La Jolla Cove, Dec 25: short-tailed shearwater; black-footed albatross; loons and California gulls galore

Stan Walens
 

I could hardly sleep last night after reading weather reports that forecast winds of 30-35 mph with gusts to 50 mph.
My tripod was placed by the chimney with care, in hopes a Swarovski soon would be there.
But Santa says I’ve been too naughty this year...

Got to the Cove at 6:20 a.m., and even in the faint light could see thousands of gulls milling about and heading south.
They were almost all gone by a little before 7:00.
The winds were maybe a little over 20mph.
Paul and Barbara were present from around 7:00-8:30; by the end of that time there was a lull in loon numbers.
I’m sure they will make their own report, but the highlight was about 3000 or so Pacific loons and hundreds of California gulls.
Remarkably almost no tubenoses; eventually we saw 3 or maybe 4 black-vented shearwaters.
A few jaegers.
No alcids, but the sea was so turbulent they could have been flying past in the troughs.
[I doubt it. Alcids have gone extinct. {More on this year’s dearth of seabirds anon.}]

I birded by myself from 8:30-9:15 or so.
I was excited to see a short-tailed shearwater moving rapidly to the south.
I see an eBird report from this morning of another birder, whom I did not see, reporting an all-dark shearwater.
I saw the bird well enough to identify it.

Then at 9:10 I was elated to see a black-footed albatross parsing over the kelp line to the northwest.
I had been hoping for a Laysan, or maybe a short-tailed, shy or Salvin's, but Santa says I’ve been too naughty this year…

Then from 9:30-12:30, loon numbers picked up again. I’d say another 3000-3500 Pacific loons, and a smattering of red-throated and common loons.
And California gulls came streaming past in almost uncountable numbers.
On average, maybe 25/minute [okay, I suppose you could say that the numbers weren’t really uncountable].
That pace kept up from 9:00 until almost 12:00, when it slacked off.
So my estimate somewhere around 5000-6000 California gulls for the morning.

Almost no other gulls were mixed in.
A few dozen ring-billeds, plus one Iceland/Thayer’s and one glaucous-winged.
10-11 parasitic jaegers; 7 pomarine jaegers.
3-4 red phalaropes.
1 black oystercatcher huddled on the rock below my bench.
16 gazillion Holiday revelers in red and green sweaters and elf caps.

Stan Walens, San Diego
Dec. 25, 2018; 1:40 pm

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