Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Albatross, Albatross, Get your Albatross - Calibirdication Day 9

The people came and birded.
Some of them came and played
Others gave flowers away, yes they did
Down in Monterey,
Down in Monterey.

Albatross! Albatross!
We awoke after a very restful sleep. Staying at the Days Inn afforded us ease of access to the dock where our pelagic would be departing. We went on foot and perused the nearby restaurants and such. We had great anticipation of this our second pelagic of the trip, which was egged on by the message below From Alvaro, the trip leader. We had to be the first ones to the dock.

    Hello all,
        Conditions are forecast to be relatively calm, low winds and low waves on Saturday. It will be neat to see what is out there in these conditions, which make it easier to see small birds like storm-petrels and murrelets. As well, it is a great situation to find whales, so we have a nice weather setup. We hope that the calm conditions also allow for good photography! There may be patchy fog, but hopefully that will not last for long...

At the dock we got our first goodies. A Sea Otter was floating under the nearby structure and munching on Pelagic Crabs, and the latter were floating just under the surface. They look like shell-less hermit crabs, and are related to them. Large numbers of them have been in the area and this happens from time to time. It is said that they are related to warm water and skew the normally cold water fish further north.

Sea Otter enjoying breakfast

Pelagic Crab

Lisa as well as everyone else I'm sure, was pleased to see this cute beast. Lisa had this creature high on her desire list so she was hoping to be able to see one. And there it was within a few feet, exuding cuteness. Also at the dock were Barn Swallows, swooping right past us. Not what I expected here but hey. Of course as we motored out we got the expected stuff: Black Turnstone, Brandt's Cormorant, Brown Pelican,  Heermann's Gull, Common Murre, on the very populated jetty.

Brant's Cormorants and California Sea Lions

Black Turnstone

Common Murre disgusted by the slacker Sea Lions
Great Egret hunting on a kelp forest's canopy

Too dam cute
Once we were out on the water, of course we had  Black-vented Shearwater and California Gull, but also Pomarine, Long-tailed, and Parasitic Jaeger.

Ever the elusive bunch, we did see a few Cassin's Auklets and Rhinoceros Auklets.

Rhinoceros Auklet

Rhinoceros Auklet

Risso's Dolphin

The ocean conditions were sublime

'Common' Murre is an appropriate name here abouts

Sooty Shearwaters

Yeah, the ocean conditions didn't suck!

A special highlight was a flock, yes a ~flock~ of Albatross'. We came upon a research vessel with them queued up behind it, and we were able to stop nearby and observe. It was not to long before the Albatross' noticed us and swam over! 

Albatross! Albatross!

I'll Take Two

What flavor is it?
Flavor? Albatross!
Do you get wafers with it?

Sheesh, next you'll be asking for Gannet on a stick

It was so calm, that Common Terns and Elegant Turns were loafing on strands of bull kelp way out off shore.

Common and Elegant Tern
But surely the unique conditions were the most memorable, as throughout the day the birds were mirrored in the surface of the water so the looks at the Fulmar weren't too shabby.

Northern Fulmar with multiple reflections!

Red-necked Phalaropes reflected

Red-necked Phalaropes reflected

Red-necked Phalaropes resting

Northern Fulmar

Of course there was other amazing sightings along the way that involved creatures that inhabit the other side of the waters surface.

Humpback Whale

Krill being chased by fish

Krill leaping out of the water in a frenzy
We drifted over to the commotion and as we approached we could not only see them but hear the splashing of the jumping krill, see the fish that were chasing them, and even catch wiffs of  distinct krill odor. Wow! We even heard the krill scream; they said: save us Shrimpke!, But there was nothing Lisa could do. And then the whales swallowed them. {the fish and krill, but not Lisa }

the whales gulped down

The sun never came out, but this sunfish, or Mola Mola did.
Blue Whales are huge!
Lest you think the bird show stopped, it didn't. Sabines Gulls in all stages of plumage became more and more numerous and gave goods looks as did some of the other birds we hoped to get good looks at.

Sabine's Gull

Pink-footed Shearwater

Cassin's Auklet
Yes! Finally a good look at and a photo of this elusive though not particularly rare auklet. But alas all things come to an end and we motored back to port; though the gifts came coming right up to our approaching the dock.

A Pigeon Guillemot was feeding its young most confidingly.

Pigeon Guillemot

Young Guillemot trying to swallow a skulpin

Arriving at the dock we decided to make the most of remaining daylight, because that’s what daylight is for, and headed up to the Elkhorn Slough area. A pit-stop at a farm stand was nice for a snack of battered deep fried artichoke. Yum!

We followed the road that took us all around this inlet / estuary otherwise known as a slough, and it was picturesque, but not entirely obvious where folks stopped to bird.

So we followed directions and headed towards the eburd hotspot Lisa had found in preparation for this trip. Definitely a good resource, but not a complete one. I prefer to use the ABA 'Lane' guides, which give a lot more information beside what has been seen there recently.

Important stuff like driving directions, access, hours, days closed, fees etc. It really sucks to get somewhere and finding out that it is closed, or in this case that the sign says private property do not enter...

I had tried to look up some info on the Moon Glow Dairy prior to the trip but nothing specific did I find. After looking at the map and the hotspot location I figured we must be in the right place sign or not. 

A very pleasant get was a Golden Eagle on Dolan Road. We entered the dairy mindful that it was a working farm and tried to stay out of the way. We saw lots more birds such as Savannah Sparrows, Killdeer, and by the cattle we had Brown-headed Cowbird, Brewer's Blackbird, and Red-winged Blackbird...? 

This place was supposed to be -the- place for Tricolored Blackbird, but the views were furtive and we, and especially I, did not hear them sing or call. The birds sound so different from one another that had they vocalized we would have been certain of the ID

We headed down towards the water view where we saw a lot of good stuff. White Pelican, Kingfisher, Snegret, Black Phoebe, Americoot, and heard Great Horned Owl.

My should have been favorite bird here was the Chickadees we had in the Eucalyptus trees, as they were a trip bird. Having spent so much time in the mountains I reflexively blurted out Mountain Chickadee. Lisa rapidly pointed out that in this location we should be getting Chestnut-backed Chickadees, and she was correct. Much to her delight. Much much to her delight; as she savored pointing out I was incorrect and then enjoined Arlene to taunted me mercilessly. My plaintive cries that they look the same from underneath went unheeded. "We're not in the mountains" they rebuked. Golly. All day out on the ocean and dulled by Dramamine { which I took though it was thoroughly unnecessary } and not a sliver of sympathy. 

Chestnut-backed Chickadee
One of the last birds we saw here was a very secretive Wilson's Warbler. It was in a dense shrub so getting good looks was tough, but we finally saw its yarmulke and cinched the ID. 

With light fading we decided to try Moss Landing, and did nicely there. Western Grebe is always a nice sight, as well as White-crowned Sparrow. And much to Lisa's delight we saw more Otters floating in the water. She was even more delighted when I misidentified them as Wolverines. Will the taunting ever stop?

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