Rafts. I love them. Not that cowardly river rapid stuf, I'm talking about rafts of tubenoses...storm-petrels, in this case. There are very few people in the world who are brave enough to pick through these things.
I've had the pleasure of running into several big carpets of storm-petrels recently. It's been a great year for storm-petrels off the coast of California, particularly Half Moon and Bodega Bays. This enormous flock of ~8,000 birds (mostly Ashy Storm-Petrels) was off Half Moon Bay back on September 8.
It's difficult/impossible to capture the size and width of these rafts in photos. This is just a tiny chunk. A tiny taste.
Of course, nothing increases the Glory one experiences like running into a Flesh-footed Shearwater. They are semi-unusual this time of year, not completely expected but not at all unexpected. As is the case with many seabirds, California is the by far the best and easiest place in the country to bump into this wonderful brownness.
Flesh-foots can hide remarkably well with rafts of other shearwaters on the water, but they are very distinct in flight.
And despite their resemblance to young Heermann's Gulls, thankfully people do not get them confused.
One of the places Tufted Puffins go to repuffin the world is the Farallon Islands, not far from Half Moon Bay. This frazzled bird has fried tufts, and looks a bit shabby. The breeding season has been long and this bird is about ready to drop its garish makeup and get gross. It wants to look homely and spend months eating small fish.
California Gulls are one of the few gull species that are following boats this time of year...Herring, Glaucous-winged, Thayer's and Olympic really haven't arrived yet. Young birds like this one are pretty sharp-looking.
Young California Gulls come in a rainbow of browns and grays, which bring great and disgusting pleasure to the Larophiles.
Just when you think you're out on the open ocean, as far from civilization as you can get, YANG MING comes along and keeps it real.