Friday, June 4, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend Pelagic Trip

Here is the report on a memorable Memorial Day Weekend Pelagic Trip.  This account is from the SoCal wbeb site: http://www.socalbirding.com/

The Memorial Day weekend double-overnight Whales and Seabirds trip aboard SEARCHER delivered all we hoped for and more: Sunny skies, warm temperatures, gently rolling seas and pleasant breezes. Highlights included 6 tropicbirds, 6 skua, 4 Laysan Albatrosses and 11 species of cetaceans including Blue Whales, a cooperative Minke Whale, a very late northbound adult Grey Whale and 20 very-rare-this-far-south Northern Right Whale Dolphins.


We departed Fisherman’s Landing at San Diego Harbor Saturday morning, out and up the Nine Mile Bank then crossed the Thirty Mile Bank on our way to San Clemente Island.

SATURDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

• 3 Tropicbirds (all in LA County) en route to San Clemente Island, the first about 15 miles east of Pyramid Cove, with two more a bit closer to the cove.

• 4 northbound individual South Polar Skuas.

• 1 very late migrating adult California Grey Whale.

• 300 Long-beaked Common Dolphin.

• 1 Black-footed Albatross.

• 1 Sabine’s Gull.

• 100 Sooties and 50 Pinkies.

• 50 Black Storm-Petrels.

• 5 Fin Whales.

• 2 Mako Sharks.

• 6 California Flying Fish.

We anchored in San Clemente Island’s Pyramid Cove for dinner and bedtime.

We departed Pyramid Cove at 3 a.m. and awoke Sunday at dawn about 20 miles east of the Cortez Bank to see another Skua and our first Leach’s Storm-Petrels of the trip. We spent the morning heading south over 500-1000 fathom deep water, meandering towards the old munitions dumping grounds then northeastward towards the 60 Mile Bank. It proved to be a very productive course. We spent the entire day in Los Angeles county waters.

Before breakfast we encountered our first of several groups of Xantus’s Murrelets with chicks, diving and resurfacing, but not flying. While enjoying the close-up murrelets we found ourselves in the middle of a great westward stream of Sooty Shearwaters flying by at the rate of 6000 an hour. We put out some oil and hung around for a while longer, watching 75-100 Sooties a minute fly by. By the time we had worked our way south beyond 4 or 5 mile wide “Sooty Freeway” we had counted more than 5,000 of them – all westbound on a mission.

SUNDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

• 3 Laysan Albatross

• 14 Black-footed Albatross

• 6200 Sooty Shearwater

• 58 Pink-footed Shearwater

• 200 Leach’s Storm-Petrels (see species list below for races)

• 86 Black Storm-Petrels

• 6 Sabine’s Gulls

• 2 Skua

• 17 Xantus’s Murrelets

• 3 Red-billed Tropicbirds

• 5 of the northern (nominate) race of Leach’s Storm-Petrel, plus a nice selection of Townsend’s and Chapman’s.

• 10 Red Phalarope

• 2 Northern Fulmar

• 2 Guadalupe Fur Seal

• 1 Minke Whale – we could see the white band on the pectoral fins

• 9 Fin Whales – white right jaw visible in the clear blue water

• 88 Pacific White Sided Dolphin, many of them hurtling themselves in somersaults out of the water

• 20 Northern Right Whale Dolphin, very uncommon in waters this far south

• 1 Japanese glass ball



MONDAY HIGHLIGHTS

Monday morning we awoke in Mexico about ten miles offshore of Rosarito and followed 2 very cooperative Humpback Whales, many participants watching the whale show from the galley while enjoying Chef Chaz’s delicious breakfast. Captain Art Taylor then found the final whales of the day, a pair of Blue Whales – the largest animal to ever live on the earth.

We spent more than an hour with the Blue Whales before sailing ten miles north to the Coronados Islands to view the Brown Booby colony. We counted 36 boobies including 3 chicks. We also enjoyed good looks at Black Oystercatchers and Elephant and Harbor Seals before heading back to San Diego.