Saturday, October 9, 2010

A beautiful Day on the Grande out of San Diego

Today I left the San Diego harbor at 6 AM sharp on the Grande. I have never been on this particular boat, or done a pelagic trip out of San Diego, so I was looking forward to what the day might bring. Coming out past the kelp beds and rounding Point Loma as the sky was lightening up we began to pick up waves of black-vented shearwaters plus a few pink-footed and 1 sooty shearwater.

Our main target areas for the day were the 9 mile bank and the 30 mile bank. The Grande is a slow boat, so we needed all of the 12 hours allotted for this trip. It was overcast for most of the morning, but then cleared and was a lovely, sunny day for the rest of the afternoon.

The highlight of the day was 2 or 3 huge rafts of black and least storm-petrels. The top photo shows one of the large groups in a feeding frenzy (click on it to enlarge). The bottom photo is a close up of 3 black storm-petrels pattering on the water plus what appears to be a least flying to their right. The total number of storm-petrels was estimated at 10,000+.

We were all carefully scanning thru the mass of storm-petrels because a week earlier a trip had found these same rafts of birds, and mixed in were 2 white-rumped SP's. After getting back to the dock, the photos taken were studied and 1 of the white-rumped birds was determined to be a wedge-rumped storm-petrel, which is incredibly rare in US waters. After about 30 minutes of circling the rafts a white-rumped SP flew in close to the boat, but photos showed that it was a leach's storm-petrel.

The rest of the day was fairly quiet birdwise. We did see all 3 jaeger species; common, forster's, elegant and royal terns; sabine's, western, heerman's and california gulls; pelagic, double-crested and brandt's cormorants; a few cassin's and 1 rhinocerous auklet; and lots of pacific white-sided dolphins. My hoped for target birds were the wedge-rumped, a blue-footed booby or a craveri's murrelet, but none made an appearance today.

28 more new birds were seen today for the week, and the black-vented shearwater raised the YTD to 685. I am staying another nite here in San Diego before making the 8 hour drive up to the San Francisco Bay area tomorrow to be ready to go out on another pelagic trip scheduled for Monday. I also want to congratulate Bob Ake, the birder from VA who is doing a full ABA big year. Right now he is up in Barrow, AK where he picked up 3 more new birds for the year, and he was on the boat last week and saw the wedge-rumped SP. These 4 birds raise his YTD up to 710, plus he has not yet added the 2 birds from the split earlier this year, so he is really at 712. Way to go Bob! Stay tuned!

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