San Diego Pelagic – South Polar Skua, Least SP, Townsend's SP, Cook's P, Laysan A, etc., 31 July 2022


Gary Nunn
 

Six of us made an offshore trip in San Diego County waters Sunday 31 July 2022 in search of birds.  We made the usual east-west journey from San Diego Bay to The Corner, approximately 30 miles west of Point Loma.  On the return trip we took a jog to the north intersecting the Upper Nine Mile Bank and returned southeast down the bank before heading home.  83 NM traveled in total.  Bird life was a bit thin until we got to outer waters of the west side of the San Diego Trough which held some nice concentrations of shearwaters, feeding above tuna "on the boil", and also widely distributed storm-petrels working the area.

Heading west across the San Diego Trough we encountered several LONG-TAILED JAEGER, also one white-rumped storm-petrel which looked good to me for TOWNSEND'S STORM-PETREL.  Matt Sadowski spotted here also an adult ARCTIC TERN.  In addition a small number of SABINE'S GULL and CRAVERI'S MURRELET.

Moving west up on to the Thirty Mile Bank proper we continued finding further numbers of SABINE'S GULL (16) and CRAVERI'S MURRELET (10) as well as some settled rafts of shearwaters well fed on baitfish pushed to the surface by the feeding tuna.  On one tuna "boil" we had very close looks at a white-rumped TOWNSEND'S STORM-PETREL, obtaining many close photos.  Also noted here were a couple of COMMON TERN.  We were motoring westward at some speed when we came up close on a SOUTH POLAR SKUA sitting on the water.  Definitely the highlight of my day!  It moved a short distance and we crept up on it for more photos.  Some of the tuna boils had good numbers of Pink-footed Shearwater sitting around them, maybe as many as a hundred at one spot, we picked through these carefully but could not find more unusual shearwater species.

We arrived at The Corner early, the sea surface conditions very good for fast running in the boat, and started a 2.5 hour drift with fish oil and chopped fish chum bags.  We soon had an entourage of Black Storm-Petrels.  Right as we arrived Dan Jehl spotted a COOK'S PETREL a short distance away on a tuna boil so we went over to look briefly.  It moved away so we continued back at the original spot. In total four Cook's Petrels were seen while we bobbed around.  Among the multitude of storm-petrels several good candidates for TOWNSEND'S STORM-PETREL, short tailed with a smaller depth tail fork.  Also some "Chapman's" Storm-Petrel, the local Baja chapmani form of Leach's Storm-Petrel were present.  We will sort through photos later in eBird.  On arrival at The Corner we did see briefly a single LEAST STORM-PETREL.  It disappeared but more came, four seen in total here but none too close.  A fun moment as Matt Sadoski casually remarked to Justyn Stahl here comes your county LAYSAN ALBATROSS, which was indeed true!  The Laysan sat on the water by the boat with us for more than an hour and we even photographed the colored leg band "Orange 2K91".  We will provide an update on its point of origin later!

Coming back across the San Diego Trough we encountered more Craveri's Murrelet and a single Long-tailed Jaeger.  Great ocean conditions for traveling around quickly.  I wish all days out there were as nice!

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Gary Nunn
Pacific Beach

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