Another season of pelagics is in the can. What to say about this year? Well, things got interesting quick with the Salvin's Albatross (BINGO) and Craveri's Murrelets in July, but in August the murrelets kind of disappeared. Hawaiian Petrels made appearances in Monterey Bay and Half Moon Bay, neither of which I saw, so I will have to wait at least another year to meet that bird, which is totally fucked. Brown, Blue-footed and Masked Boobies all put in appearances around these parts, and the infamous Northern Gannet still roosts on the Farallones, which is infuriating. A Guadalupe Murrelet in September off Bodega Bay was an excellent bird, and a boat trip I did not attend off Half Moon Bay also had a Guadalupe and Red-billed Tropicbird. A Cory's Shearwater off Fort Bragg that I would have liked to have seen was a state ***MEGA***, the only "nearshore" pelagic bird that came close to the Salvin's in magnitude of rarity. Some really good shit was found waaaaayyyyyyy offshore, but unless you are a seabird observer on a NOAA boat, you aren't going to see what lurks that far beyond the horizon.
Right. Three pelagic lifers for me this year, which is more than I could have hoped for. Here is some coverage of my last boats of the season, one out of Monterey and one out of Half Moon Bay.
With the huge mass of warm water that was up here for a couple months, there were thousands of Black-vented Shearwaters in Monterey this fall. Some were seen all the way up in Humboldt the other day, which is cray cray.
I'm just going to say it...I have difficulty talking about Black-vented Shearwaters. Out of all the tubenoses that occur off California, this is often the easiest one to see from shore. They are afraid of deep water. They like warm water, are small, and breed in Mexico. What else is there to say? They are the most slovenly-adorned shearwater I have ever seen so I'm not exactly brimming with compliments for them. For the record, I do like them and I wish them the best, it's just not a bird anyone seems to be equipped to expound upon.
Ok, I've got something. This isn't unique to the species, but Black-vents have pretty awesome feet, with the upper side of the foot and "ankle" pinkish-blue, the bottom side black. I don't understand the significance of this two-tone but it pleases me.
See that crazy white-headed thing on the bottom left? That too is a Black-vented Shearwater, albeit an enhanced one.
Speaking of enhanced birds, check out the wing pattern on this South Polar Skua. Do you see something that shouldn't be there?
It might as well be a fucking Willet. Anyone care to explain the white wing bar?
This pair of mellow Sabine's Gulls were a stone's throw from the Monterey Harbor. Hella cooperative, some of the most confiding members of their species I have come across.
So neat and dainty. Some folks were having a hard time keeping it together. Too bad the lighting wasn't more conducive to crushing, but whatever.
Can't complain about getting looks like these.
A couple of Humpback Whales (the lump on the left is whale #2) with attendant murres and barnacles. I think it's weird how many people are out there who have never seen a whale up close. Y'all are missing out.
This is one of my favorite photos I took this fall. To my eye, Harbor Seal looks uncannily human, somehow.
Last year, nearshore waters were saturated with Buller's Shearwaters. They were thick, and it was glorious. This year? I think I saw less than ten. Total bullshit. It seems the warm water that washed in the Black-vents and Black Storm-Petrels washed out the Buller's and Ashy Storm-Petrels.
Like last year, I managed to see exactly one booby offshore this year (I THOUGHT I WOULD SEE TWO!!!!!!). This is it. A Brown Booby. This Brown Booby puts the "brown" in Brown Booby.
Also like last year, the boob was getting harangued by gulls. Poor beleaguered booby.
The booby was on the infamous weather buoy in San Mateo County waters, right where the continental shelf starts to drop off quickly. There are always seems to be good birding by the weather buoy.
And representing the alcids, here is a Tufted Puffin. Puffins can look very dull this time of year, but you can spot that big glowing bill from a long ways away.
What happens to people who disappear at sea? I would wager MOLA MOLA happens. Doesn't this look like something that gobbles lost souls?