Visibility was under 100 meters as Grande sailed out of the San Diego harbor Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m. with 30 passengers aboard the final Buena Vista Audubon Society pelagic charter of 2008. Within a mile of shore Black-vented Shearwaters flew close to Grande to investigate the chum-attracted gull commotion created by master chummer Wes T. Fritz.
Leaders/guides/experts onboard were Todd McGrath, Jon Feenstra, Dave Povey, Guy McCaskie, Peter Arthur Ginsburg, Brennan Mulrooney and Terry Hunefeld.
By the time we were 3 miles offshore the fog had dissipated. It was a great day for seabirding. Just a bit of wind, just a bit of sun, calm seas.
We saw more than 300 Black-vented Shearwaters, a Glaucous-winged Gull, 150+ Cassin’s Auklets, 2 Rhinoceros Auklets and 150 Bonaparte’s Gulls all before we reached the Nine-mile Bank. About 6 miles offshore Guy McCaskie called out “BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE!!”
Along the Nine-mile Bank (a nine-mile long underwater mountain range eleven nautical miles offshore) we saw another 125 Cassin’s Auklets, 60 more Bonaparte’s Gulls, and 2 Red Phalaropes while still in U.S. waters.
We turned south and followed the Nine-mile Bank into Mexican water, seeing 4 Pink-footed Shearwaters, 125 Cassin’s Auklets, 27 Pacific Loons, 75 Bonaparte’s Gulls, and a Peregrine Falcon before reaching the islands.
Approaching North Coronados Island we saw a sparrow (probably Chipping or White-crowned), apparently en route to North Coronados Island, just in time to watch a Peregrine Falcon snatch it from mid-air. Doug Aguillard obtained a photo of the Peregrine’s meal seconds before it was harvested: Doug's Photo
We counted 14 Brown Boobies on middle rock. Also seen on/around the islands: 10 Black Oystercatchers and 2 hybrid Black/American oystercatchers, a Wandering Tattler, a Spotted Sandpiper, a Say’s Phoebe and 9 Surf Scoters. 10 Elephant Seals were found lounging on the south side of Middle Coronados Island with a few Harbor Seals and 100 California Sea Lions (scroll down to photos).
We departed the islands to explore the waters over the submarine Coronado Canyon, finding 3 more Pink-footed Shearwaters and 2 Sooty Shearwaters and a Pomarine Jaeger. Notable were 2 COMMON MURRES, the first to be recorded in Baja since 1991! Black-vents, Bonaparte’s and Cassin’s remained plentiful.
At the U.S. – Mexican Border, we encountered two south-heading Humpback Whales. We followed them for about a mile while they put on a show for us, lobtailing, fin-slapping, diving with a show of flukes and spy-hopping. Suddenly, a 35-footer breached and shot straight up from the water, 90 percent of the mammal visible before it crashed back to the ocean. All agreed that this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, at once both awe inspiring and spectacular! (Scroll down to photos)
While 20 participants were on the bow, transfixed by the Humpback Whale show, a Short-tailed Shearwater came up the wake. Todd McGrath obtained a great photo of this bird in Mexico.
On the way back in to the harbor, about a mile off the mainland, we encountered a Parasitic Jaeger, probably the same one that field biologist Lea Norton has seen repeatedly offshore from North Island this season.
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