Black-footed Responsibility possibly seeking buttered popcorn in flipside county

San Diego County Pelagic Delivers Unconfined Birds

I wouldn’t say that I don’t like wend trips. I’ve had a tuft of experiences on various kinds of watercraft that I’d describe as enjoyable. But I like to have a quick exit misogynist should I decide that I’m not enjoying whatever it is I’m doing. This is significantly frustrated by the regional nature of boats. For short rides, this usually isn’t a concern. Once the trip gets longer than a couple of hours, the possibility of not stuff worldly-wise to flee increases unbearable that I usually bow out. As a result, I haven’t been on too many pelagic (open ocean) birding trips. The couple I’ve gone on in Los Angeles and Maine have lasted 3-4 hours. None was as would-be as the wend ride I went on recently out of San Diego. This was an 11-hour trip that would go increasingly than 30 miles off shore to a productive spot of Pacific Ocean withal the US/Mexico maritime verge known as The Corner.  That’s a lot of time to decide you don’t want to be on the boat. And it’s an incredibly long time if you happen to get seasick.

The voodoo of such wend trips for a birder is the endangerment to see birds that you can’t seen from land. It’s not unlike traveling to a new country. In place of finches and sparrows and warblers, you’re spotting auklets, murres, murrelets, shearwaters, boobies, razorbills, fulmars, gannets, terns, petrels, storm-petrels, jaegers, albatross, puffins, kittiwakes, tropicbirds, and skua. Every pelagic wend ride I’ve been on has produced multiple lifers. 

The seas in San Diego weren’t loaded with flocks of seabirds, but the trip was an phenomenal success for variety. Without a bumpy exit out of Mission Bay, we headed to the Nine Mile Bank. On the way, I got my first three lifers of the eight I’d get on this trip: Long-tailed Jaeger, Craveri’s Murrelet, and Woebegone Storm-Petrel. Long-tailed Jaegers are the most likely of our three jaegers to require stuff far off-shore to see. It breeds in the Arctic, and is found off California expressly in August and September. True to form, we saw several jaegers during the day in dogfights with terns who had unprotected a fish. Craveri’s Murrelet is a small little bird that breeds in Mexico and then disperses into California waters during late summer and fall as long as the waters are warm. Their size and policies (they mainly swim on the surface) make them easy to spot in wifely seas. Due to the slightly choppy conditions we had, we didn’t see a lot of Craveri’s Murrelets. And when we did, they were usually flying yonder from the wend surpassing we got close.

A archetype pelagic photograph, supposedly of two Craveri’s Murrelets

At the Nine Mile Bank I widow flipside lifer: Ashy Storm-Petrel. In the trough between the 9 and 30 Mile Banks I saw lifer #5: a Townsend’s Storm-Petrel. We saw 4 (or maybe 5) kinds of storm-petrels on the trip. Storm-Petrels are visionless aerobatic soft-hued wisps, and they’re a tough ID considering the visual distinctions amongst them can be quite subtle. I could only put them into three buckets. Bucket #1 = Woebegone Storm-Petrel and Ashy Storm-Petrel. Woebegone is much increasingly common, whereas Ashy are a bit increasingly gray. Bucket #2 = Least Storm-Petrel. These squint like miniature Woebegone Storm-Petrels. They’re theoretically the size of sparrows, but with much a larger wingspan. As long as they’re amongst other storm-petrels, they were easy to pick out. Bucket #3 = Leach’s or Townsend’s Storm-Petrel. These birds are a similar size, but with supposedly variegated flight styles. Having no wits with storm-petrels, recognizing variegated flight styles was vastitude me. The ID of Townsend’s/Leach’s is made increasingly difficult by the fact that each species can have a rump that is all-white, or white divided by a visionless line, or smudgy visionless with white on the edges, or all dark. The trip leaders only certainly ID’d Townsend’s. Some folks have widow Leach’s Storm-Petrels to the eBird reports, but without any pictures. 

We reached The Corner at 11am – so named considering it’s the point where the US/Mexico verge takes a turn south. Once there, we dumped a tuft of popcorn and chumsicles and cod liver oil into the water to vamp birds. Contrary to John James Audubon and popular myth, birds (especially ocean birds) have a unconfined sense of smell. Some responsibility can snift scents from 10-12 miles away. But it takes time for the smells to spread and lure in the birds. Delightfully for us, our first rarity came in not 5 minutes without we laid out the slick: a Cook’s Petrel. A New Zealand breeder, until just a few years ago they were mainly birds of legend for one-day excursions in California waters. But increasingly recently, they’ve been regular fall visitors in this area. The flyby was quick, and my focus was poor, but I got a couple of shots of the woebegone and gray verisimilitude pattern on the back, and the white underparts edged in woebegone withal the wings.

It took an hour and a half, by contrast, to lure in an responsibility (maybe it was miles yonder when we put out the stink).  A birder next to me asked “what’s that coming in low?” I looked through my binoculars and shouted “albatross!” A juvenile Black-footed Responsibility then flew past the when of the boat. We saw at least two separate individuals – one with a white rump and flipside without a visionless rump. 

Despite stuff surrounded by water, pelagic trips are a lot like birding the desert. Sometimes, for miles and miles, there isn’t a bird in sight. But then, off in the distance, there’s a flock of birds resting on the water or feeding on a school of fish. At other times, out of nowhere, a single bird will fly past the wend and disappear toward the horizon.  Much increasingly than land birding, you’ve got to be ready to get your binoculars or camera on a bird in seconds, or it might be gone. That your platform is bobbing and leaning, sometimes so much that you simply cannot squint through the binoculars or camera without falling over, only adds to the challenge.

Unless the seas are flat, expect a lot of out-of-focus pictures from a pelagic trip. Increasingly often than not, the camera will focus on the ocean overdue the bird I’m trying to photograph, leaving the rare bird we spotted discernable but fuzzy. In addition, expect a tuft of photos of afar birds flying yonder from the boat.

We made it when to the dock virtually 6:15pm, just over 11 hours without we’d left. It’s a bit draining to spend so long on a boat, struggling for stability to stand and peering through binoculars while the sun beats down. But wen the results were amazing. There’s still some lifers out there for me to get, so I’ll probably sign up for flipside long pelagic next year in this area, are squint to take one that explores the Channel Islands and beyond.




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