Ahh, California. Home to sunshine, fog, the Golden-gate Bridge, and life-birds I can’t see anywhere else. I’ve wanted to try an out-of-state pelagic for a while, and when I heard Debi Shearwater (of Shearwater Journeys) was retiring at the end of this year, I had to sign up.
A destination-pelagic adds another element of risk, but I hoped I could push through the anxiety to see some birds. We landed early in San Francisco and wasted no time before going to Golden Gate Park. Part nature park and amusement-botanical garden-ice-cream-conservatory-museum, it’s crowded but the birds don’t seem to mind. Here I found a female Nuttall’s Woodpecker, my first lifer of the trip.
San Francisco parks are ruled by Pygmy Nuthatches, Red-shouldered Hawks, and Black Phoebes. It was nice to see these guys in their natural habitat.
I fought a mean water sprinkler for a potential lifer Allen’s Hummingbird, but they’re not a slam dunk I.D. since the habitat and timing overlaps with look-alike Rufous Hummingbirds. I got lucky with a tail shot, the best way to separate the two, but the hummingbird I saw has the diagnostic “notched” R2 feather diagnostic of Rufous (vs the narrow “lanceolate” shape of Allen’s). No lifer hummingbird this time.
We stayed in Pacifica since it was about equal distance from Half Moon Bay (pelagic #1) and Sausalito (pelagic #2). It also had a nice beach where we witnessed Heermann’s Gulls in their natural habitat.
After checking in to the Airbnb I went to bed early because I had to board a boat early the next morning.
Debi introduced herself, told us what to expect and we set off to sea shortly after.
I was nervous but the ocean and I kept our calm all day. It was a little too calm. The lack of wind made it foggier limiting viewing distance and many birds like Tufted Puffins just sat on the water.
Occasionally sea life just popped out of the water.
I was okay with that. Do you know who was not sitting on the water? Ashy Storm-Petrels! Foggy little life birds.
This was one of my main targets of the trip.
California seas did not disappoint.
The fog cleared up for a couple of jaeger fly-bys, we saw both Long-tailed and P
omarine Jaeger Parasitic Jaeger.
Black-footed Albatross sat nicely for us on the water.
As did Red-necked Phalaropes, Sooty Shearwaters, Pink-footed Shearwaters, and Sabin’s Gulls.
I got distant but diagnostic looks at Arctic Terns, my other lifer of the trip.
We saw Humpback Whales, Fur Seals, a Blue Shark, and occasionally a pod of Pacific White-sided Dolphins and Northern Right Whale Dolphins joined us at the bow of the boat.
I made it back to shore with two new birds, a whole lot of sea life, and no puking! And I was lucky enough to get to do it all over again the next day.
Tweets and chirps,