Black-Footed Albatrosses In Two Countries; 650 Black Storm-Petrels; Xantus's Murrelets With Chicks; 22 Brown Boobies; 30 late Northern Fulmars GRANDE - San Diego Sponsored By: Buena Vista Audubon Society May 16, 2009 7:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
400+ Black Storm-Petrels off San Diego 16 May 2009
Participants from 4 states boarded Grande as a Caspian Tern and Black-crowned Night Heron glided overhead and Least Terns plunge-dived in the harbor around the dock.
After exiting the harbor we motored northwest to the north end of the nine-mile long Nine Mile Bank about 13 miles offshore. En route we encountered Common Loons on the water and small flocks of Pacific Loons migrating northward. Our first tubenose, a Sooty Shearwater, buzzed Grande two miles offshore, the first of 44 for the day.
Common Dolphins frolicked. Cassin’s Auklets, Red-necked Phalaropes and Black Storm-Petrels were seen in increasing numbers as we approached the life zone at the Nine Mile Bank. A day-fishing boat was surrounded by more than 60 Elegant Terns. Eleven miles offshore, three Brown-headed Cowbirds accompanied by a Red-winged or Tricolored Blackbird flew overhead, followed later by an unidentified hummingbird.
Upon reaching the Nine Mile Bank we were greeted by a Western (Pac-slope) Flycatcher and our first of 30 Pink-footed Shearwaters for the day came up the wake to investigate Dave Povey’s raucous gull flock. Brennan Mulrooney spotted an albatross more than a mile away.
Townsend's Warbler and Common Yellowthroat hitched a ride to the islands.
Black Storm-Petrels and Cassin’s Auklets could be seen loping in almost any direction. A Townsend’s Warbler and a Common Yellowthroat landed on Grande within ten minutes of each other – within a half hour, they were pals, hopping along the rails, hawking for insects, climbing on participants and even investigating the inside of the wheelhouse. We gave them a lift to the Coronados Islands.
Black-footed Albatross 12 miles offshore San Diego (c) Jimmy McMorran
Pink-footed Shearwaters increased in abundance as we motored by three rafts of Black Storm-Petrels totaling nearly 300 individuals and 30 NORTHERN FULMARS of all color morphs. Brennan’s distant albatross, an adult Black-footed, finally caught up to the boat following the delightful scent of Dave Povey’s chum-o-matic-fish-oil slick. It was later joined by an older individual. The older bird followed us off-and-on all the way down the Nine Mile into Mexico, eventually joined by a third, so participants logged two BFALs in each country.
Humpback Whale - Nine Mile Bank - by Jimmy McMorran - may 16 2009
Marine mammals and birdlife was very active along the Nine Mile bank. After getting all participants good looks at a Rhinoceros Auklet (one of eight for the trip) we were surprised to find a Humpback Whale. We all watched it surface and submerge several times with a great display of flukes, then turned Grande to head south along the Nine Mile Bank. But the Humpie wasn’t finished –it surprised the bejeebers out of us by surfacing right alongside the port side with a big blow.
Shortly thereafter we had several good looks at one (perhaps 2) mystery whales. Several leaders thought they saw a "bottle nose" and the overbite which broke the water when it surfaced at a 45 degree angle followed by the steep forehead. These animals recalled large Bottle- nosed Dolphin, but were twice to three times as large, and much slower moving. After the head surfaced and submerged we could see the long sleek tube-like uniformly dark gray back for a count of one-two-three until a small dorsal fin came into view. Dave Povey thought it (they) was 30 to 40ft. in length. Terry thought they appeared more like 20 feet, slim, uniform dark gray, falcate medium sized dorasl on placed behind center. No flukes were seen. Conclusions? Don't know, but possibly a beaked whale or False Killer Whale.
The as we motored south down the Nine Mile, we saw our first of 37 Xantus’s Murrelets. As we crossed the border we were finding them regularly, some with downy young. Least Terns were also plentiful along the Nine Mile – we counted 23 in the nine miles from the northen tip of the bank to the Coronado Canyon. Black Storm-Petrels, Cassin’s Auklets and Pink-footed Shearwaters were frequent.
In Mexican waters we encountered a pod of Risso's Dolphins accompanied by three Bottlenose Dolphins. The Bottlenose Dolphins peeled off the group and made a quick pass under the bow, seen by about 5 passengers. About half the boat got a brief ten-second view of a nearly submerged Elephant Seal, it’s head sticking out of the water, looking for all the world like a piling in the middle of the ocean.
Barbie Carlson and Brennan Mulrooney help participants count boobies and oystercatchers
At Booby Rock we counted 3 Black Oystercatchers and 22 Brown Boobies, including one downy white chick with black primaries. Captain James backed Grande right up to the rock, allowing participants to spread out on the aft deck and get good looks at the boobies and oystercatchers.
On the way home we headed slightly west of north and re-crossed Coronado Canyon and followed the east edge of the Nine Mile Bank north until we were due west of downtown San Diego. We made the turn east when Paul Lehman spotted an enormous flock of Black Storm-Petrels on the water. It was nearly 5:00 p.m. and they were staging en masse, awaiting dusk to return to their burrows on the Coronado Islands. Together they made for a pretty incredible sight.
Dave Povey counting boobies as Captain James keeps Grande 30 feet from Booby Rock
Pacific Loon 10 Common Loon 4 Black-footed Albatross 2 Pink-footed Shearwater 18 Sooty Shearwater 12 Black Storm-Petrel 50 Brown Booby 22 (including one downy chick) Pelagic Cormorant 1 Black Oystercatcher 3 Least Tern 15 Elegant Tern 65 Xantus's Murrelet 29 Cassin's Auklet 165 Rhinoceros Auklet 2 Townsend's Warbler 1 Common Yellowthroat 1
Fish & Marine Mammals
Beaked or Fale Killer Whale 1-2 Humpback Whale 1 Elephant Seal 1 Risso’s Dolphin 8 Bottlenose Dolphin 3 Common Dolphin 3 Mola Mola 1
Booby Rock - Los Coronados Islands - from Grande
Brown Booby youth (c) Doug Galasko
Booby Love (c) Doug Galasko 5-16-09
Captain James McDaniels - Grande
Eitan, Barbie, Jan, Jay, Stan, Guy
This 9-hour trip departs Point Loma Sportfishing at 7:00 a.m. to explore the bird-rich Nine-mile Bank from the comfortable 85-foot live-aboard Grande. On our way out of San Diego harbor we'll motor slowly by the live bait tank barges for super-close-ups of lounging sea lions (with the big bulls baying to beat the band), several hundred Brandt's cormorants, several species of gulls, and dozens of shorebirds, egrets and herons. On our way out of the harbor we'll check for oystercatchers amongst the cobbles of Ballast Point.
On this trip we expect to see two to four species of dolphins (Bottlenose, Common, Pacific White-sided and Risso's) and numerous seabirds including phalarope, fulmars, shearwaters, auklets, murres, murrelets, and jaegers. This is also a good time of year to find Pink-footed and Sooty (and who knows what other?) Shearwaters - perhaps Short-tailed?
After exploring the birds and sea mammals at the Nine-mile bank, we'll turn south and cross the international border into Mexico, exploring the waters over the Coronado Canyon along the way. The rugged, scenic Coronados Islands are home to breeding Western Gulls, Brandt's Cormorants, Brown Boobies, Black Oystercatchers and Brown Pelicans.
While at the Coronados Islands we'll observe immense breeding colonies of Brandt's Cormorants, Western Gulls and Brown Pelicans. We'll sift through the Brown Booby colony on Middle Rock and try find the elusive Blue-footed and Masked Boobies that have been seen off and on for the past two years. We expect to see dozens snoozing Harbor Seals and California Sea Lions.
What's great about Grande is that Captain James will put Grande right up next to the cliffs for excellent views of the breeding colonies, nests, and fledglings. Just 100 feet away we should see rocky shore birds such as Black and American Oystercatchers, Wandering Tattler, Black Turnstone and Surfbird. Peregrine Falcons are often seen at the islands; on one of our 2008 trips, we were trying to identify a sparrow flying over the water when a Peregrine stooped and snared dinner right in front of us!
Rarities: A Cory’s Shearwater was seen on the islands for 3 years (2005-2007) but was not been seen in 2008. An immature Blue-footed Booby was seen with the Brown Booby colony on our Grande October 4, 2008 trip. A Masked Booby was seen 19 Jan 2008 and 10 Feb 2008 on a Bird Festival Pelagic trip. 2 or 3 pair of Craveri's Murrelet were seen from Grande 4 Oct 2008 on the return from the islands to San Diego. A Red-footed Booby rode the mast of Grande from Ensenada, Mexico to San Diego Harbor, directly past the islands on September 28, 2008.
After hunting for American Oystercatchers and inspecting the Brown Booby colony for Blue-footed, Masked or Red-footed Boobies, we'll peek around the back of Middle Island to see if there are any once-thought-extinct Elephant Seals on the cobble beach.
This trip is appropriate for children 10 years and older.
RESERVATIONS BY PHONE (Check or Credit Card): Telephone Point Loma Sportfishing (the landing) seven days a week at (619) 223-1627. Tell them to wish to make a reservation for a birding trip on Grande and give them the date of departure.
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HOW TO PREPARE: Click for tips on how to prepare, what to wear, what to bring and when to arrive.
EXPECTED SPECIES: What we see depends on the season, the itinerary and how far from shore we venture. Learn more about what species we will probably see and what species might be seen.
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