed up later, which I find interesting as it is not a particularly warm water year and usually we do not find them this early in the season. Perhaps it is too warm farther south for them, and they are already moving up? A fly by Tufted Puffin was awesome, as were the many Humpback Whales, and Pacific White-sided Dolphins we saw.
Photos of the goodies here:
Our next trips are to the Farallon Islands. We actually have two openings for the July 31 trip (this Saturday), and we often have last minute cancellations. So if interested, do contact me offline. Otherwise, the next offshore pelagic is on Aug 14. Birds should be rocking by then given what we have already found!