San Diego to the Continental Shelf Edge and the Tanner Bank
1-3 November 2008
42 birders aboard the 85-foot live-aboard Grande watched a golden sun rise over the city skyline as we departed Point Loma Sportfishing Landing at 7:10 a.m. on Saturday morning 1 Nov 2008 on the last SoCal deep-water pelagic of the season. As we motored past Ballast Point we spotted 3 Black Oystercatchers and an apparent AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER (showing no sign of hybridization from 300 meters) on the cobbles with a flock of Heermann’s Gulls.
Immediately out of the harbor we passed through a “zone” of hundreds of Black-vented Shearwaters. Cassin’s Auklets were plentiful. The Nine-mile bank produced our first of 6 Pomarine Jaegers for the day, a Common Murre and our first Pink-footed Shearwaters. An exceptionally close-to-shore FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER was 17 miles offshore; 2 HYPOLEUCUS XANTUS’S MURRELETS were well seen a bit further out with about 20 migrating Common Loons (all San Diego County).
We entered Los Angeles County near the 182-Fathom-Spot on “The Ridge”, an underwater feature climbing to the shallower waters of the Thirty-mile bank, where we saw 5 Common Terns, 2 more Poms and more Common Loons. Further out, the 43-Fathom-Spot at the Forty-mile bank produced our trip SABINE’S GULL.
Mammals on Saturday included a mixed-group of Long-beaked Common Dolphin and Pacific White-sided Dolphin. A Minke Whale, the smallest of the rorquals, lived up to its elusive and difficult-to-spot reputation, but was still seen by most participants.
After a warm, beautiful day on calm seas we enjoyed a delicious dinner after sunset 25 km southwest of San Clemente Island in the roomy dining room of Grande before setting our clocks back and heading to our beds in the bunkhouse for a good night’s sleep.
Pre-dawn birders early Sunday morning saw Cassin’s Auklets and Leach’s Storm-Petrels in Grande’s lights. Birders munched on breakfast burritos while watching the sun rise as Grande motored through gentle 3 foot swells. The wind picked up a bit to 5-10 knots when the call of TROPICBIRD went out. Late sleepers stumbled out of the bunkhouse to the sight of a Red-billed Tropicbird high overhead. A bit later Grande was surrounded by hundred of Short-beaked Common Dolphin frolicking, leaping, bow-riding and entertaining us with their exceptional acrobatics.
A V-flock of about 30 Brant Geese flew overhead on their nonstop migration from Alaska to central Baja. A chum slick at the 2,000 fathom-line (12,000 feet deep) on the continental shelf edge attracted a Sooty Shearwater and some Leach’s Storm-petrels and for most participants, a lifer MAKO SHARK. Chum-expert Wes Fritz had the baby shark almost eating from his hand.
As we cruised northeast over the shelf edge we encountered 4 late-migrating LONG-TAILED JAEGERS. We began seeing the first of dozens of Fin Whales, more jaegers and a few distant beaked whales. Later in the morning as we followed a slick created by a 2.5 degree temperature break, we encountered 600 Red Phalarope an hour for several hours. As we climbed back to the shallower (2,000 foot deep) water at the top of the shelf edge, we encountered another Red-billed Tropicbird that delighted the group with multiple low passes directly over Grande.
Sunday’s sightings included eleven Poms, 6 Long-tailed and 5 jaeger (sp), 2 Bonaparte’s Gulls, about 30 Leach’s and 8 Storm-Petrel (sp), a good-sized Blue Shark cruising right down the side of Grande, 2 Blue Whales, 3 Mola-mola (Ocean Sunfish, one big 6-footer). Several participants saw what they thought was a Least Storm-Petrel, missed by most leaders.
After a roast beef dinner many on Grande’s stern enjoyed the spectacle of a 4-day-old crescent moon framed by Jupiter above and Venus below. Two of Jupiter’s moons were visible in binoculars. We awoke at dawn Monday morning just off Point Loma, arriving back at the dock at 6:00 a.m.
Scroll down for Species List and more Photos
Saturday's checklist begins at the San Diego harbor mouth at dawn, traveling west 125 km at 7-8 knots to sunset at a point 25 km ssw of San Clemente Island. List includes all species seen at sea except pelicans & cormorants. List does not include birds seen at or near San Diego harbor except oystercatchers at Ballast Point.
Common Loon 35
Eared Grebe 2
Pink-footed Shearwater 14
Flesh-footed Shearwater 1
Black-vented Shearwater 300
American Oystercatcher 1
Black Oystercatcher 3
Red-necked Phalarope 30
Red Phalarope 25
Sabine's Gull 1
Heermann's Gull 40
Western Gull 120
California Gull 5
Common Tern 20
Pomarine Jaeger 6
Common Murre 1
Xantus's Murrelet 4 (2 hypoleucus)
Cassin's Auklet 150
White-sided Dolphin 30
Long-beaked Common Dolphin 500
Minke Whale 1
Distance covered: 125 km.
Input for the trip list came from observers Todd McGrath, Paul Lehman, Matt Sadowski, David Pereksta, Greg Gillson, Wes Fritz, Brennan Mulrooney, Rich Hoyer and Peter A. Ginsburg.
Sunday’s checklist begins at dawn 260 km west of Point Loma San Diego in Ventura County waters at the beginning of the continental shelf drop off in 1000 fathoms (6000 feet) of water, then motoring at 8-9 knots west to the 2000 fathom line (12,000 feet) then north and east along the shelf edge for 20 km, then east back into LA county waters until sunset at the Tanner Bank approx 65 km wsw of San Clemente Island. List includes all species seen at sea except regular gulls.
Pink-footed Shearwater 7
Sooty Shearwater 2
Leach's Storm-Petrel 30 both nominate race and chapmani
Least Storm-Petrel (1 possible)
storm-petrel (sp) 8
Red-billed Tropicbird 2
Red Phalarope 2000
Bonaparte's Gull 2
Common Tern 10
Pomarine Jaeger 11
Long-tailed Jaeger 6
jaeger (sp) 5
Cassin's Auklet 2
Mola Mola 3
Blue Shark 1
Mako Shark 2
Beaked Whale 3
Fin Whale 30
Blue Whale 2
Short-beaked Common Dolphin 500
Distance covered: 135 km.
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