The annual Searcher pelagic trip departed San Diego about noon on Labor Day and was back to the dock Friday morning at 730 AM. Highlights were many. Monday afternoon was spent crossing the 9 mile bank and working our way up the 30 mile. Highlights were excellent looks at a couple of Brown Boobies as well as close passes by a RED-FOOTED BOOBY. Ashy, Black, and Leach's Storm-Petrels, plus a few leaders and participants were able to glimpse and photo one or two LEAST STORM_PETRELS along the way.
We decided to start day 2 at Santa Barbara Island where we saw the continuing immature NAZCA BOOBY plus about 80 Brown Boobies. From Santa Barbara we worked our way northwest along the Santa Cruz basin, seeing good numbers of Pomarine and Long-tailed Jaegers, Arctic Terns, as well as the expected shearwater species. We were treated to another RED-FOOTED BOOBY not too far from SB Island. In the late afternoon we arrived at a bank south east of San Miguel Island called "The Condor Bank" as it was a fishing spot frequented by the original Condor board from Santa Barbara. Here we encountered large boils of 200lb Bluefin Tuna, and the bird show was spectacular. Several South Polar Skuas, a dozen jaegers, many hundreds of Pink-footed Shearwaters and likely a hundred Arctic Terns. The show was spectacular, and here we found yet another immature NAZCA BOOBY and a couple of Brown Boobies.
After anchoring near San Miguel for the night, DAY 3 we headed out to The Rodriguez Dome about 30 miles to the west. We departed Miguel about 5 AM, and were on the dome about 730 AM. Just before arriving at Rodriguez we encountered yet another immature NAZCA BOOBY. Exceptional numbers of Buller's Shearwaters, 8 Guadalupe Murrelets (seen well by all onboard) as well as our first Red-billed Tropicbird of the trip were highlights of our day headed south. We had as many as 10 Black-footed Albatross with us at once, and there were several behind the boarWe finished the day at the San Juan Seamount. We encountered dozens of Blue Whales in this deep water as well as some Fin whales, and a couple of cooperative BAIRD"S-BEAKED Whales. Guadalupe Fur Seals were seen regularly. Our first TOWNSEND"S STORM-PETRELS
DAY 4 was spent traveling traveling from the western edge of the Tanner and Cortez Banks to the San Clemente Island basin. We found a cooperative RED-BILLED TROPICBIRD on the water, as well our first of nearly a dozen COOK'S PETRELS. Leach's Storm-petrels were present in numbers, and we were able to get folks on a handful of TOWNSEND's Storm-Petrels. Inside the Cortez we had the familiar cry of "White Booby behind the boat", and had an immature booby circle the boat. This one seemed to show characters of MASKED BOOBY, but this bird was not as straightforward as the others, so we will be sending photos out to get some expert opinions before putting this one in the books.
As we approached Sam Clemente we were treated to one of the most spectacular afternoons I have ever spent at sea. Boils of smaller bluefin tuna were everywhere, and there were literally thousands of Pink-footed Shearwaters wheeling about, as well as. hundreds of Arctic and Common Terns, dozens of Sabine's gulls and jaegers were in flight. We also saw about 35 Craveri's Murrelets in this area, some very close to the boat allowing great looks. We poked through flock after flock of birds until dark, eventually getting brief looks at a FLESH_FOOTED SHEARWATER. In the middle of this feeding frenzy we also saw yet another NAZCA BOOBY, this one a full adult.
The high overcast conditions were also good for migrants, and we had Willow Flycatcher, Macgillvray'a Warbler as well as Orange-crowned, Townsend's, Black-throated Gray as well as multiple cowbirds and several species of shorebird.
One of the best trips I have done off SoCal and certainly continues the excellent results this year. Thanks to Celia Condit and Captain Art Taylor from Searcher Natural History Tours, my co-leaders Dave Pereksta, Dave Povey, and Rob Hynson. Thanks to all the participants as well.
Todd McGrath SKUA@... The Woodlands, TX