Monday, July 22, 2013

Half Moon Bay Pelagic!

This past weekend I had the great fortune of attending a pelagic trip out of Half Moon Bay, CA. I had looked for pelagic trips that coincide with my wacky days off schedule but came up empty handed. Then I found Alvaro's Adventures ( run by, you guessed it, Alvaro Jaramillo. Their first trip of the season departed July 21st, a day I had off, so I quickly emailed Alvaro to make sure I had a spot on the boat.

I knew July 21st was a bit early in the season for a pelagic trip, but I've had good luck on other early season pelagics, and even the normal cast of characters would be new photo birds. As we made our way through the harbor, Surfbirds and a Wandering Tattler were fun to see. Once we got out a little ways we saw our first Sooty Shearwaters, of which there would be many more.

Our destination was Pioneer Canyon where there is deep, deep water. We were able to make it their without a problem.

On our way out, a Manx Shearwater was seen by most of the people in the back of the boat. By the time I made my way there, it was only a small shearwater on the horizon. This is a rare bird for California.

As it is late and I have to get up early for work tomorrow, I'll give you a quick run down of some of the highlights.

Alcids: We did well here, better than I expected anyway. Pigeon Guillemots and Rhinoceros Auklets were around, as can be expected, but we also found some Scripp's Murrelets. I personally saw at least 3 birds. One pair and a single bird on our way back. The pair was insanely cooperative. Common Murres and Cassin's Auklets were also seen.

Scripp's Murrelet

Scripp's Murrelet underwing

Rhinoceros Auklet
Albatross: There were Albatross EVERYWHERE! Once we got far enough offshore, there were constantly Albatross about the boat. The chumming and the "chum-sicle" helped keep the Black-footed Albatross near the boat, drawing the attention of other seabirds like this Laysan Albatross! Laysan isn't a common bird off CA and was a fantastic surprise.

Black-footed Albatross (and a Northern Fulmar) feast on the "chum-sicle"

Black-footed Albatross

Laysan Albatross

Laysan Albatross
Shearwaters/Fulmar: Sooty and Pink-footed Shearwaters were also very abundant and always around the boat. We also had a few really early Buller's Shearwater. Something is happening this year where they are showing up very early. I certainly didn't mind as this was a lifer for me. We had a few Northern Fulmar around the boat at times, but they were few and far between.

Buller's Shearwater

Buller's Shearwater

Northern Fulmar
Jaegers: The only Jaegers I saw were Long-tailed. I don't believe anyone else had any of the other species. In total, I saw at least 4 including a sub-adult with a very light head and very long tail-streamers. A cool looking bird. Here is a youngster.

Long-tailed Jaeger
Storm-Petrels: We had very good luck with Storm-Petrels. Ashy were most common and next was Wilson's! Wilson's Storm-Petrel is a darn good bird off CA and we had over a dozen of them. On our way back, we came across the mother-load. A huge flock of Storm-Petrels was sitting on the water and flushed as the boat approached. As they came past the boat, both Fork-tailed and a couple Black Storm-Petrels were seen mixed in with the Ashy and Wilson's. The Black Storm-Petrels were not cooperative and it is nothing short of pure luck that I was able to get a photograph.

Ashy Storm-Petrel

Black Storm-Petrel

Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel

Wilson's Storm-Petrel

I feel very lucky to get a spot on the trip and with the great birds we found. The leaders and Alvaro himself were great at making sure everyone got on the birds. The captain did an absolutely wonderful job of finding and staying with the birds. If you are considering a pelagic trip out of California, I'd suggest you look into Alvaro's Adventures!

I'd also like to thank those who have pledged for this photographic big year. When I started this big year, I had no idea what to expect. It is great to see people supporting conservation. If you haven't pledged there is still plenty of time, and all pledges are 100% TAX DEDUCTIBLE! At the end of the year, all pledges will go directly to the American Bird Conservancy for Hawaiian bird conservation. See this page for more information.

It has been a great year so far, and there is still plenty of birding to do! Keep checking back for updates.


  1. I can't believe you are finding so many wonderful birds! What energy and dedication. I'm still rooting for you, but man I'm starting to wonder if I can afford you! (Just kidding - I will joyfully pay the total of my pledge, whatever it turns out to be.)

  2. Thanks for the kind words! It helps keep my motivation knowing that people are following along.