Monday, October 4, 2010
The Three-Day Pelagic Trip on the Grande
On Saturday morning, October 2, at 7:00am our party left the dock in San Diego aboard the good ship Grande and headed out into the Pacific Ocean, passing over several significant underwater features, like the nine-mile bank and the thirty-mile bank, that tend to have birds. A highlight was a multi-part flock of storm-petrels that was about 2/3 Least and 1/3 Black and totalled about 5,000 birds (photo). In the flock was one small white-rumped individual that was thought to be the Townsend's race of Leach's Storm-Petrel. As the sun was setting, we were passing San Clemente Island. For the day we had a good shearwater show, too, with a lot of good looks at Pink-footeds, Black-vented, and a few Buller's and Sootys. After dark, a Leach's Storm-Petrel collided with one of the birders who grabbed it, checked it over for injuries, and released it after all had gotten a close-up look. On Sunday morning while it was still dark, we all got up to see what passerines had been attracted to the ship's lights. There were Yellow, Wilson's, and Townsend's Warblers, a pipit, Red Phalaropes, Arctic Terns, a Burrowing Owl and a Lesser Nighthawk. For all the daylight hours on Sunday, we were over very deep water in the hopes of finding a mega-rarity, but none turned up. We did get some good looks at the hypoleucus race of Xantu's Murrelet, which is a candidate for a split. Monday's pre-dawn watch produced no birds in the ship's lights. During the day we saw the same birds as on the previous days except we had a great jaeger show and the big storm-petrel flock didn't appear. But a couple of Brown Boobies did put in an appearance. Over the three days we did see many marine mammals including Blue (photo), Fin, Sperm, and Minke whales as well as Guadelupe Fur Seals, Elephant Seals, Harbor Seals and California Sea Lions.
The Grande is a nice ship although it is a bit slow. The sleeping accomodations were adequate and the food served was very nice especially since it meant you got a series of tasty hot meals without having to make them youself or having to bring your own food aboard. The leadership was excellent with everyone kept informed about what was being seen and where, plus helpful information on the birds and mammals we did see.
The big disappointement was that I didn't get a single new bird. Although I knew that Craveri's Murrelet was a long shot since none had been seen this year, I thought we'd see at least one Red-billed Tropicbird. But I got skunked. And I don't have an opportunity to try again for the missed birds.
When I got back into cellphone country, I checked my messages and found out from Ned that there was a new Yellow-Green Vireo in California, this one in Riverside County about a two-and-a-half hour drive away. So after dropping a couple of the passengers off at the airport so they could catch their plane and going to Paul Lehman's place to pick up my stuff, I took off for Indio where I got a motel room and started a good night's sleep, so I could get to the vireo spot at dawn.
So no new species leaves me at 705.