Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bodega Bay Pelagic, Ukiah and Half Moon Bay Pelagic,September 20, 21 and 22

This is another update on my Droid RAZR without photos.  I made it to the boat just in time for the 7:00 am boarding.  I was pleasantly surprised to meet Isaac Sanchez and his wife Patty.  Isaac is a birding buddy from graduate school days in the late 60's at U of Delaware.  Isaac is doing a photo Big Year.  We wondered when we would meet this year.  Great to see Isaac and. Patty!  Neil Hayward was also on the boat.  We keep meeting everywhere recently, and it is always a pleasure and fun to meet up with Neil.

On the Bodega Bay trip on September 20, I first added Brandt's Cormorant, which I missed on my first west coast pelagic trips out of Half Moon Bay on July 27and 28, because Brandt's Cormorants were not present on the jetties as expected.  In the fog and dim light on September 20, I saw a close fly-by Brandt's Cormorant, and saw the larger head, bill and thicker neck than Pelagic Cormorant, the lack of the orange throat and face of Double-crested Cormorant and dimly saw the white throat patch in the fog and poor light.  I hoped for a better look on the way back to the dock, but it was not to be.  The bright sun disappeared  on our return to the dock.  Bright sunshine had developed during the day and burned off the fog.  The second new bird for the year was Black Storm-Petrel.  Black Storm-Petrels were mixed with Ashy and Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels in the largest flock of storm-petrels ever recorded in North America, a total of 17,000+ storm-petrels.  It was AWESOME!  Truly, a lifetime experience.  Debi Shearwater reports on her blog that there were 10,500+ Ashy Storm-Petrels, 6,500+ Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, 300 Black Storm-Petrels and 25 Wilson's Storm-Petrels.  We had a grand slam of jaegers:  Pomarine, Parasitic and Long-tailed Jaegers and South Polar Skua.  Sea mammals put on a good show with 15-17 Blue Whales, 12   Humpbacked Whales, 50 Northern Right Whale Dolphins, 350 Pacific White-sided Dolphins and 8 Dall's Pofpoises. Pinnipeds included: California Sea Lion, Stellar's Sea Lion, Northern Fur Seal, Northern Elephant Seal and Harbor Seal.  It was quite an exciting trip.

Brandt' Cormorant and Black Storm-Petrel raise the total to 654.

After the Bodega Bay pelagic trip, I drove to Ukiah to look for Sage (Bell's) Sparrow at Cow Mountain Recreation Area.  I learned about this area and the Sage Sparrows from local birders during past pelagic trips with Debi Shearwater out of Fort Bragg. On September 21, It was raining early; therefore, I arrived later at about 9:00 or 9:30 am.  First I found California Towhee, new for the year.  The towhees cooperated for photos to be shown later.  Then, I heard and briefly saw California Thrasher, the second new bird for the year, which also eventually cooperated for photos at a different location.  I drove further up the mountain on the wet, dirt and sand road to a large area of thick sage where I had seen Sage Sparrows on two or three previous visits.  My front wheels spun a little reminding me to be careful.  At least three Sage Sparrows perched on top of the sage long enough for photos.  Another, very cooperative California Thrasher perched in view for photos. While I was photographing the California Thrasher, several nearby but invisible California Quail started calling their "chi-ca-go" calls.  I tried to see them but could not.  It started to rain rather hard; therefore, I headed slowly and carefully down the mountain to the entry and rest rooms.  It cleared up quickly and the sun came out.  I stayed to bird the entry area where I had once seen Lawrence's Goldfinch during a previous visit.  I thought that I had heard goldfinch type song or notes when I arrived earlier.  No luck on the search for tjis elusive golfinch.  I drove back up the mountain to the sage area and still found the cooperative California Thrasher.  It was time to move on.  I drove down the mountain with windows open listening for bird song but found nothing new.

I drove to Ukiah and had my usual chicken salad for lunch.  Then I drove to Fort Bragg to a spot that has always produced easily seen Chestnut-backed Chickadee.  I wanted to convert my heard only Chestnut-backed Chickadee to a seen one.  Not this time.  I contemplated trying for Sooty Grouse on a mountain road south of Fort Bragg but north of Point Arenas.  However, it was getting late and I needed to get south to Santa Rosa early enough for a good night of sleep before the Half Moon Bay pelagic trip in the morning.

California Towhee, California Thrasher, Sage (Bell's) Sparrow and California Quail raise the total to 658.

On September 22, I made it to the boat with plenty of time to spare this time.  Neil Hayward was on this trip again.  This time out of Half Moon Bay, the Brandt's Cormorants cooperated on the jetties with good photo opps.  On the way out beyond the jetties, we also had excellent looks at winter plumaged Marbled Murrelets and good photo opps, the best for me this year.  There was not much activity and I started to fall asleep until a sharp eyed young leader yelled "Flesh-footed Shearwater!"  I jumped into action but could not find the bird.  Neil got on it as it flew away but did not get a great look at it far out near the fog bank.  I was concerned that I missed this bird, because Flesh-footed Shearwater often flies in to the boat quickly but then leaves just as quickly.  We continued on and then Debi spotted a flock of shearwaters on the water.  The wind was low and shearwaters were sitting on the water.  They use the wind to save energy while sailing over the waves instead of flying to find food.  Debi told me to go up to the bow to help check the flock, because the Flesh-footed Shearwater could be in the flock.  We checked the flock, but all birds appeared to be Pink-footed Shearwaters.  I checked the flock with my binoculars, and the flock took flight.  I yelled "There is a dark one in there and Debi and I yelled "Flesh-footed Shearwater"!  Debi was ahead of me in yelling as she should be.  This Flesh-footed Shearwater was very cooperative and flew around the remaining flock on the water and quite close to the boat.  There were many photo opps.

The rest of the trip was very good with another grand slam of jaegers like the trip from Bodega Bay.  A Laysan Albatross caused a lot of excitement onboard for the California birders.  Perhaps I am jaded (pun intended, jayded), but I am not as enthused by the appearance of Laysan Albatross since my trip to Attu where we saw good numbers of Laysan Albatrosses. In addition, I have seen Laysan Albatross on three of four of Debi's trips this year.  However, there were only a few petrels unlike the Bodega Bay trip.  The highlight for me was the Flesh-footed Shearwater.

After the boat trip, I stopped at Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve to try to see Chestnut-backed Chickadee.  I heard this chickadee at this location but did not see it on July 28 after that Half Moon Bay trip.  This time I heard and saw the Chestnut-backed Chickadee to remove it from my heard only list.

Flesh-footed Shearwater raises the total to 659.

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