September 2008 - Observing Black-footed Albatrosses and Buller's Shearwaters in the wake from Searcher's top deck
Download Trip Log with interactive map, trip route, and GPS coordinates of all birds seen. Log is in Google Earth format, you must have Google Earth running on your computer. Google Earth is a free download.
28 passengers from 3 countries and 15 cities departed San Diego's Fisherman's Landing on a sunny, warm Labor Day afternoon, bound for a 5-day pelagic expedition on the 95-foot live-aboard Searcher through the Channel Islands, over deep water canyons and along the continental shelf-edge.
Highlights of the Sept 1-5, 2008 trip included Red-billed Tropicbird, Cook's Petrel and Wilson's Storm-Petrel.
All participants had close views of more than 200 Leach's Storm-Petrels, including dark-rumped Leach's (O.I. chapmani) and Guadalupe Island summer-breeding Leach's (O. I. socorroensis) that some authorities believe should be elevated to full species status.
Also of interest were close-ups of both subspecies of Xantus's Murrelet, 2 Northern Fulmar, a first-year Ring-billed Gull 110 miles offshore at the Cortez Bank (!), a surprising (for SoCal) 169 Buller's Shearwater, 1147 Pink-footed Shearwater, 578 Black Storm-Petrel, 25 Sabine's Gull, 5 Skua, 13 LT Jaeger, 20 Poms, 18 Ashy Storm-Petrels, 4 Black-footed Albatross, 6 Blue Whale, 14 Fin Whale and a Sperm Whale.
Vagrants, lost, and out of place species over deep water included Greater Yellowlegs, Savannah Sparrow, Black Turnstone McGillivray's Warbler, Spotted Sandpiper, Mourning Dove and the inevitable (3) Brown-headed Cowbirds.
Monday afternoon we birded the north edge of the Coronado Canyon, then headed north up the Nine-mile Bank towards the Channel Islands. Black-vented, Pink-footed and Sooty Shearwater were plentiful, as were Black Storm-Petrels (197).
Tuesday morning at dawn found us just south of Anacapa Island where we counted 700 Pink-footed Shearwater over the course of the morning. This was a "Skua-Slam" day with 4 South Polar Skua, 14 Poms, 2 Parasitic and 3 Long-tailed Jaeger.
Excellent weather allowed us to wake up Wednesday morning further north than Searcher has ever ventured - over Arguello Canyon where many on deck got fleeting glimpses of a Cook's Petrel. After breakfast we cruised over the Rodriguez and San Juan Seamounts were several participants got a glimpse of a fast-departing Red-billed Tropicbird. The deep water was right for Leach's Storm-Petrels (140) and Long-tailed Jaegers (8) with a sprinkling of the other jaegers/skua for our second "Skua-slam". After dinner, the second Red-billed Tropicbird of the day flew just 20 feet overhead to Searcher's lights.
Thursday we awoke at a flat-calm Cortez Bank, 110 miles west of San Diego. The sweet spot of the day came at the Sixty-mile Bank where Wes Fritz laid an enormous slick attracting hundreds of storm-petrels, including 2 Least and a Wilson's.
Bob Flood of Isles of Scilly, England, who is producing several videos for publication with an emphasis on identifying seabird flight-styles, obtained excellent videos of the storm-petrel flocks we encountered at the 60-mile Bank.
Special thanks to our leaders: Todd McGrath, who threaded us through the canyons, seamounts and ridges of the California bight while finding and identifying birds at astounding distances; Paul Guris (See Life Paulagics), a grizzled 25-year Atlantic Ocean pelagic veteran leader and beer coinsure who shared his wealth of flight gizz knowledge with 28 guests all week; Jon Feenstra, our entertaining and expert emcee, who provided detailed commentary of the significance what was being seen via the Searcher's public address system; and Santa Barbara's Wes Fritz for keeping birds off the stern with popcorn, fish-oil and beef-fat and chumming up tubenoses.
Thank-you to Art Taylor and Celia Condit, Searcher's owners, who continue to block out two weeks every year from their busy natural history tours exclusively for birders, enabling us to wander and ramble the California bight in search of rarities.
An additional thank you to Jon Feenstra who compiled and submitted our 3800+ sightings to eBird, broken down by regions. Jon's reports are included below.
Thanks, too, to Matthew Sadowski who brought his GPS and kept a very granular trip log. When transcribed, Matt's log will contain coordinates of all birds seen on the trip. Matt will post his compilation to CalBirds in the form of a Google Earth file after he spreads the nearly 4000 records to their respective coordinates.
It was a great week at sea. There is nothing else quite like being out there. You never know what you?ll see, you?re seeing seabirds as soon as you leave the harbor, you're surrounded by experts who are happy help you improve your knowledge and skills, and no matter what the weather, you feel one with nature. This past week, new friends were made, life birds logged, and fun was had by all. We hope you will join us on one of our upcoming pelagic trips.
Lloyd Snyder of Jonesboro (694 ABA birds) saw 7 life birds on Searcher and pronounced, "This is the most fantastic pelagic trip I?ve ever been on, worth every penny I paid and more than I hoped for ? and you can print that!"
Nine Mile Bank – USA 9/1/08 This list includes all birds recorded from exiting SD harbor, the entire length of the 9 Mile Bank (US), just north of there - all SD County water Northern Shoveler 6 Pink-footed Shearwater 64 Sooty Shearwater 23 Black-vented Shearwater 75 Ashy Storm-Petrel 3 Black Storm-Petrel 200 Brown Pelican 63 Brandt's Cormorant 9 Red-necked Phalarope 70 Red Phalarope 6 phalarope sp. 15 Heermann's Gull 51 Western Gull 108 Sabine's Gull 23 Black Tern 1 Common Tern 28 Common/Arctic Tern 1 Royal Tern 2 Elegant Tern 49 Pomarine Jaeger 1 Parasitic Jaeger 1 Long-tailed Jaeger 1 Cassin's Auklet 3 Rhinoceros Auklet 1
Anacapa Island - Southern Waters 9/2/08 Waters south of Anacapa Island to the NE corner of the Sta Cruz Basin - all in VenCo waters.
Pink-footed Shearwater 700 Buller's Shearwater 2 Sooty Shearwater 52 Black Storm-Petrel 88 Brown Pelican 39 Greater Yellowlegs 1 Black Turnstone 1 Red-necked Phalarope 233 phalarope sp. 0 Heermann's Gull 2 Western Gull 42 Common Tern 2 South Polar Skua 1 Pomarine Jaeger 3 Rhinoceros Auklet 1 Mourning Dove 1 Savannah Sparrow 1
Santa Cruz Basin - SBA County 9/2/08 This list includes birds from the north and west edges of the Sta Cruz Basin - all in SBA County Pink-footed Shearwater 200 Buller's Shearwater 12 Sooty Shearwater 31 Brown Pelican 5 Brandt's Cormorant 2 Red Phalarope 1 Heermann's Gull 5 Western Gull 85 Common Tern 1 Elegant Tern 1 South Polar Skua 2 Pomarine Jaeger 5 Parasitic Jaeger 1 jaeger sp. 2 Cassin's Auklet 2
Santa Rosa Flats - SBA County 9/2/08 Birds seen over the south end of the Santa Rosa Flats, near the Santa Rosa Buoy, and the 311 Bank. All in SBA County. Pink-footed Shearwater 37 Buller's Shearwater 2 Sooty Shearwater 6 Brown Pelican 2 Red-necked Phalarope 3 Heermann's Gull 1 Western Gull 56 Common Tern 2 Arctic Tern 3 Common/Arctic Tern 2 Pomarine Jaeger 5 Parasitic Jaeger 1 Long-tailed Jaeger 2 jaeger sp. 3 Cassin's Auklet 3 Brown-headed Cowbird 1
San Miguel Island Pelagic waters 9/2/08 Birds recorded between the 311 Bank and Richardson Rock. The track was mostly along the 500 fathom line. Northern Fulmar 2 Pink-footed Shearwater 215 Buller's Shearwater 10 Sooty Shearwater 27 Brown Pelican 8 Brandt's Cormorant 1 Red-necked Phalarope 7 Heermann's Gull 2 Western Gull 66 Arctic Tern 1 Royal Tern 4 South Polar Skua 1 Pomarine Jaeger 1 Long-tailed Jaeger 1 Cassin's Auklet 1
Arguello Canyon/948 Bank - SBA County 9/3/08 Species recorded at the 948 Bank starting at dawn (with a chum slick) and waters just to the south. Black-footed Albatross 1 Cook's Petrel 1 Buller's Shearwater 5 Sooty Shearwater 8 Leach's Storm-Petrel 5 Black Storm-Petrel 2 Arctic Tern 2 Common/Arctic Tern 1 Pomarine Jaeger 2 Long-tailed Jaeger 7 jaeger sp. 4 Cassin's Auklet 1
Rodriguez Seamount - SBA County 9/3/08 Recorded in the vicinity of the Rodriguez Seamount which was passed while en route from Arguello Canyon to the San Juan Seamount. Pink-footed Shearwater 1 Buller's Shearwater 80 Sooty Shearwater 2 Leach's Storm-Petrel (Dark-rumped) 16 Leach's Storm-Petrel (White-rumped) 3 Ashy Storm-Petrel 4 Least Storm-Petrel 1 Red-billed Tropicbird 1 phalarope sp. 1 Sabine's Gull 3 Arctic Tern 2 South Polar Skua 1 Pomarine Jaeger 1 jaeger sp. 4 Xantus's Murrelet 2 Brown-headed Cowbird 1
San Juan Seamount - SBA County 9/3/08 Recorded within about 30 miles north of the San Juan Seamount. The RB Tropicbird was later at night (9:30PM) east of the San Juan and may have been in VenCo waters. Black-footed Albatross 1 Buller's Shearwater 34 Sooty Shearwater 1 Leach's Storm-Petrel 120 Black Storm-Petrel 1 Least Storm-Petrel 1 Red-billed Tropicbird 1 Red Phalarope 6 Parasitic Jaeger 1 Long-tailed Jaeger 1 jaeger sp. 4 Xantus's Murrelet 4 MacGillivray's Warbler 1
Cortez Bank 9/4/08 Western and southern edges of Cortez Bank, and waters SE en route to Mushroom Bank. Pink-footed Shearwater 17 Buller's Shearwater 1 Leach's Storm-Petrel 33 Black Storm-Petrel 5 Red-necked Phalarope 2 Red Phalarope 11 phalarope sp. 4 Heermann's Gull 2 Ring-billed Gull 1 Western Gull 54 Arctic Tern 2 Pomarine Jaeger 2 Long-tailed Jaeger 1 jaeger sp. 2
Sixty-mile Bank - Los Angeles County 9/4/08 Includes birds recorded just north of the Mushroom Bank, along the north corner of the Mushroom, across the Sixty-mile Bank (including big chum slick), and just north en route to Butterfly Bank. Black-footed Albatross 2 Pink-footed Shearwater 2 Sooty Shearwater 1 Wilson's Storm-Petrel 1 Leach's Storm-Petrel 38 Black Storm-Petrel 275 Least Storm-Petrel 2 Brandt's Cormorant 1 Red-necked Phalarope 8 phalarope sp. 2 Western Gull 2 Common/Arctic Tern 2 Parasitic Jaeger 1 Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Butterfly Bank - LA County 9/4/08 Includes birds seen on and just south of the Butterfly Bank. We also sat on a slick on the bank for a time. The Leach's included one Guadalupe type. Pink-footed Shearwater 3 Leach's Storm-Petrel 3 Black Storm-Petrel 7 Brandt's Cormorant 2 Western Gull 3 Arctic Tern 3
This site is owned and operated by the Buena Vista Audubon Society 2202 South Coast Highway, Oceanside, CA 92054 (c) 2007-2010 Buena Vista Audubon Society, Oceanside, California. All rights reserved. All photos copyrighted.