Thursday, September 22, 2011

3rd Day out on Half Moon Bay

I am back home from my trip to northern California after completing one more all day trip out of Half Moon Bay with Shearwater Journeys this past Sunday. John Vanderpoel was able to be on board, but only because Doug Koch gave him his spot since the boat was totally sold out. On the way out of the harbor we saw a few surf birds (photo above--click on it to enlarge). Under sunny skies we proceeded to head northwest and eventually went 30 miles which took us out to and a bit past the Farallon islands (photo below).

These small islands are where tufted puffins and ashy storm petrels breed. We were hoping to find some large groups of ashy storm petrels, but did not. This was a portent for the day as we saw very few seabirds as we kept motoring over some very good sea topography without any success. The day wound up at 7:15 PM after traveling almost 90 miles. While the seas were not too rough, and the sunshine was nice, the trip proved to be one of the worst days for seabirds that I can remember with only one laysan albatross, and a couple of south polar skuas to raise people's spirits.

Last year Debi said this same route was covered with seabirds plus 75 humpbacked whales feeding on krill, but this year there seems to be very few food patches for the birds. This is one of the challenges of seabirding since day to day, and year to year you are never sure what you might find in any given area. Only Monterey Bay consistently has large numbers and variety of birds.

The next day I visited friends in the north bay area before heading home, and heard from John that Monday's trip had even fewer birds than on Sunday. He has now returned home, and will be heading up to Alaska this weekend to continue his big year effort. Doug will still be going out on Monterey Bay for a few trips. Once he returns home to New York he has promised me several photos of many of the good birds we saw on the Bodega, and earlier Half Moon Bay trips. Stay tuned!

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