So long Black-footed Albatross, I will see you next year. Please bring along some of your Short-tailed buddies to our waters next fall, thanks. Photographed off of Half Moon Bay, CA.
It was a weird year offshore here in the bay area...for me, rough waters and a moderate amount of seabird activity. Lots of humpbacks, but no blues. I will say right off the bat that I did NOT see any of the rare petrels, which pains me greatly, especially with that cooperative White-chinned Petrel that just sat next to the boat like a goddamn fulmar for an unacceptably long amount of time. But that is the gamble you take as a pelagic junkie...you just roll the dice over and over again and eventually you will get played a hand of lifers. Here is a quick photo summary of the last trips I led for Shearwater Journeys this year, out of Half Moon Bay, Bodega Bay, and Sausalito, respectively.
The more I bird, the more comfortable I am with jaegers. That is, comfortable with the fact that identifying jaegers is hard. This
Look at those broad wings, that big bill. It almost looks like a goddamn skua. Aside from the birds's build, the strongly barred rump/uppertail coverts and large number of white primary shafts help identify it as a Pomarine.
There was no shortage of smallish terns offshore this fall, but every single one I got a good look at was a Common, like this bird. I prefer Arctics, but its not like Common is an easy bird to get from shore around here, so I will take them. Photographed off Half Moon Bay, CA.
There was a massive flock of Sooty Shearwaters hanging out in Half Moon Bay for several weeks this fall; behold the masses.
My, what a wing pattern you have Sabine's Gull. Thank you for making it so bloody easy to identify you in flight from great distances, and being so aesthetically pleasing from short distances.
Buller's Shearwaters were lacking this fall. I demand more Buller's Shearwaters. That's two years in a row where these birds were a pain in the ass to find offshore. Photographed off Bodega Bay, CA.
What was that? You want to see more COMMON TERNS??? Well, I'm kind of surprised. This is indeed a common bird in some places, one you need not venture offshore for. I would have thought you wanted to see a different species, but I won't deny you, dear reader. This is a wonderfully typical HY Common Tern. Photographed off Bodega Bay, CA.
Eh, not a crush, but it's always nice to get seabird shots backed by the horizon.
Speaking of goddamn skuas, here is a South Polar Skua...a bird that is not unusual here, but one that always commands attention. I hope I get to see them on their breeding grounds someday, where they are a decidedly different beast...which is a penguin-slayer, for the uninitiated. Photographed off Bodega Bay, CA.
While I didn't enjoy much luck with tubenoses this fall, I did get to briefly enjoy this totally uncooperative but pleasantly rare Guadalupe Murrelet, only the second I've ever seen. I'm not sure if I could have identified this bird without the help of have a DSLR; talk about a clutch birding tool. Photographed off Bodega Bay, CA.
Jaegers are exceptional-looking birds when they have their flamboyant tails attached. This soothing Parasitic Jaeger made a close pass by the boat off Bodega Bay, CA.
Long-tailed Jaegers are one of my favored seabirds, and I still feel strongly about this one although it does not fall in the "flamboyant" category. Also, it's always good to get a full "jaeger slam" into a single post. Photographed off Bodega Bay, CA.
My last boat of the year did a couple laps around Southeast Farallon Island (SEFI), the epic seabird colony and vagrant trap that sits about 18 miles off the coast. While waiting for boobies I saw some nerds up by the hideous choade-like lighthouse.
Look at this place! Fuck.
With El Nino raging, it has been a banner year for boobies off the California coast. SEFI has supported a healthy roost of Brown Boobies for the entire year. This was a very rare bird just a few short years ago, but things are changing.
Here is a female, almost in adult plumage. She still has to lose some of that mottling on the belly and maybe some brown in the wing linings.
The Brown Booby roost has also been home to this adult Blue-footed Booby (on the right, obvi) for some time now. There has been little follow-up to the massive Blue-footed Booby invasion California experienced two years ago, despite high sea surface temperatures continuing seemingly just about everywhere. Of course, California birders will be wondering about the Northern Gannet that has been here for years now...well, we missed it! Was it seen the day before? Yes. Was it seen that day? Yes. Was it seen the next day? Of course. Why does this matter? Well, I have never seen it! Can I tell you how sick I am of missing that bird over and over again? Year after godforsaken year? UGGGGGGHHHHHHH. The gannet hates me. I, in turn, hate the gannet. It is officially my California Nemesis Bird. Have you ever had a Nemesis Bird that was actually a single individual bird? Christ, I am being driven into a manic rage just thinking about it. Hopefully it will start showing up on Alcatraz again next spring so I can continue dipping on it from shore. So no luck with the gannet, but I did manage a life bird the previous day...and the previous weekend...more on that to come.