NINE MILE BANK & BAJA CORONADOS ISLANDS GRANDE - San Diego Sponsored By: Buena Vista Audubon Society April 4, 2009 7:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Grande April 4, 2009 Trip Report
Grande left the dock at 7a.m. to the squawks of an Amazonia parrot flying into to one of the palm trees of the landing and a cowering Black-crowned Night Heron on the next boat over. Most of the usual suspects were seen at the Bait Docks including a lone Black Turnstone. Just past Ballast Point everyone was treated to a viewing of "Diego" (as the news media now calls him) the wayward Gray Whale as he headed back into San Diego Bay to delight the Spring Break Tourist. He has now been most of a month in and around the bay.
As expected, a few of the last remaining Black-vented Shearwaters were in the near-shore zone. While the Black-venteds are departing, this trip was better than expected for newly arriving tubenoses (from the southern hemisphere) in moderate numbers (e.g., 30 Sooties and eleven Pink-foots), with more than the expected numbers of Northern Fulmars (63) holding promise that this may be one of those years where some stay around into summer. A small number of newly arriving Red-necked Phalaropes were seen (12). Good numbers (and excellent views) of Xantus's Murrelets (35)were seen as they continue to arrive in the Coronados Islands area for the breeding season.
We found our first flock of birds along the 50 fathom curve has we motored north along Point Loma. We saw Elegant Terns, Pacific Loons, and Sooty and Black-vented Shearwaters, along with numerous pelicans, gulls and cormorants, and our lone jaeger of the day a dark-morph Pomarine which made for an unexpectedly low jaeger count.
The seas were especially invigorating early in the day accompanied by brisk winds which made for really beautiful arcing by shearwaters. The swells were exhilarating, rambunctious, high and constant, with a long periodicity making for an exciting morning at sea.
At Sunset Cliffs Grande turned west towards the Nine Mile Bank. We started adding Northern Fulmars of various color morphs, a few Pink-foots and a steady stream of Sooties. Near the Nine Mile Bank we found a small pod of Common Dolphin, and our first of the day Xantus's Murrelets.
We motored south down the Nine Mile picking up more Xantus's Murrelets. A Rhinoceros Auklet or two and a few Cassin's Auklets were seen here, their numbers considerably down from their high numbers of this past extraordinary “alcid winter.”
Dave Povey kept a nice gull flock with us which added a first year Glaucous-winged Gull, and just south of the international Border the highlight (and rarest find of the trip) were two Black-legged Kittiwakes in Mexican waters, both of which made multiple passes.
The whole run southward downn the bank was marked with a steady stream of Pink-footed and Sooty Shearwaters and Northern Fulmars. The Coronado Canyon had a flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls and a cooperative pod of Risso's Dolphins. As Grande neared the Islands we had a nice show from a larger pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphin who were both curious and cooperative, doing some nice bow-riding. It’s this area where we found a few early northward bound Red-necked Phalaropes, just starting to molt to alternate plumage.
Throughout the trip 220+ Bonaparte’s Gulls were seen (the balance of the 1,000+ who wintered here probably on their way north) and a good offshore, northbound flight of Pacific Loons were seen all morning long.
North Coronado Island was green in its spring splendor. Three Peregrine Falcons put on an outstanding aerial display, swooping and diving down the sides of the cliffs, and soaring over the island. Brown Pelicans were on nest but many fewer than last year. We got our first looks at Black Oystercatchers, and we saw a Spotted Sandpiper, in that area.
Middle Island. had a nice group of Elephant Seals maybe 10-12, along with the noisy California Sea Lions and shy Harbor Seals. The Belted Kingfisher still resides, in that cove. The trip down to Middle Island was mark with the nice show plunge diving of an adult male Brown Booby near the bow of Grande.
The Brown Boobies put on a nice show (ca. 20 birds) at the island, as expected, including a very young chick in the nest being attended to by doting parents. Also seen on the islands was a hybrid American X Black Oystercatcher with five Blacks. At least two Peregrines were active around the north island, putting on quite a show of aerial acrobatics.
Middle Rock had it's usual show of Brown Booby family life, with and adult pair snuggling a very new very small downy chick. We counted at least two other birds on nest there. 19 or 20 total boobies were present on the rock. Two Pelagic Cormorants were seen on the Middle Rock cliff face to fill out the day’s cormorant list, and another hybrid oystercater was spotted on the rocks below.
We got great close-up looks at a juvenile Rhino Auklet thanks to sharp eyed Mark Billings, and we motored back through the east end of the Coronado Canyon for more shearwaters and fulmars. Outside the San Diego Bay we had large numbers of Elegant Terns, but missed our usual Parasitic Jaeger. Even the end of the day didn't quit for us as a Willet and Spotted Sandpiper, both going to alternate plumage greeted us back to the dock.
Mammals reported: Two whales: a Gray Whale in the harbor mouth and a quick, incomplete view of a probable Fin Whale (certainly a Fin/Sei type). Pods of Common Dolphin, a pod of Risso's Dolphin, a large pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphin, some Dall’s Porpoise, many Elephant Seals at the Middle Island haul-out, and a quick look at a Guadalupe Fur Seal floating in the Coronado Canyon.
Special thanks to Dave Povey, Paul Lehman, Jon Feenstra, Peter Ginsburg, Stan Walens and Matt Sadowski for contributing to this report. There may be variation in this report due to positioning of the leaders on the boat. The “official” eBird list is below.
Christopher Taylor posted a GPS Track of the trip.
eBird postings of the three sectors of sightings are below, thanks to Jon Feenstra for keeping the official tally and posting to eBird.
Location: Nine Mile Bank (USA) Notes: Pelagic trip on board Grande. The list covers the trip from the harbor to the Nine Mile Bank, along the bank south to the border, and the return trip back to the harbor - all the US water covered.
Location: Islas Los Coronados Notes: Organized pelagic trip on board Grande. Coverage: east sided of North Island and Middle Islands - elephant seal haul-out and Brown Booby colony.
Pacific Loon 1 Common Loon 2 Brown Booby 19 Brown Pelican 100 Brandt's Cormorant 200 Double-crested Cormorant 1 Pelagic Cormorant 2 Peregrine Falcon 1 American x Black Oystercatcher (hybrid) 1 Black Oystercatcher 5 Western Gull 200 California Gull 1 Herring Gull 13 Xantus's Murrelet 1 Rhinoceros Auklet 1 Belted Kingfisher 1
Brown Booby (c) 2008 Karen Straus
Masked Booby (c) Matt Sadowski 19 Jan 2008
A juvenile Red-footed Booby rides Grande in 2008
Brandt's Cormorant breeding colony on the Coronados Islands
This 9-hour trip departs Point Loma Sportfishing at 7:00 a.m. to explore the bird-rich Nine-mile Bank from the comfortable 85-foot live-aboard Grande. On our way out of San Diego harbor we'll motor slowly by the live bait tank barges for super-close-ups of lounging sea lions (with the big bulls baying to beat the band), several hundred Brandt's cormorants, several species of gulls, and dozens of shorebirds, egrets and herons. On our way out of the harbor we'll check for oystercatchers amongst the cobbles of Ballast Point.
On this trip we expect to see two to four species of dolphins (Bottlenose, Common, Pacific White-sided and Risso's) and numerous seabirds including phalarope, fulmars, shearwaters, auklets, murres, murrelets, and jaegers. This is also a good time of year to find Pink-footed and Sooty (and who knows what other?) Shearwaters - perhaps Short-tailed?
After exploring the birds and sea mammals at the Nine-mile bank, we'll turn south and cross the international border into Mexico, exploring the waters over the Coronado Canyon along the way. The rugged, scenic Coronados Islands are home to breeding Western Gulls, Brandt's Cormorants, Brown Boobies, Black Oystercatchers and Brown Pelicans.
While at the Coronados Islands we'll observe immense breeding colonies of Brandt's Cormorants, Western Gulls and Brown Pelicans. We'll sift through the Brown Booby colony on Middle Rock and try find the elusive Blue-footed and Masked Boobies that have been seen off and on for the past two years. We expect to see dozens snoozing Harbor Seals and California Sea Lions.
What's great about Grande is that Captain James will put Grande right up next to the cliffs for excellent views of the breeding colonies, nests, and fledglings. Just 100 feet away we should see rocky shore birds such as Black and American Oystercatchers, Wandering Tattler, Black Turnstone and Surfbird. Peregrine Falcons are often seen at the islands; on one of our 2008 trips, we were trying to identify a sparrow flying over the water when a Peregrine stooped and snared dinner right in front of us!
Rarities: A Cory’s Shearwater was seen on the islands for 3 years (2005-2007) but was not been seen in 2008. An immature Blue-footed Booby was seen with the Brown Booby colony on our Grande October 4, 2008 trip. A Masked Booby was seen 19 Jan 2008 and 10 Feb 2008 on a Bird Festival Pelagic trip. 2 or 3 pair of Craveri's Murrelet were seen from Grande 4 Oct 2008 on the return from the islands to San Diego. A Red-footed Booby rode the mast of Grande from Ensenada, Mexico to San Diego Harbor, directly past the islands on September 28, 2008.
After hunting for American Oystercatchers and inspecting the Brown Booby colony for Blue-footed, Masked or Red-footed Boobies, we'll peek around the back of Middle Island to see if there are any once-thought-extinct Elephant Seals on the cobble beach.
This trip is appropriate for children 10 years and older.
$10 EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT: Reserve on or before March 16 for $55 and save $10. RESERVATIONS BY PHONE (Check or Credit Card): Telephone Point Loma Sportfishing (the landing) seven days a week at (619) 223-1627. Tell them to wish to make a reservation for a birding trip on Grande and give them the date of departure. ON-LINE RESERVATIONS:Register On-Line. Past trip participants may enter your user name. New participants will be prompted to create a user name and password, then make your reservation for one or more "anglers" (the landing's website refers to customers - you - as anglers). If you have any questions, please telephone the landing at (619) 223-1627.
PAY IN FULL: Some fishing trips allow "anglers" to pay 50% at signup and the balance the day of the trip. Regardless of what the boiler-plate language on the site says, all birding trips requirepayment in full (even if the website or telephone rep gives you an option to pay 50%).
IMPORTANT DETAILS: Click for IMPORTANT INFORMATION about the boat, the landing, driving directions, maps, lodging, weather, refund and cancellation policies, on-board facilities, meals and snacks,
HOW TO PREPARE: Click for tips on how to prepare, what to wear, what to bring and when to arrive.
EXPECTED SPECIES: What we see depends on the season, the itinerary and how far from shore we venture. Learn more about what species we will probably see and what species might be seen.
CANCELLATION POLICY: Trips on this website are sponsored by different organizations using different boats departing from different landings and harbors. As such, policies vary from trip to trip. Prior to registering, please familiarize yourself the Grande and Point Loma Sportfishing's policies regarding reservations, cancellations, refunds and substitutions as well as reviewing driving directions, check-in times, procedures and equipment allowed on the boats.
Blue-footed Booby (c) Thomas Blackman 5 March 2009
SEATING - Grande has a spacious salon/cabin/galley with plenty of comfortable "restaurant-booth" seating for meals, reading, resting socializing or napping. Seating is very limited on the spacious, stable aft deck, and you're strongly encouraged to bring a sturdy nylon outdoor folding chair aboard. If you prefer to be where the action is, outside on deck the entire day, 10 - 14 hours is a long time to be on your feet -- you'll appreciate a chair.
The Coronados Islands | Trent Stanley
The Coronados Islands (c) Terry Hunefeld
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