Sunday, October 19, 2014

Oct 18 (Day 291) - Seawatching Saturday!

For the first time in my life, I really miss fall as it occurs in the northeast. The constantly shortening days suggest a change in the seasons, but, given the complete lack of fall foliage here in Southern California, I am having a difficult time reconciling that it is indeed autumn at the moment. I have come to love the crisp, New England autumn mornings that beautifully bridge the time between the hot summers and the frigid winters. Perhaps without the Red Sox or Phillies in the baseball playoffs, I have just lost my October bearings.......sigh.

Today started out with a 4-hour seawatch from La Jolla. I bumped into a group of birders from the Palomar Audubon Society. Many of them had heard about my project, and I took a few minutes to hold court so as to bring those that hadn't up to speed on my year. The chatting that occurred was a nice distraction from what was a fairly slow morning of seabirding. As expected, I had hundreds of Black-vented shearwaters to accompany the usual scoters, shorebirds, gulls, terns, and cormorants. We did not have any jaegers, and I struck out on the bird I was most specifically seeking, Cassin's auklet. These are regular here, so I am not sure why none were present today. I had some experienced eyes helping me today, but even they were unable to pick one of these tiny alcids amid the choppy seas. I am going to return to this spot after the weekend to again search for the auklet. I decided to get out of La Jolla for tomorrow (Sunday) since there is a huge bike race that finishes at the exact spot from which I birded this morning. It just going to be too hectic to be patiently scanning the seas with people waking/biking in front of the scope every 2 seconds. 

A few early arriving members of Palomar Audubon

The most exciting moment of the morning came when another observed called out a Manx shearwater. This was a bird that I thought I had an outside chance of ticking in Monterey but was not on my radar here in SoCal. I was able to get my scope on the bird a few seconds after it was called out. The bird looked to have very white underwings, but it was so far out that I could not see any of the other field marks that one normally needs to nail this bird for certain. I REALLY wanted to call this a Manx, but after thinking about it all day and looking at dozens of photos this evening, I cannot with absolute certainty say I saw a Manx shearwater today. This is actually the second time this has happened to me as I experienced a similar situation in Monterey with a possible Manx. IDing these birds on boats is one thing. IDing them from a half to a full mile away from shore is another. So close. Ugh.

In the afternoon I headed down to Imperial Beach to look for boobies. The 18-year old in me can never get enough of saying that. Looking for boobies. At the beach. When its 80F. In California. Only thing better would be if I could seawatch from an outdoor deck at Hooters! Anyway, I can see Queen Sonia rolling her eyes now, so I will move on before I get myself in more trouble. 

Need, now.....

Because of the warmer-than-normal water this year, there have been unusually high (i.e. dozens) of Brown boobies hanging around the US/Mexico border region this fall. There have also been at least 2 Blue-footed boobies seen with them. I did not originally expect to see these birds this year, so the addition of either one of them would be a nice bonus. It did not take much time for me to find several Brown boobies fishing offshore. The light was terrible since the sun was hanging low in the western sky, but I was able to make out enough coloration and patterning to add Brown booby to the year list as #578. I am actually going to return to the same spot very early tomorrow morning. I am hoping that by sifting through the Browns, I might be able to find one of the Blue-footeds. 

My afternoon view in Imperial Beach

54 miles today

OK, off to bed!

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