This is a trip report for the October 9, 2016 pelagic trip aboard the fishing boat Daily Double. Forty-two seabirders and five leaders met before dawn on a clear and calm morning at the Point Loma Landing in San Diego Bay. Leaders were Thomas Blackman, Peter Ginsburg, Guy McCaskie, Justyn Stahl, and me, Dave Povey. We did a brief orientation and got all hands boarded. Captain Carl did a brief safety talk and we were on our way, with a brief u-turn for two passengers that were very nearly left behind. We checked the bait receivers for the usual pelicans, cormorants, herons, egrets, gulls, and sea lions. We also checked Ballast Point, but as the tide was in, no shorebirds were found. We cruised down the buoy line and the next to last one had a nice adult female Brown Booby perched alongside a Brandt's Cormorant. Brown Boobies have been a regular feature of pelagic trips here in recent years, but this year Brown Booby has been a little tougher to come by. This would be the only Brown Booby on today’s trip.
Offshore the mainstay was Red-necked Phalaropes feeding and flying around the scum lines created by the tide flows from San Diego Bay. Black-vented Shearwaters, our local inshore tubenose, were seen only at a distance. The majority of Black-vented Shearwaters were farther offshore than usual. Fortunately we found no shortage of them on the outer edge of the Nine Mile Bank. There we had several rafts of well-fed Black-vented Shearwaters on the water for nice views and lots of photographs. We also found a very few Pink-footed Shearwaters among these rafts. Although a southern hemisphere species, Pink-footed Shearwater is a regular visitor along the outer edge of the Nine Mile Bank in their winter, our summer. During the 2016 spring, summer, and fall seasons their numbers have been very low here. That was the case today. Not sure what the cause, as there have been epic numbers of forage fish here this year.
We turned and worked our way up the bank when we sighted a whale. We saw a large Fin Whale and positioned the boat near it and the bait fish ball it seemed to be chasing. We then had a very close-in whale that appeared different, but we were still thinking Fin Whale. I believe this was actually a Minke Whale based on smaller size, more triangular dorsal fin, and the lack of a visible spout. I also saw the right side of the jaw and it was not white as a Fin Whale’s. So maybe two whales? We also got quite a feeding flock of Black-vents here. Further up the bank we picked up a few Cassin's Auklets. This widespread and nearly ever-present small alcid is rarely cooperative and that was the case again today. We did get our first murrelets here and photos proved them to be Craveri's Murrelets – life birds for a number of our group today. Craveri's Murrelets are a Mexican species that moves into our waters some years and are absent in others. We seem to be in the midst of a number of years of their being a regular post-breeding visitor locally. Farther west we headed into an area where we had storm-petrel rafts on the last two trips. Unfortunately, the raft could not be found today. We did get a distant storm-petrel or two here and there, making one wonder if they were just a mile or two away from our search area. Both the ubiquitous Black Storm-Petrel and a small number of dark-rumped Chapman's Leach's Storm-Petrels were seen. The lack of stormies was offset somewhat by a nice jaeger show. All three species – Pomarine, Parasitic, and the tough to get Long-tailed Jaeger –were seen. The Long-tailed Jaeger was a dark juvenile. Our return southeast was punctuated by several stops for fleeing murrelets, some identified as Craveri's Murrelets by photographs, others let go as murrelet species (due to possibility of Guadalupe Murrelets this time of year). The Nine Mile Bank proved similar to what we'd seen on the way out, with another Minke Whale and several Pacific White-sided Dolphins, in addition to the numerous Common Dolphins we had there earlier. Between the Bank and Point Loma we had an early flyby Common Murre. This abundant northern alcid is usually seen late in the fall and early winter, and usually in small numbers this far south. So this bird was clearly on the early side. We returned to San Diego Bay just as the sun went down, giving us a glorious sunset. A great day at sea, though birding was a little slow at times – bright sun all day, winds light from the west at 3-8 kt., 1-2 ft. swell, 1 ft. wind wave, and visibility 25 miles plus. Sea surface temps. were 68-71 deg. F.
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