Thursday, September 15, 2011
Bodega Bay Pelagic
Yesterday I went out of Bodega Bay on a Shearwater Journey's pelagic birding trip. The boat was jam packed, and included some birding friends. The 2 guys mugging for the camera just above are John Vanderpoel (left) and Matt Stenger who are both doing full ABA area big years in 2011, and finally met face to face after several near misses earlier in the year.
The boat left the dock finally about 7 AM under overcast skies. We made our way out in some heavy seas with winds up to 15 knots. It was one of those awkward days to be on a boat--not so rough that the boat could not go out, but rough enough that several people were adding chum to that provided by Wes Fritz, Debi's main chummer on these trips. Unfortunately one guy was sick much of the day which meant he will not have fond memories of seeing his first laysan albatross (photo just below--click on any photo to enlarge).
John and Matt however had very good days for their big year count. They both added flesh-footed shearwater to their totals--a difficult bird to pick up in the fall on the west coast. Matt also added fork-tailed storm petrel and buller's shearwater to his list. John's total is now at 712, and Matt is up to 655--both excellent numbers with 3+ months left in 2011. The main difference in their totals is that John has made more trips to Alaska, and had a well thought out year plan whereas Matt has pretty much been just out there birding around the country going where the "wind" and some planning has taken him.
After a bit of a slow birding start, the trip got much birdier. Besides the laysan, we also had several black-footed albatross; lots of fulmars; sabine's, western and california gulls; elegant and arctic terns; wilson's, ashy, black and fork-tailed storm petrels; pink-footed, buller's, sooty and flesh-footed shearwaters; pomarine, long-tailed and parasitic jaegers; cassin's auklets; red and red-necked phalaropes; and 1 distant tufted puffin fly by.
We stopped twice to put out a fish oil slick which kept lots of birds coming in to check us out, but also meant for a rocking boat making it hard to take photos as well as raising the seasickness level. It was good to get back to land about 5 PM where the sun was shining. Right after we docked I was able to get the photo just above of a black oystercatcher. I am on land today, but tomorrow will be going out of Half Moon Bay on another pelagic trip. Stay tuned!