California- Farallon Islands

After such a successful pelagic the day before I was calmer the following morning.

This trip departed from Sausalito so we got to ride underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

It started foggy, but things cleared up once a breeze kicked in. It was much easier to appreciate colorful Tufted Puffins.

And see the Shearwaters.

Shearwater journeys

As we made way to the Farallon Islands (Farallón in Spanish means “pilar” or “sea cliff”).

The Farallon Islands are a National Wildlife Refuge, not open to the public, but only to a few lucky researchers. These ridiculous islands have logged 377 bird species on eBird. We boated up to “sugar loaf” the island named for the sweet piles of bird poo on top.

There are mostly Brandt’s Cormorants, Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemots, Western Gulls, and the best bird could have been a long-staying Northern Gannet that lives at sugar loaf but the gannet wasn’t home this day. What the Farallons lacked in gannet they made up for with whale.

We saw probably 20 Humpback Whales at least.

Feeding with gulls and sea lions working together to trap anchovies.

It was one of the most incredible things I’ve seen. Video here. It was hard to pull away, but we had more birds to look at along the continental shelf and Pioneer Sea Canyon.

We saw Northern Fulmar.

Black-footed Albatross.

Cassin’s Auklets.

And the “rarest” bird of the trip, a Fork-tailed Storm Petrel.

Not a life bird, I’ve seen one on Oregon pelagics, but it’s been a while and it’s a good bird for California in the summer. It was the best looks I’ve gotten to date.

We turned around then, and when we got back to the bay it was a bright and sunny ride under the bridge.

A pretty nice way to end pelagic #2. That and no one on the ship got sick. I spent a total of 19 hours at sea in two days, saw two life birds, AND SURVIVED. Incredible.

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Shorebird Festival Pelagic

Part of the fun of the Oregon Shorebird Festival is the pelagic trip. After my first disaster of a pelagic experience in 2015 I wasn’t sure I’d ever do it again. But since then I’ve had a couple of successful trips, and after loads of trial and error (and meds) I feel like I’ve finally got my system dialed in.

I’m not saying it’s 100% barfproof, but it’s getting there. Having the right gear and knowing what medication combination works makes the biggest difference for a pleasant ride. This next trip would be my shortest, only 5 hours, less time for “complications” and a good test for my recovering ankle. I felt pretty good boarding the boat as we set off from Charleston.

Oregon Pelagic Tours has the best guides, they’re my favorite people to be out at sea with. Our trip began just past the jetties when we saw Rhinoceros Auklets, Red-necked Phalarope, Marbled Murrelets, and Cassin’s Auklets.

Flying potatoes

Before I knew it we were in Sooty Shearwater territory. And not far behind we got a quick look at terns, a Common Tern, with a small dark bill and dark carpal bars (shoulders).

And a second tern that was first I.D.’d as Elegant until it was examined more closely in photos after the boat ride.

It was thought to be Elegant because of the clean underside and perceived longer bill, but despite this, experts now agree it is actually a Common Tern, as adults transitioning into non-breeding plumage can have red at the base of the bill. Not quite Elegant enough and a very tricky tern.

Eventually we found fishing ships. And lucky for us they were just pulling up their nets.

It was a perfect time to chum the waters. Chum brings the gulls, which brings the jaegers!

We saw all three, a jaeger slam. I’ll start with the easy one. Large, beefy bird with a bi-colored bill, and the largest white wing “flash” on upper and lower wings (6-8 white shafts on outer wing feathers): POMARINE.

A better look at that white flash and those spoon-shaped central tail feathers:

The next jaeger, wing flash is visible, more than two shafts in the upper wing, and a close-up of the bill reveals the gonydeal tip is near the edge: PARASITIC.

And finally, the third.

There are only two white primary shafts on the outer primaries. That is diagnostic for: LONG-TAILED. It also has black and white barring underneath the tail, and a small bill with gonydeal tip in the mid-point, but the minimal flash is what to look for.

Because eBird quizzes are so much fun, here’s a jaeger quiz bird:

Is it A: Long-tailed B: Parasitic C: Pomarine or D: None of the above? (answer at the end)

I thought tail shape was the main factor in jaeger ID and it is helpful, but angles mislead and feathers break. It’s all about the white on the wings and bill shape for jaeger ID. My goal is to eventually learn enough to be able to do more in the field besides hang on for dear life. Clearly I need to spend more time on the boat.

If not for jaeger identification, then to look at more Black-footed Albatross.

They were there too, though in lower numbers than trips in the past. There were higher numbers of Sabine’s Gulls though.

Can’t mistake that one. We also got great looks at a South Polar Skua with the Sabine’s!

Skua-sabine combo

The Skua passed close to the boat several times giving us killer looks.

Also amazing were Buller’s Shearwaters, with that clean white underside.

And scapulars for days.

Not bad for five hours out to sea! I’m grateful for such an amazing barf-free trip. The weather was milder than predicted and the sea swells mostly cooperated. We had a couple of whale sightings and a blue shark visited the chum spot but I failed to get a photo. But the birds never disappoint, they’re the best reason to get back on that boat.

Quiz answer: Two white shafts visible on that upper wing means A: LONG-TAILED

Good job. Some are impossible.

Tweets and chum,

Audrey