Pacific Wren

Pacific Wren
Pacific Wren

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Pelagic Pinnacle

Saturday, May 16th!  The day had arrived for our pelagic trip, Tommy's first and my second with hopes of a better outcome than my first.  This time we went prepared and with a very positive attitude, which has a lot to do with a successful trip.  We applied a medical patch the night before which helps prevent seasickness and also took some ginger tablets to help settle the stomach.  The next morning waking up was a bit weird as we both felt a little dizzy, but contributed that to the medical patch.  We also took a chewable tablet and ate a mild breakfast and headed across the street to sign in and meet up with the fellow passengers.  I forgot about the dizziness and it must have went away, because it never crossed my mind the rest of the day and I did NOT get sick on this trip.  
 
Check-in was from 5:00 to 6:00 am with a departure time of 6:30 and we were going to be travelling on the great vessel the Grande, one of the largest in the fleet.
 
Grande


As we made our way out into the channel and out towards the open water a look back shows where our ship was moored.  And we sailed past some of the huge Naval ships and a submarine all at anchor.  Fascinating vessels to see up close.





 
Almost immediately part of the crew started chumming by using bags of popcorn, a few kernels at a time.  This was to attract the many gulls, mostly Western Gulls, and they in turn would attract other birds closer to our boat. 
 
 
Our trip was to be a full 12 hours on the Pacific with visits to 9 Mile Bank and as far out as 30 Mile Bank.  We even found buoys out in the main channel and many of them had become longing spots for California Sea Lions.  We also had Flying Fish, some whales and a couple of visits from schools of Common Dolphins.
 
 

 
But since birds were the main focus of this trip, we will get started posting some of the bird photos.  I will say that some of these sea birds are on the small side and many do not approach the boat or scurry off when the boat approached and trying to take photos with a camera with a zoom lens is a bit of a challenge as it is hard to get it to zero in on the bird only.  Keep in mind that while the birds are zigzagging every which way, the boat is also constantly moving up and down and sometimes rolling sideways.  Therefore many of my photos of these smaller birds leave a lot to be desired, but most are at least good enough for a proper ID.
 
Black Storm-Petrel

Black Storm-Petrel
 
 Sooty Shearwater

 Pink-footed Shearwater

Pink-footed Shearwater

Pink-footed Shearwater (middle front) & 3 Sooty Shearwater
 
A flock of Shearwaters and a Western Gull

On Friday both Tommy and I got 2 new life birds apiece, and on this pelagic trip I added 2 more life birds while Tommy racked 'em up with 10 new life birds!  One of my new life birds was the Scripps's Murrelet.  Most were quite skittish and one pair had a chick with them which made them even more difficult to approach.  However, I did manage at least one photo of this new life bird.

Scripps's Murrelet
 
After our visit to 30 Mile Bank we started back towards the harbor, but with a bit of a different route that took us into a bit of Los Angeles County and then back to 9 Mile Bank before heading to shore.  While we had seen several cool seafaring birds, we did not strike it rich with one of the much rare specialties.  However, our luck changed once we arrived back at 9 Mile Bank.  We were still chumming and had plenty of Western Gulls to follow us when all of a sudden I noticed a new and very different bird and I knew immediately what it was and one of the guides quickly called it out, Black-footed Albatross!!!!  An albatross was one of Tommy's target birds, so I quickly turned around to see his grin, but he was not there. I scanned the boat and did not see him anywhere.  I went back to the BFAL and tried to get some photos for myself and twice more I turned around to look for him and on the 3rd try, I saw him headed down the side of the boat looking at me wondering what was going on.  I quickly got him on the albatross so he could enjoy this moment.  (Found out later he was in the bathroom and all he heard over the loud speaker was Black ??????? ????????????.  But he knew it was something special because of the excitement.  About an hour later he was able to finish what he started!)
 
Black Footed-Albatross

 Black Footed-Albatross

Black Footed-Albatross

 Black Footed-Albatross

Black Footed-Albatross
 
 Black Footed-Albatross

Black Footed-Albatross
 
The pinnacle had finally been reached in getting a really cool bird and Tommy's first albatross!  And my first photos of one, even though I had seen one once before on my previous pelagic and I was under the weather. 
 
What happened next was even more astonishing!  Within a minute or so of the appearance of the Black-footed Albatross, one of the bird guides yelled out LAYSAN ALBATROSS!!!  Just that quick, this much rarer species for this area came into join the rest of the birds.  This is only the 2nd record of this species in San Diego County, so you know it is pretty special.  And now I had my second life bird of the day and it was a spectacular one.  After the Laysan Albatross arrived and a few moments later a second Black-footed Albatross appeared, giving us a 3 albatross day.
 
 Laysan Albatross

 Laysan Albatross

 Laysan Albatross

 Laysan Albatross

Laysan Albatross
 
Laysan Albatross beating the Western Gulls to a piece of popcorn (in its beak)
 
This was an epic grand finale to our pelagic trip and to celebrate we finished the evening back on land by dining on seafood!
 
After seeing Tommy's blog post on this glorious day, I lost a bit of interest in finishing my post as his was way more informative and interesting and included a bit of video in it.  But I finally persevered and finished it.  We have one more partial day to finish our trip out west, so I will have one more post to complete this3 part series.   
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  

3 comments:

  1. You had a great day. I think pelagics are one of my favorites. I figure I'll try to do at least 2 a year. I love being on a lake or ocean in the middle of nowhere. Pretty magical stuff. There are some rough ones ahead for you:) The rocky Atlantic Coast is a real charmer:) Just ask Micheal or Kathie! Even on our trek from Rocky Point to the bird islands. Pretty crazy. So keep those patches if they worked for you. Wonderful pics. They are tricky birds all of them! I saw a Black Petrel down in Rocky Point coming into an estuary. I'd love to get better views of these birds again. Really nice collection you have here.

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  2. Congrats on the Grande Albatross adventure! It was fun to read your side of the bathroom/Albatross story. Incredible photos, Gordon!

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  3. Those are some top-notch photos Mr. Gordon! I like your new cover photo. Sounds like you guys had some fun!

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