Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Pelagic Recap: August 16, Half Moon Bay

On August 16 we once again headed offshore, on the neverending quest to find Vague Runts. This was my second pelagic of the season, and high seas made it unlikely we would have a repeat performance of the storm-petrel show two weeks prior, but these were good conditions for finding Hawaiian Petrel. Of course, Hawaiian Petrel failed to show and I was burned yet again...which is getting really tiring...but it was a fun and birdy trip despite the swells.

Pigeon Guillemots breed in the breakwaters at the Pillar Point Harbor, and we had quite a few of them.  Oddly, this charming bird has not made it onto BB&B before, though they are certainly deserving.  In other embarrassing news, when I started birding I thought they were actually called "guillemonts" for several years.

As soon as we left the harbor, we could see vast numbers of Sooty Shearwaters moving north in a seemingly never-ending flock. It was truly an impressive number of birds...I had not seen numbers of them like that in quite a while. We motored up to them and watch them stream by for quite a while.

Sitting next to the massive river of shearwaters was a great way to start the morning.

Here's a Sooty in more typical lighting...they look more sooty, a little less magical.

Among things that I can never cease taking pictures of are humpback whale flukes.

If you've ever been on a pelagic trip and are confused about what people are talking about when they mention a "footprint" out in the water, then this really boring picture is for you!  The patch of slick water, the footprint, is what is left on the surface after a whale dives.

Shitty photo, I know, but Flesh-footed Shearwater (bird on he left, Pink-footed Shearwater on the right) is always a nice bird. 2013 was a great year for them, but I didn't see a single one in 2014, which I suspect is strongly correlated with the fact that there were hardly any Buller's around in 2014. Rare shearwaters appear to enjoy the company of Buller's it seems.  We did have a handful of Buller's, which is a good omen for later in the season.

It's not unusual to see banded Black-footed Albatross offshore, as there have been banding programs going at several of their breeding sites for many years now.  This black on yellow field readable band is from Tern Island (French Frigate Shoals), about 2,730 miles west of where we saw this bird. I did report this band resight, and promptly got a response in two days! Way to go USGS!

Black-footed Albatross are not wary birds. Reading albatross bands is not difficult. This bird was banded in May 2010 as a chick, and will be old enough to breed in about three years.

Albatross can surf with their big feet. With the way they can move offshore you would never guess how ungraceful they can be on land.

Storm-petrels put in a modest showing, but with a robust four species representing. This Ashy made a close pass by the boat.

Wilson's almost always seem to come in close to the boat eventually. It's a nice bird to see out here regularly, they were considered quite the rarity not too long ago.

Bird of the day, as far as the most unexpected species, easily went to this Surfbird that briefly followed the boat way out in San Francisco County waters. It's the first one I've ever seen offshore, and I never expected to see one in the company of Black-footed Albatross (the bird in the background). You never know what weird migrant you might cross paths with out there.

Steller's sea lions were hauled out on this buoy just offshore from the Pillar Point Harbor. Note the blunt snout, "bear-faced" look and blonde fur. That's a California sea lion head poking out on the right side for comparison.

There you go, a nice, succinct blog post with little writing and lots of photos...had to change things up after that last post. I'm going out again this weekend, on the hunt (as always) for sweet sweet Pterodroma goodness.

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