08-28-10

I co-led another Monterey Bay Seabirds trip with Roger Wolfe, Don Roberson, Bruce Elliot and Tim Amaral. We had quite a few Black-footed Albatross as we have all season.







Photo: Tom Grey http://www.pbase.com/tgrey




08-25-10

Baird's Sandpiper at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Wildlife Refuge on the north side of the Dumbarton Bridge. I found three juveniles during lunch.









08-20-10

Another pelagic trip, my third of the season, this time with Roger Wolfe out of Monterey Bay. Below is his full report:

"This was a fun trip. Monterey Seabirds has done more than a hundred trips and some I remember some more than others. It is not just the megararity finds that burn into my memory, it is the group.

Group dynamics vary but when the chemistry is right it makes for a memorable trip and this one will stick in my mind because of its local flavor. Thanks to all you local birders for your show of support. We had a small group with plenty of elbowroom at the rail.

As planned for my birthday gift to myself we headed straight to Santa Cruz waters at Soquel Canyon to try and find a first county record for Hawaiian Petrel in Santa Cruz County. I can dream, right? Well that's all it was today but I'm gonna keep at it.

From the Soquel Hole we paralleled the coast up to the fingers complex of canyons. In the vicinity of Cabrillo Canyon we came upon a flock of storm-petrels sitting on the water, comprised 500 ASHY STORM-PETRELS (that could be 5% of the world population), 6 BLACK STORM-PETRELS and a few FORK-TAILED STORM-PETRELS.

We did ok with cetaceans considering the whale watch boats have been having some difficulty locating any humpback or blue whales lately. We got a call from Kenny Stagnaro on the Velocity that he had a pod of transient type KILLER WHALES that had just killed a sea lion. We had nice views of a pod of four adult females with one youngster. They were in the post feeding playful mode when we arrived, thus we were greeted by one animal doing a headstand underwater while waving her flukes at us.

We also managed to get some decent looks at a MINKE WHALE by following its fluke prints in the glassy calm water and a BASKING SHARK was seen by some of those on the bow.

We had a nice showing of LONG-TAILED JAEGERS and saw a few POMARINE and PARASITICS pursuing the migrant COMMON TERNS and SABINE'S GULLS.

Strangely we saw only one BULLER'S SHEARWATER and skipper Richard Ternullo reports seeing only one in the last 10 days. They must be outside bay waters. Lots of SOOTY and PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATERS around.

Just a couple of weeks ago there were approximately 100 Humpback Whales feeding over the canyon one morning, and they were gone the next. Apparently they have moved offshore. We saw only a few CASSIN'S AUKLETS and only one RHINOCEROS AUKLET so these krill eating birds are somewhere outside of the bay too.

Coming back along Cannery Row we were inundated with BROWN PELICANS who landed on the boat and begged for a handout while perched on the railing and back of seats. These Brown Pelicans are everywhere this year!"





Storm Petrels have the same appeal to me that Swifts do. They are among the most un-bird-like birds I can imagine. Mysterious, I might even say un-knowable, and incredibly cool. This sketch is neither a field sketch or a memory sketch, but a series of notes to myself to help me unravel the mystery of the two dark Storm Petrels we saw yesterday on the Monterey Seabirds voyage out of Fisherman's Warf. It was an incredible day with all three Jaegers, a variety of Shearwaters, and a large raft of mostly Ashy Storm Petrels. Among them were also a few Blacks and even a few Fork-tails. I can't wait to head out next week for another go at these wonderful, mysterious, challenging birds.





08-14-10

I co-led a pelagic out of Half Moon Bay with Alvaro Jaramillo, Dan Singer and John Sterling. It was a fantastic day and gave me the opportunity to refine my skills with some of the most challenging species pairs and trios. I love sorting through the Jaegers, but it is still very difficult for me to identify. No doubt about it... Jaegers are just bad-ass, and we saw all three species on the trip. Obviously, not to scale, although Parasitic is medium sized compared to the other two species. The pale coverts on the back of the LT was fairly useful, as was the relatively narrow flash on the upper wing. ID is very difficult because of so many subtle differences between these three... but it's fun to try.









I labored over this memory sketch for some time. Storm Petrels continue to baffle me, and repeated efforts to draw them have failed. Turns out, they are even harder to see and identify than draw... Thank heaven, once in a while there's a gray one that allows easy ID.


This list was compiled by Alvaro. I've including it here:

PELICANS
Brown Pelican – Harbor.

CORMORANTS
Double-crested Cormorant – all three cormorants were in the harbor. Only one pelagic, a few Brandt’s and many Double-crested.
Brandt's Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant

OYSTERCATCHERS
Black Oystercatcher – flew by the boat as we were getting back in the harbor.

SANDPIPERS
Black Turnstone – several, rocks in the harbor.
Surfbird – outer jetty.
Red-necked Phalarope – the more common phalarope, observed in both counties.
Red Phalarope – Greatly outnumbered by the Red-necked, and I think all seen were in San Francisco.

GULLS
Heermann's Gull – a couple offshore, otherwise in harbor.
California Gull – a few offshore; some in harbor.
Western Gull – common all over, offshore and inshore. Some with large young in the harbor, this is a nesting area for them.
Sabine's Gull – Wow! This is amongst the most beautiful of all gulls, and this was an absolutely wonderful day to study them. Almost all we saw were adults, but one had the brown upperparts and dark tail band of the juvenal plumage. One bird in my photos appears to be a second year bird, a plumage I was not familiar with, see my website for photos.

TERNS
Arctic Tern – this was the more common tern offshore. Almost all were in San Francisco, but 3-4 at the end were in San Mateo. The slimmer look, and much finer trailing edge of the underwing is a good way to separate it from the Common Tern.
Common Tern – One was in San Francisco, at least one that was identified, as the Arctic and Common can be mighty tough to separate from a moving boat.
Elegant Tern – inshore, harbor.

JAEGERS AND SKUAS
Pomarine Jaeger – A great day for jaegers, we saw several adult Pomarines with full spoon-shaped tails. This included one dark morph bird. As well there were several younger or molting winter plumage type birds out there. Most were in San Francisco, but one or two in San Mateo on the way back.
Parasitic Jaeger – A few both in San Mateo and San Francisco.
Long-tailed Jaeger – All were in San Francisco waters, several were seen and they appeared to be adults that had molted their central rectrices. One juvenile was also observed behind the boat.

AUKS MURRES AND PUFFINS
Common Murre – common in both counties.
Pigeon Guillemot – just a couple close to shore, San Mateo.
Cassin's Auklet – This was not a good day for this little alcid, only a few were observed flying by in San Francisco waters.
Rhinoceros Auklet – A few here and there, in both counties.

MAMMALS
Humpback Whale – Several sightings all in the same general area where there was a lot of food showing up on the fish finder. One mother-calf pair was seen, as well as singles. We had great looks at a couple of these fantastic marine mammals.
Harbor Porpoise – glimpsed by some near the harbor.
Pacific White-sided Dolphin – Quick views, and then they disappeared. I missed them altogether!!
Harbor Seal – in harbor.




08-13-10

I co-led an SCVAS trip to the Farallons with David Wimpfheimer, Bob Power and Mike Mammoser. In addition to the target Tufted Puffin, Rhinoceros and Cassin's Auklets, we had a super highlight, a Hawaiian Petrel, which required documentation to the California Bird Records Committee. Here's the full list and below that the description of the Petrel I submitted to Guy McCaskie:

Black-footed Albatross 38-48
Northern Fulmar 120
Fork-tailed Storm-petrel 4-6
Ashy Storm-petrel 2-4
Hawaiian Petrel 1 Probable. Hoping to get an identifiable photo.
Buller's Shearwater 2-3
Sooty Shearwater 2,000+
Pink-footed Shearwater 21
Sabine's Gull 35
Arctic Tern 15
Common Tern 2
Elegant Tern 65
Long-tailed Jaeger 1
Pomarine Jaeger 8
Parasitic Jaeger 6
Cassin's Auklet 12
Rhinoceros Auklet 4
Tufted Puffin 18
Pigeon Guillemot 78
Common Murre 220+
Red Phalarope 8
Red-necked Phalarope 50
Blue Whale 1
Hump-backed Whale 12
Gray Whale 1









Photo: Dave Kutilek birdingpix.blogspot.com


SPECIES:
Hawaiian Petrel (Pterodroma sandwichensis)

DATE:

Saturday, August 13. 2011

LOCATION:
Approximately 5 miles south of South Farallon Island .

CIRCUMSTANCES:
I was co-leading the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society's annual trip to the Farallons with David Wimpfheimer and Bob Power. We left South Farallon Island around midday and headed south (southwest?) to deeper water. We encountered a large Shearwater flock about 5 miles from the island and were working through them. Northern Fulmar, Sooty, and Pink-footed Shearwaters were present. The Hawaiian Petrel briefly caught my attention as it entered the scene because of its white underside and different flight style, but I lost it in the group. I did not recognize it for what it was, but realized it was different. When it reappeared a moment a moment later, David Wimpfheimer also spotted the bird and thought it was not something we had seen yet. We were both looking at it, now getting better looks, and realized it was a Pterodroma of some kind. Neither one of us identified it immediately, but continued to follow it in our binocs and called out field marks as we watched. Several other members of the boat were also following the bird, including two photographers, Jean Myers and Dave Kutilek (birdingpix.blogspot.com). When the bird was gone we examined the field guides on board and quickly eliminated the other possible Petrels on the basis of the birds lack of strong pattern on the dorsal, and arrived at Hawaiian Petrel for the reasons stated below.

VIEWING CONDITIONS:
The bird was off the right side of the boat, in good light between 25-50 yards out for about 2-3 minutes. It did not stop to feed, but made repeated passes through the group before leaving.

OPTICS;
Leica 10x50

DESCRIPTION OF BIRD:
Flight pattern: smooth, fast and high-arching. Often turning a full 90º to a straight up-and-down position providing clear view at dorsal and ventral sides. It flapped only occasionally, keeping its wings mostly below its shoulders in a rowing motion.

Structure: Reminiscent of a Shearwater but with a more bull-headed appearance. Wings appeared quite long, and very sharply pointed. Wings were never held out completely straight, but instead in a crooked position, giving the bird an angular profile. Tail was long and tapered.

Marks:
Dorsal—very uniform brownish-gray, with back and coverts being slightly more pale than flight feathers. Cap appeared darkest of all areas. Tail was also slightly darker than rump, but generally, the bird's topside had a very uniform coloration. Having seen only one Petrel prior to this (Cook's on Monterey Bay ), I was struck by the lack of pattern on the dorsal surface, and the brownish-gray color.

Ventral—shocking white with a trailing edge of wings outlined with a thick blackish margin. The primaries appeared dark on outer half of length. A dark area after the wrist created a thickened leading edge of darkness which tapered to a thinner line as it traced the pale coverts back toward the hip. The leading edge of the underwing was pale from about the wrist to the shoulders.

Head—cap was dark and very prominent. The area around the eyes was enclosed by dark, while the cheek, throat and forehead were bright white. A collar of slightly paler grayish extended down on the upper breast, but stopped abruptly.

Bill—short and thick, compared to the Shearwaters in the group. It was entirely black and hooked.

SKETCH: The attached sketch was made from memory after getting off the boat. The sketch reflects the points I outlined above but not all. It was not made while looking at any field guides or photographs of the species. Looking at Dave Kutilek's photos (birdingpix.blogspot.com) after making the drawing suggests the tail was both darker and more pointed than I show.








Photo: Dave Kutilek birdingpix.blogspot.com


Photo: Dave Kutilek birdingpix.blogspot.com