Offshore pelagic birding report (July 2021)

We are able to share this report thanks to local birders: Paul Lehman, Dave Povey, David Trissel, John Dumlao

A small group of birders went offshore on Saturday, 17 July, out to the San Diego Trough, 30-Mile Bank, and “The Corner.” Conditions were reasonably nice, with light winds.

The highlights of the day were yet 5+ more COOK’S PETRELS in San Diego waters and a record one-day count for the state of 68 CRAVERI’S MURRELETS. The Cook’s were in the San Diego Trough (2)–as close as 20.5 mi W of Point Loma–on the 30-Mile Bank (2), and at “The Corner” (1+, repeated sightings).

Almost all the Craveri’s were in the western quarter of the Trough and on the 30-Mile Bank and were regularly in flocks of four to six birds. Other species of note included two one-year-old jaegers, of which one appears to be a young LONG-TAILED and the other currently uncertain (rare in July; both in Trough), 2 Leach’s Storm-Petrels (Trough), 8 Ashy Storm-Petrels, a getting-late Scripps’s Murrelet (Trough), a Brown Booby, and a Common Tern.

Also well-offshore flocks of Black-bellied Plovers and Short-billed Dowitchers. Another clear highlight of the trip was the spread-out group of FALSE KILLER WHALES in the Trough which were clearly shredding fish, as large numbers of Black Storm-Petrels and Pink-footed Shearwaters were actively feeding over and around them.

Some misc. totals for the trip included 32 Red-necked Phalaropes, 5 Cassin’s Auklets, 400 Black Storm-Petrels, and 80 Pink-footed & 55 Sooty Shearwaters.

–Paul Lehman, Dave Povey, David Trissel, John Dumlao

2021-07-20T07:01:22-07:00July 20th, 2021|News|

Paper just Published about “Flue,” the blue/fin whale!

Searcher naturalist, Paul Jones, shares this exciting 2020 sighting while aboard Searcher!

On March 17, 2020, while Searcher was just west of Isla Monserrat in the Gulf of California and we were looking for whales, the crew spotted what appeared to be a blue whale at first glance. However, as we got closer, there was considerable disagreement as to what we were looking at. Clearly, this whale had some color and body shape that was indicative of a blue whale. But other characteristics reflected what we have seen in fin whales. As it circled the boat, we were finally able on one pass to see the lower jaw on the right side, which should have been definitive for a fin whale – and it was all dark. So, the mystery whale had us continuing the debate well into the afternoon, past the time when we found three fin whales and two blue whales to follow, and into the night. Because of some good sleuthing in his expansive, digital marine mammal literature database, Tom Jefferson found a paper that led us to believe we had seen a hybrid fin/blue whale. The story that unfolded is told in our recently published scientific paper is amazing – this male is the offspring of a male fin whale and female blue whale and he travels back and forth from Southern California waters to the Gulf of California. Plus, there’s lots more about fin/blue hybrids and their movements between these waterbodies. We encourage you to read on by clicking the link to the paper below.

Sightings and Satellite Tracking of a Blue/Fin Whale Hybrid in its Wintering and Summering Ranges in the Eastern North Pacific

Authors: Jefferson Thomas, Palacios Daniel, Calambokidis John, Baker C. Scott, Hayslip Craig, Jones Paul, Lagerquist Barbara, Jørgensen Morten and Schulman-Janiger Alisa

https://irispublishers.com/aomb/pdf/AOMB.MS.ID.000545.pdf

Enjoy Paul Jones’ video on top and Searcher video below for two different views of this special whale.

2021-05-04T13:45:13-07:00May 4th, 2021|News|

San Diego Bird Festival Pelagic trip report

On 19 February, the San Diego Bird Festival pelagic trip travelled out to the 9-Mile Bank and off La Jolla. Here is the sightings report:

“We enjoyed fairly light seas and overall good weather. The highlight of the trip was the individual Manx Shearwater sitting on the water at moderate distance. Sighting report follows.”

Brant: 50

Surf Scoter: 14

Red-breasted Merganser: 2

Eared Grebe: 4 (offshore)

Whimbrel: 1

Black Turnstone: 1

Surfbird: 6

Least Sandpiper: 3

Spotted Sandpiper: 5

Red Phalarope: 2

Pomarine Jaeger: 1

jaeger sp.: 1

SCRIPPS’S MURRELET: 12 (mostly flighty, but very good views of one pair)

Cassin’s Auklet: 6

Rhinoceros Auklet: 1

Bonaparte’s Gull: 130

Heermann’s Gull: 25

California Gull: 250

Western Gull: 1500

Royal Tern: 6

Pacific Loon: 2

Common Loon: 6

Herring Gull: 1

PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER: 1 (rare to very rare in February; distant) Photo at left by Todd McGrath

MANX SHEARWATER: (with rafts of Black-vented Shearwaters; approx. the 17th individual recorded in San Diego Co. waters, of which all but two are between mid-Feb and mid-Apr)

Black-vented Shearwater: 2500

BROWN BOOBY: 2 (distant views)

Double-crested Cormorant: 4

Brandt’s Cormorant: 60

Brown Pelican: 120

Great Blue Heron: 4

Great Egret: 8

Snowy Egret: 2

Osprey: 1

TRICOLORED HERON: 1 (flying south past dock in AM, heading toward its favored San Diego River channel)

–Paul Lehman, Dave Povey, Bruce Rideout, Nancy Christensen, Tom Blackman, Matt Sadowski, et al., San Diego, leaders

2021-02-22T07:39:10-08:00February 22nd, 2021|News|

Still Time to Bid for Spot on 5-day Pelagic Birding Tour!

San Diego’s Bird Festival virtual silent auction is now open for bids! You could win a spot on this trip for a good deal AND benefit the San Diego Audubon Society. The rest of the festival will be held in a hybrid model (virtual and in-person) from February 17-21, 2021.

2021 Pelagic Trip Auction

Picture yourself aboard with us as we search for deep-water Southern California pelagic birds and offshore rarities with expert leaders in the comfort of a 95-foot vessel. Don’t wait! Get your bid in today!

Trip details: 2021 Pelagic Trip Tour details

2021-02-19T10:21:13-08:00February 5th, 2021|News|

Gray Whale Research updates from Baja Lagoon

Are you wondering how gray whales are doing in Laguna San Ignacio this season? So are we!

We won’t be visiting the lagoon this year with our usual ecotourism trips, but we want to stay informed about the whales and about our good friends at Kuyima who provide boat services for our guests while in Laguna San Ignacio.

If you’ve been aboard Searcher, you’ve either met or heard about US gray whale expert and friend, Steven Swartz. His bi-national research group will be in the lagoon during this gray whale season, though in a scaled-back way in order to maintain safe conditions during the Covid 19 pandemic for the locals, researchers and visitors. Steven reports:

Our research plan is to have a small team of our researchers from the University in La Paz conduct regular census and photo-ID surveys to monitor numbers and whales’ body condition. We will post updates on our website as they are able to send information to us by email.

We will monitor the numbers as they are reported and share them here.

Gray moms and calves are beginning to show up in one of their winter destinations, Laguna San Ignacio.

2021-02-01T09:40:47-08:00January 29th, 2021|Census, News|

Just a Reminder: NEW 3-day Pelagic Birding Tour 2021

Photo by Alisa Schulman-Janiger⁠

Photo by Alisa Schulman-Janiger⁠

It’s a great time to get offshore to deep-water pelagic zones to search out exciting seabirds such as Cook’s Petrels, Scripps’ Murrelets, Black-footed and Laysan Albatross; Black, Leach’s and Ashy Storm-petrels; Brown and other Boobies; South Polar Skua; Pomarine, Parasitic, and Long-tailed Jaegers; and Arctic Terns. Plus we’ll have a long list of usual species found in our waters, often gathering around underwater banks, mounts, and canyons. This trip is limited to ABA-waters, including coverage of the southern-most areas of it.

2021-01-21T11:13:37-08:00January 22nd, 2021|News|

Just a Reminder: NEW 3-day Pelagic Birding Tour 2021

Photo by Alisa Schulman-Janiger⁠

Photo by Alisa Schulman-Janiger⁠

It’s a great time to get offshore to deep-water pelagic zones to search out exciting seabirds such as Cook’s Petrels, Scripps’ Murrelets, Black-footed and Laysan Albatross; Black, Leach’s and Ashy Storm-petrels; Brown and other Boobies; South Polar Skua; Pomarine, Parasitic, and Long-tailed Jaegers; and Arctic Terns. Plus we’ll have a long list of usual species found in our waters, often gathering around underwater banks, mounts, and canyons. This trip is limited to ABA-waters, including coverage of the southern-most areas of it.

2021-01-07T13:32:39-08:00January 9th, 2021|News|

Great Start to 2021 with Offshore Pelagic Sightings!

We are excited to share these recent offshore sightings from local pelagic experts, Dave Povey and Matt Sadowski, who were out to cover the offshore areas on 2 Jan 2021.

Searcher Natural History Tours has scheduled our NEW 3-day pelagic birding tour over Memorial Day weekend!   We plan to spend time covering the distant waters needed to access these birds while we search, observe, and photograph birds and other marine life including whales and dolphins. Leaders will include Dave Povey and Dave Pereksta.

The following is a partial list and numbers from the trip on 2 Jan 2021. Dave reports:

“Most birds were beyond 5 nautical miles, and many more at 10 nautical miles plus. We covered a wide area from below Point Loma including the Nine Mile Bank, and covered south to north and all the way into La Jolla Canyon.”

    • Northern Fulmar (1)
    • Pink-footed Shearwater (1)
    • dark shearwater sp. (1)
    • Black-vented Shearwater (4000+)
    • Brown Booby (1)
    • Red Phalarope (4)
    • Parasitic Jaeger (1)
    • Pomarine Jaeger (3-5)
    • jaeger sp. (2)
    • Scripps’s Murrelet (2)
    • Cassin’s Auklet (1)
    • Rhinoceros Auklet (2-3)
    • Bonaparte’s Gull (1000+)
    • California Gull (700)
    • Royal Tern (5-6)
2021-01-04T12:08:07-08:00January 4th, 2021|News, Trip Reports|

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