Friday, September 10, 2010

Double Red Letter Day

Wow, what a day on the boat out on Monterey Bay/Sea Valley. But first, let me talk about yesterday. I was up very late on Tuesday nite after returning from FL/ AZ, so I did not get up on Wednesday until 6:30 AM. I talked with Wes Fritz and we decided that I would drive down to Santa Maria to meet him to bird for the afternoon before driving back up to Monterey. For those new to the blog, or who don't remember, Wes (top photo above) is the chummer on Debi Shearwater's pelagic trips who I met back in August.

We met at 11 AM and headed off to some of his best spots, including a location that had a ruff for over a week. We worked that spot but did not find the ruff, but did see a peregrine falcon hunting the area. So we tried a few other locations. At one of them we ran into 2 birders that Wes knows who told us that they had been at the ruff spot probably about an hour before us. They said they had seen the ruff and almost immediately they saw the peregrine strike the spot where the ruff had been seen. Wes later talked to a third birder who said she had seen the ruff feeding away about 2 hours before we arrived to look for it. So for me and the ruff it proved to be a tough day since apparently the ruff was lunch for the peregrine before I was able to see it.

This morning we were on the boat and out on the bay by 7:30. It was overcast at first, but by late morning it was sunny and very nice. The first big action for the day was 2 groups of orcas/killer whales that we found around 8:30. The middle and bottom photo above are of some of the orcas. We followed alongside their hunting for probably 30 minutes.

Soon after we had a flesh-footed shearwater come up the wake of the boat. This is a bird I was hoping to find today, so I was very pleased it showed up so early. About 11 AM Debi yelled "Wes, streaked shearwater coming down the port side of the boat". The bird flew by and kept on going. Since the streaked is a very rare bird, we stopped the boat and Wes did major chumming to see if we could get it to return. We did get the same or another flesh-footed to come in, but not the streaked. After 45 minutes of lots of good birding, the boat started moving again.

Throughout the day we had birds all around us including all 3 species of jaegers. We even had a dark morph pomarine jaeger fly by twice. We also had 5 south polar skuas visit over the course of the day. Some of the other birds included black-footed albatross; cassin's and rhinocerous auklets; wilson's, ashy and black storm-petrels; sabine's, heerman's, california and western gulls; common, arctic and elegant terns; and sooty, short-tailed, pink-footed and buller's shearwaters to go along with the flesh-footed and streaked.

After we returned to the dock about 3 PM, Wes and I headed up to Moonglow Dairy and Elkhorn Slough to see what might be around. We had tri-colored blackbirds and lots of different shorebirds but no ruffs. We called it a day about 7, and went to one of my favorite restaurants--Passionfish located in Pacific Grove. I had 2 appetizers--dungeness crab salad with avocado, and mussels in a tomato broth. Both were delightful. Wes went with the mahi-mahi with a ginger/wasabi marinade. We shared a chocolate truffle cake discovering that we both loved good dark chocolate. I drank a very floral 2008 torrontes from Susanna Balboa.

41 more birds were seen to finish up week #36. The flesh-footed and streaked shearwaters were both ABA life birds--those 2 birds plus the orcas warrant the double red letter day title-- and raise the YTD up to 680. Tomorrow I will be back out on Monterey Bay. Stay tuned!


  1. You are on quite the roll! Enjoy rolling with those waves as well. great to see the orca shots! xo