SEABIRDS, DOLPHINS AND WHALES TRIP REPORT From Helgren's Sportfishing, Oceanside Sponsored By: Buena Vista Audubon Society Saturday, January 30, 2010 7:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
By Terry Hunefeld
Sunshine and deep blue skies greeted nearly 90 adventure seekers who boarded Helgren’s flagship “Oceanside 95” Saturday morning 30 Jan 2010 for Buena Vista Audubon Society’s 4th annual “Seabirds, Dolphins and Whales” trip.
Guy McCaskie, Todd McGrath, Mark Billings, Matt Sadowski, Tom Blackman, Stan Walens, Pete Ginsburg and Terry Hunefeld were aboard helping spot, identify and interpret seabirds.
Two species of shearwaters were seen throughout the day: about 175 Black-vented Shearwaters with their snappy flap-flap-flap-glide flight style flew by, some sailing into the wake to check out what all the gull fuss was about. A Pink-footed Shearwater flew up the wake and hung with the boat for a few minutes before it decided that the gull hysteria was about only popcorn, not fish.
Captain Tim brought the boat right up to a Parasitic Jaeger sitting on the water before it flushed. Two other jaegers remained unidentified as to species. We enjoyed seven species of gulls: Western, Ring-billed, Heermann’s, California, Glaucous-winged, Bonaparte’s and Olympic (Glaucous-winged X Western hybrid from the Pacific Northwest. Okay, so it’s not technically its own species).
Before boarding, some participants observed a Peregrine Falcon flying past the high-rise condo at the entrance to the marina. Brandt’s and Double-crested Cormorants, Western, Clarks and Eared Grebes and Royal Terns were noted in the harbor as we headed to the ocean. The wintering Red-necked Grebe was nowhere to be seen during the day, even though we poked our nose into the Camp Pendleton side of the harbor on our way back in at noon.
The weather could not have been more perfect; jackets were shed throughout the morning. Pacific, Red-throated and Common Loons were seen throughout the day.
A Common Murre made a brief appearance flying across our wake and continuing on. We encountered distant Cassin’s Auklets almost immediately. Cassin’s Auklets totaled about 100 throughout the day, considerably less than the 286 Dave logged on the CBC.
18 Rhinocerous Auklets were seen through out the day as well – the same number as Dave Povey saw on the Dec 26 ChristmasBird Count -- a pretty good number when you consider that they have been recorded by Dave at sea on only 7 of his last 22 Oceanside Christmas bird counts, and then usually in numbers of one to three! This is the third “invasion” year in a row for this dark, chunky flat-headed alcid even though the numbers are down from last year.
Gray Whale (c) Tom Blackman
A highlight of the day was a very close encounter with 2 of the 6 Gray Whales we saw during the day. Captain Tim expertly timed the whales and their dives and two of them surfaced less than 100 feet off the starboard side to the thrill of all aboard.
The Gray Whale has no dorsal fin but instead has a row of 6 to 12 humps or “knuckles” (well seen by all on-board the trip). Barnacles and whale lice (amphipods – a shrimp-like crustacean) could easily be seen on the animals.
Gray Whales make an extraordinarily long migration from the Arctic Ocean to Baja, traveling near the coast approximately 12,500 miles each year. They feed in bountiful nutrient-rich Arctic waters in the summer, then travel south to calve and mate in the warm, protected tropical lagoons off Baja, Mexico.
A Fin Whale spout was seen twice by a few participants and the crew during the trip, but we could never get close to those elusive creatures, second in size only to the Blue Whale. Other marine mammals highlights included two pods of Risso’s Dolphins, several with calves. Bottlenose, Long-beaked Common and Pacific White-sided Dolphin were also enjoyed by all, some of the Common Dolphins showing off their SeaWorld acrobatic skills along the side of the boat on several occasions.
As we neared the Oceanside jetty on our return, we passed near the “sea lion buoy” – LOADED with California Sea Lions. On our way back into the harbor we made one last attempt to locate the Red-necked Grebe but instead found Surfbirds, a Ruddy Turnstone and a Wandering Tattler on the jetty while Captain Tim held the 95-foot boat in the surge close to the rocks so that all on board could get good looks at these sometimes elusive rocky shorebirds.
As you can see in the photos, the weather was SoCal fantastic. Captain Tim and first mate Bob worked seamlessly with the leaders to get us on birds and mammals. Today’s trip (super-close Gray Whales, lots of alcids, two flavors of shearwater, 4 species of dolphins, rocky shorebirds, sunshine and the awesome openness of the ocean) was enjoyed by all.
The next SoCal Pelagic with space available is the AOU pelagic aboard Grande on Saturday, February 13 – just opened to the general public – a nine-hour trip to the Nine Mile Bank and Coronados Islands.
Following the AOU trip, the Los Angeles Audubon annual winter pelagic will depart San Pedro on February 27. Last year we had multiple killer views of a very cooperative Manx Shearwater and 1100 Rhino Auikets on a gorgeous day.
The live-aboard Searcher goes in search of Blue Whales and Seabirds on a 3-day Memorial Day weekend outing May 29-31. A target pelagic species for that trip is Red-tailed Tropicbird.
Details and registration/reservation links for the above trips and all SoCal pelagics scheduled for 2010 are posted at: 2010 SOCAL PELAGIC SCHEDULE
In my home town of Grand Rapids, Michigan (home of Gerald Ford and Amway where I was "trapped" for 40 years) it was snowing throughout the day Saturday with a high temperature of 19 degrees Fahrenheit. Boy do I love San Diego!
Trip Report by Mark Billings in association with Matt Sadowski and Lea Squires
Off Oceanside; 0730-1230; cool-mild, mostly clear, calm, and calm sea
California Sea Lion 12 Gray Whale 6 Pacific White-sided Dolphin 10 Long-beaked Common Dolphin 40 Risso's Dolphin 25 Bottlenose Dolphin 10 Fin Whale 1-2
Buena Vista Audubon Annual Winter "Seabirds, Dolphins and Whales" Pelagic Trip from Oceanside Califorina
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