Out to Sea

Since our regular pelagic trip for September was canceled because of bad weather I have been thinking about how to get out on open water to find some seabirds. A whale watch was my only answer. It’s possible that an albacore fishing trip would do the trick because they go out further and spill fishing guts into the ocean. That might attract a few birds. But I didn’t think of that in time.

Our Fort Bragg Christmas Bird Count got a boat out for the first time. They went out about 4-5 miles and put down a slick. They got Black-footed Albatross, Norther Fulmar, Cassin’s Auklet and Black-legged Kittiwakes. I’ve seen Cassin’s Auklet and Black-legged Kittiwakes close to land on previous pelagic trips so it was with some hope of adding some birds that I went out on the Trek II for a whale watch this last Thursday. 

The local Audubon used to use the Trek II for their pelagic trips but it developed some engine problems and was sidelined for a long time. They now use the Telstar piloted by Captain Randy.

Captain Randy and Captain Richard of Trek II are brothers and I was referred to the Trek II by Randy’s wife because they were out of town.

I was able to take the bus to the bus stop near Social Services and walk down to the harbor. Found a rare Winter Nashville Warbler during the walk. The day was warm and the ocean was calm. I was surprised to see about 18 people going out on the whale watch. I may have been the only local in the group as most were visiting during the holidays. Remember this was the day after Christmas. One of the passengers even had a half case of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Would it turn into a party boat?

We started seeing Gray Whales almost as soon as we got out of the harbor. Whales were many, birds were not. The Captain told everyone that the front of the boat was the best place to see them so I had the back of the boat to myself. I should have brought some popcorn for chumming (attracting gulls attract other birds). Next time! I was able to attract about five Western Gulls with remains of my Wheat Thins.

There were plenty of Common Murres.

Had a few Rhinoceros Auklets, loons, and cormorants but no Cassin’s Auklets. Did I say that the Gray Whales were many?

I have to conclude that this whale watch didn’t go out far enough for most of the birds I was expecting but it was worth the $35.00 just for the whales. Did I find any new year birds? Five Ancient Murrelets did fly by.

So I made it to 250 year birds with over 2906 carbon producing truck miles saved. We got into port later than I was expecting. I realized that I couldn’t walk the uphill distance to the bus stop before the bus was due. I asked if anyone could give me a lift. The guy with the beer said he could. He and his wife were from Berkley, Ca. visiting Mendocino with relatives. Hurrah for Berkley people! Made the bus stop with time to spare.

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