(Mission Bay, San Diego) Air Temps in the 70s, overcast, visability 15 miles, SW breeze > 5kts, swell 2 ft or less, sea surface temp 69.4F-71.8F. 0600-1530
Peter Ginsburg, Thomas Blackman, Eric Kershner, and I made a beeline from Mission Bay for the deep water west of the "43 Fathom Spot", and SSE of San Clemente Is. (about 45-50 n.miles west of San Diego). We had visions of pterodroma, tropicbirds and the like, but the ocean is fickled, and operates on it's own schedule. I rarely find you can plan on any particular species, and connect (unless it's a Sooty Shearwater, or the like, and even then I wouldn't bet money). I also find that no matter how "slow" the day, one is still surprised by some aspect of the day, such was the case today.
The first area of birds was relatively close to home, perhaps 7-8 mile from the beach. We had good numbers of Black Storm Petrels, Sooty Shearwaters, a couple of Pink-foots, many Elegant Terns, and a nice adult Pomarine Jaeger. This area also had several fast moving pods of Common Dolphin, two pods of Risso's Dolphin ( one of which had a very small juvenile, that made the pod slow moving and easy to approach. The youngster always positioned with adults between it and the boat). We also saw a large whale, that may have been a Blue, in this area.
The next area of birds was as we approached the 182 (about 20 n.miles). We got our first surprise of the day. After seeing a steady stream of Black Storm Petrels crossing the San Diego Trough, we started to see a different flight style, many of which had white rumps, some with faint gray or white on the sides of the rump, some with dark rumps. We'd stumbled on to an area of Leach's Storm Petrel, quite close to shore, for a species, often more common at 60 n. miles + . We also had a couple of Ashy Storm Petrel here, and saw one capture a small fish to have it nearly taken away by a Leach's.
The area of the "43 Fathom Spot" held a few birds, including another Pomarine Jaeger, some Elegant Terns, and perhaps another Leach's or two, but overall was quiet. The area to the west drops off about 5000 ft., to a depth of over 6000 ft. That has always impressed me as one of the most dramatic changes in the sea floor topography in our area. Just imagine the canyon wall at I-5 and Hwy 52 ( Rose Canyon ) times 12 or more. I'm impressed, but obviously the birds were not. Our consolation prize here was a very lonely Cassin's Auklet. Best laid plans and all of that...
The return trip still had a surprise or two left. First was a small reddish brown object perhaps 6 mile south of the "43". A closer look at what I was sure was a kelp ball. Turned out to be a small sea turtle up for a breath of air. I've seen maybe a half dozen sea turtles, in my years on the ocean, around San Diego, but I'm not sure if I'd ever seen one above the border. Photos were taken and Eric later ID it as a Loggerhead Turtle.
We passed an area of jumping Bluefin Tuna, and a lazy old (and very big ) Mola mola, and a few south bound Red-necked Phalaropes (seen all day in all areas) on our way back east towards the 182. About six miles short we had a large pod of very acrobatic Common Dolphin, and noticed that there were dozens, of storm petrels in their wake. Since this was near the area we'd seen the Leach's and Ashy in earlier. I stopped to chum with everything that I had that was oily (beef fat, fish oil, and popcorn), and we gathered more than 40 storm petrels to the boat. Every single one was a Black. ??? From that point east we saw very few storm petrels, all Black Stom Petrels.
The last area of birds was near the "178 Spot" for many feeding Sooties, Pink-foots, and Elegant Terns, over hard charging Common Dolphin.
Pink-footed Searwater 133
Sooty Shearwater 241
Black Storm Petrel 219
Leach's Storm Petrel 12-15
Ashy Storm Petrel 1-2
Brown Pelican 19
Brandt's Cormorant 1
Red-necked Phalarope 126
Western Gull 28
Common Tern 2
Elegant Tern 138
Pomarine Jaeger 2
jaeger sp. 1
Cassin's Auklet 3
Common Dolphin 10-12 pods 2000+
Risso's Dolphin 2 pods 15-20
Blue Whale (?) 1
Elephant Seal 2
California Sealion 1
Flying Fish 5
Bluefin Tuna many
Mola mola 2
Loggerhead Turtle 1
Pink-footed Shearwater (c) Thomas A. Blackman
Sooty Shearwater (c) Thomas A. Blackman
aUG 14 2009 Common Tern (c) Thomas A. Blackman
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