Friday, September 13, 2013

California Pelagics

The California trip - arranged at the last minute - was the last "scheduled" one of six trips in 2013 designed to push my USA list toward 700.  The other five were: TX, AZ, FL, NC, AZ and netted one to four life birds on each trip.  However pelagics have always been a weakness of mine - not unrelated to a propensity for seasickness - so the largest gaps on my list have been shearwaters, storm-petrels and alcids.

I reserved a pair of California pelagics - 9/8 out of Half Moon Bay and 9/10 out of Monterey - and ended up with five pelagic life birds.  The weather was good, with light winds, so the boat trips weren't as challenging as, say, the NC pelagic trip.  In addition I saw the newly minted Bell's Sparrow of the canescens race (the "intermediate" race) at the end of its range where it abuts the belli race of Bell's Sparrow.  A hunch is that canescens is a cline between A.belli and A.nevadensis (Sagebrush Sparrow), but seeing them close to A.b.belli's coastal ranges makes me a little more comfortable counting it.  The first life bird for the trip was Scripps's Murrelet (#692) and the last was Bell's Sparrow (#697).

The Half Moon Bay pelagic was longer and deeper water, with the Monterey Bay pelagic only having a subset of the first species but pelagics are notoriously variable.  However the Monterey pelagic also had Blue Whale and a remarkable number of Humpback Whales (50++) feeding in the bay, including breaching Humpbacks, which made for a memorable end to the wildlife for the trip.  Although land birding was limited I did complete the trasher grand slam for the year with California Thrasher, and saw other species I hadn't seen in over a decade.

Pelagic species:

Sooty Shearwater              
Great Shearwater              (California rarity)
Pink-footed Shearwater        
Flesh-footed Shearwater   (#696)     
Buller's Shearwater   (#693) 
Black-footed Albatross        
Ashy Storm-Petrel   (#694)
Black Storm-Petrel  (#695)            
Red Phalarope                  (last seen 2001)
Red-necked Phalarope          
Pomarine Jaeger              
Parasitic Jaeger              
Long-tailed Jaeger            
Rhinoceros Auklet              
Cassin's Auklet              
Scripps's Murrelet   (#692)             
Common Murre                  
Pigeon Guillemot

Notable terrestrial species:
Black Turnstone                
Surfbird                               (new for Lower 48, second+ one ever)
Prairie Falcon                
Yellow-billed Magpie          
Wrentit                                (last seen 2001)
California Thrasher             (last seen 2001)
California Towhee              (last seen 2001)
Bell's Sparrow (canescens)      (#697)

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