The Pacific Ocean is a vast, virtually unexplored frontier, enormous beyond comprehension, replete with seldom seen and little understood birds. Stretching west 100 miles beneath the waves, our marine environment contains submarine ridges, domes, and banks that create rich life-zones attractive to a diversearray of seabirds, including albatrosses, shearwaters, petrels, storm-petrels, auklets, and murrelets.
In addition to these life zones, the outer waters and edge of the continental shelf are where we find rarely seen seabirds, such as Laysan Albatross, Red-billed Tropicbird, Murphy's Petrel, Cook’s Petrel, Flesh-footed Shearwater, and mega-rarities like Short-tailed Albatross, Hawaiian Petrel, Stejneger's Petrel, Mottled Petrel, Bulwer's Petrel, Streaked Shearwater, and Red-tailed Tropicbird. Searching for these seldom-seen rarities is the ultimate treasure hunt.
When at sea, the sun, the breeze,the swells, the gentle rocking of the boat can put one in a trance; a feeling of being at one with the ocean and life itself. Birders who enjoy pelagics savor the flavor of the sea touched with the imminent sense of discovery.
Pelagic trips are truly trips into the land of the unknown and unexpected, a land of wonder and wonderful things, which is precisely why they are so addicting. You never know what you will find "out there" even just a few miles out in the Pacific Ocean.
One sunny June morning Peter Ginsburg, Commander, USN (ret) and I were birding with Dave Povey on his 21-foot Parker fishing boat (Dave has done 33 consecutive years of pelagic Christmas bird counts from his boat). No sooner were we five miles offshore when we spotted an enormous feeding flock of gulls, pelicans, cormorants and terns. We motored over to find an amazing spectacle: several acres of suction-cupped tentacles protruding 24 inches above the surface of the sea, waving back and forth, surfacing for 2 seconds then submerging, only to reappear a second later -- a surreal Alice In Wonderland spectacle of hundreds of reddish-brown "tentacle bushes" waving in the wind.
Neither Dave nor Pete had ever witnessed such an event in their combined 50 years at sea. These were probably Humboldt Squid -- also known as Giant Squid -- that typically inhabit depths of 2,000 feet but had evidently driven/followed a school of bait fish to the surface -- and the birds were having a field day. These are the types of mind-boggling scenes you find only by being "out there."
....Fun And Adventure
Albatrosses, giant squid, shearwaters, Harbor Seals, murres, mola mola, fulmars, fast Minke Whales, Mew Gulls, scratched up Risso's Dolphins, leucistic Black-vented Shearwaters, Gray Whales, California Sea Lions, California Flying Fish, skipjack, enormous Blue Whales, Albacore, jaegers, Elephant Seals, Brown Boobies, breaching Humpback Whales, Skua (the pelagic predator of the sky), Sei Whales, alcids, Common Dolphin, kittiwakes, Bottlenose Dolphin, Blue-footed Boobies, albatrosses, Pacific White-sided Dolphin, phalaropes, swordfish, Fin Whales, pelicans, oystercatchers, cormorant, Guadalupe Fur Seals, Arctic Terns --- every trip yields a never-ending array of natural wonders never seen by those who seldom venture from their television sets.
For birders, the allure is even stronger -- rare seabirds that never come near the mainland. Within 150 miles of shore are birds that have only been seen by one in 100,000 human beings. The secret to finding these rare birds (like Laysan Albatross, Red-billed Tropicbird, Murphy's Petrel, Cook’s Petrel, Flesh-footed Shearwater) and mega-rarities (Short-tailed Albatross, Hawaiian Petrel, Stejneger's Petrel, Mottled Petrel, Bulwer's Petrel, Streaked Shearwater, Red-tailed Tropicbird) is to be out there, in deep water life-zones, with knowledgeable leaders who know where and when to look, following temperature and current breaks, chumming, watching, waiting.... and that's why SoCalBirding was born.
Oh, The Places You'll Go!
So... be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your (ocean) is waiting.
So...get on your way!
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