Saturday, November 9, 2013

9 November 2013

This is the Buena Vista Audubon and  Grande Sportfishing Pelagic Trip report for Saturday Nov. 9, 2013.

This trip was planned as an easy, inexpensive,  short day of pelagic birding locally. Our hope was that beginning, or infrequent sea birders would find this trip attractive.  We of course hoped we'd find a few interesting birds, and catch some nice weather. I think we hit the bonafide "right" day.  We'd  seen dense fog overnight, but it broke nicely after dawn, and wind conditions were near zero.

We left the dock at 8 a.m. and due to the short nature of this trip , made a beeline offshore, with a very brief
look at Zuniga Jetty. We found a small number of Black Turnstones, and a lone Surfbird., among the many pelicans,cormorants, and gulls there. The bay and channel  held a few Surf Scoters, a couple of Common Loons,  Eared and Western Grebes, all newly arrived and still in small numbers. A couple of Royal Terns, a Forster's Tern, a local Osprey, a distant Peregrine Falcon, and tons of Heermann's Gulls escorted us south.

Offshore the life picked up immediately, and stay with us most of the trip. One complaint I hear about pelagic birding are the long dry spells of searching. We had hoped to avoid that today, and with a little planning, good wheel house direction and a good dose of luck, we had action most of the trip.

The near shore areas held the usual Black-vented Shearwaters, Brandt's Cormorants, Brown Pelicans, and Heermann's, California, and Western Gulls, but within a short distance we also started to add Cassin's Auklets, Bonaparte's Gulls, a few Red-necked Phalaropes, all zooplankton feeders. The Bonaparte's Gulls likely the most abundant species for the day with 500 or so, followed closely by Cassin's Auklets estimated at 300 plus. Red-necked Phalaropes numbers were well down from recent trips as expected this late in fall. The small number of Red Phalaropes ( 2 ) was low for the time of year.

The Nine Mile Bank had a few Northern Fulmars though many less than recent trips further offshore. Near the outer edge of the Nine Mile Bank we had a flyby Common Murre. The last few years this species has been plentiful locally.  Common Murres were nearly absent in the warm-water years. The" NINE" also produced a few jaegers, including one Pomarine on the water that let us drive up before it took off, a nearly black Pomarine doing it's best to look skua-like, and a flyby Parasitic Jaeger.

Pink-footed Shearwater were in good numbers and seen at all but the most inshore areas. We often had a half dozen following or around the boat much of the time on the Nine Mile Bank. The surprise of the day was a Flesh-footed Shearwater along with the Pink-foots, in the same general area as that species was seen on the Oct. 5th. and 13th. trips. Always a good bird in Southern California, and better yet in San Diego waters. This makes one wonder if this is a single bird that hung out locally , or if there were multiple birds involved here? Niether seems likely, but Oct.-Nov. is a good month historically for the species in So. Cal. so…who knows? I did heard a number of folks mention this Flesh-footed Shearwater as their Life, ABA, State, or County BIRD!  Success for one trip goal!

Our next surprise was a Brown Booby, an immature, that snuck in while we were congratulating ourselves over the Flesh-foot. The Booby colony just south of the border on Islas Los Coronados, sends us a bird from time to time. Somewhat regular off San Diego now, we still can't count on them ever trip. Brown Booby seem to follow the Common Dolphin pods, but the majority stay close to home below the border.   

Star of India
Photo by Dave Povey

Moving back to the east we encountered the same area of Bonaparte's Gulls, Cassin's Auklets, and Red-n. Phalaropes. We saw a few flyby Common and Pacific Loons. We now also had a good stream of north bound Black-vented Shearwaters which included a white bodied, mostly dark winged bird. These "pied" or partially leucistic Black-vents are actually somewhat common and often can be I'd. to individuals. I know I've seen this bird before. Still any bright white shearwater gives one  pause!

The extra added threat for the day, as we return home, was the sailing of the Star of India. She still sails every year. Making her one of the oldest functioning sailing vessels in the world. This year is her 150th anniversary of her Nov. 14, 1863 launch at the Isle of Man. She didn't have much of a breeze to work with, but still looked great. She was accompanied by two other San Diego Maritime Museum ships The California, and The America both working replicas of 1800's sailing ships. The hazy air and muted background gave the scene a bit of a dreamy look. If you could block out the modern yachts it was a scene fromanother time.  Nice punctuation to the day.

I think we hit all our goals for this trip! Short, nice weather, good birds.
Really nice finish to what turn out to be a very nice year of pelagic birding off San Diego.

Trip Track

Our sincere thanks to Buena Vista Audubon for their sponsorship and support. Thanks also James McDaniels owner and operator of Grande Sportfishing for providing his boat at a very reasonable price, and his willingness to adapt to our constant suggestions,demands and directions. Thank you to James's crew Charlie, Oscar, and others. Thanks  to our volunteer leaders for their hours of searching and explaining what we were seeing. Peter Ginsburg, Bruce Rideout, B J Stacey, Gary Nunn, Tom Blackman, Guy McCaskie, Matt Sadowski, and a special thanks to Paul Lehman who took charge of leader organization, gave birders directions and orientation both shore side and aboard, spent hours in the cramped wheelhouse, searching for, finding and  directing us to seabirds, mammals, and other points of interest. This is never an easy task. All the while he give interesting context ,and insight about those things we would see.

Last our thanks to you. We wouldn't  be able to do any trips without you. We sincerely hope you had the some great experiences. We always hope to have you see the bird, or birds you wanted. That's not always in our control, but we feel satisfied if we've pulled back the curtain to this amazing world just off our shores. We hope you will join us for trips now in planning for 2014!

Some of the Birds seen 2013:
Black-footed Albatross       May 4 (1), Oct. 13 (1)
Northern Fulmar      Apr. 13  (6),  Oct. 5  (12), Oct. 13 (50), Nov. 9 (10)
Great Shearwater     Oct. 13 (1)
Buller's Shearwater     June 16  (1)
Flesh-footed Shearwater     Oct. 5, Oct. 13, Nov. 9
Pink-footed Shearwater        Apr 13 (4),  May 4 (13), Jun. 16 (60), Oct. 5 (120), Oct. 13 (500), Nov. 9 (140).
Sooty Shearwater        Apr. 13 (20), May 4 (26), Jun. 16 (550), Oct. 5  (1), Oct 13 (26), Nov. 9 (4).
Black-vented Shearwater      Apr. 13 (3), May 4 (1), Jun. 16 (1), Oct. 5 (720), Oct. 13 (260), Nov. (150).
Black Storm-Petrel         Apr. 13 (4), May 4 (150), Jun. 16 (70), Oct. 5 (4000), Oct. 13  (130).
Ashy Storm-Petrel         Jun. 16  (4), Oct. 5 (2).
Leach's Storm-Petrel        Oct. 5 (1).
Least Storm-Petrel         Oct. 5 (3500), Oct. 13 (5500).
Red-billed Tropicbird        Oct. 5 (1), Oct. 13 (1).
Brown Booby     Apr 13 (2), Jun. 16 (1), Oct.5 (3), Nov. 9 (1)
Red-necked Phalarope    Apr. 13 (6), May 4 (250), Oct. 5 (650), Oct. 13 (180), Nov.9 (20).
Red Phalarope    May 4 (3), Oct. 5 (1), Oct. 13 (1), Nov. 9 (2).
Sabine's Gull      May 4 (4), Oct. 16 (1).
Bonaparte's Gull      May 4 (1), Oct. 13 (1), Nov. 9 (500).
Black Tern      Oct. 5 (1).
Common Tern       May 4 (1),  Jun. 16 (2), Oct. 5 (190), Oct. 13 (15).
Least Tern     May 4 (120), Jun. 16 (8).
Elegant Tern     Apr. 13 (40),  May 4 (18),  Jun. 16 (10), Oct. 5  (4),  Oct. 13 (11).
South Polar Skua       Oct. 5 (1), Oct. 13 (2).
Pomarine Jaeger       May 4 (2), Jun. 16 (1), Oct. 5 (70), Oct. 13 (62), Nov. 9 (4).
Parasitic Jaeger     Apr. 13 (1), Oct. 5 (4), Oct. 13 (5), Nov. 9 (1).
Common Murre    Apr. 13 (1), Jun. 16 (1), Nov. 9 (1).
Scripps's Murrelet    Apr. 13 (45), May 4 (6), Jun. 16 (3).
Craveri's Murrelet     Oct. 5 (2).
Cassin's Auklets      Apr. 13 (42), May 4 (40), Jun. 16 (20), Oct. 5 (9), Oct. 13 (115), Nov. 9 (300).
Rhinoceros Auklet    Apr. 13 (2), May 4 (1).

Marine Mammals seen:
California Sea Lion
Harbor Seal
Elephant Seal
Risso's Dolphin
Common Dolphin
Bottle-nosed Dolphin
Gray Whale
Humpbacked Whale
Minke Whale
Fin Whale
Blue Whale

Dave Povey

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