My afternoon office at Point Pinos
The day started off incredibly slowly. There was barely a trickle of Sooty shearwaters passing the point when I arrived at noon. Slowly the afternoon winds built, and with it a few more birds appeared. A few parasitic jaegers cruised by, and I was able to pick out a Pink-footed shearwater or two. Humpback whales surfaced here and there, and although the birdlife was a bit thin, it was a thoroughly pleasant afternoon. The highlight of the first two hours though was a Peregrine falcon pursuing and capturing an Elegant tern out of the air right over the water! The raptor returned to a shoreline rock whereupon it tore the tern to bits. It was very exciting.
Eventually more shearwaters appeared around some bird activity in the vicinity of some bait pushed to the surface by some sort of marine mammals. With this activity, came a very large jaeger with loads of white in the wings that I identified as a Pomarine. I had seen probable Poms at Pigeon Point a few days ago, but this big heavy bird left no doubt in my mind. My last expected pelagic species had joined the party at #564. The Pomarine had shown at around 3pm. This meant that I had roughly another 3 hours before sunset to stare out into the abyss and wait for who-knows-what to fly by.
Starting at around 4pm, shearwater activity really increased. Single Black-vents soon became thousands as the birds streamed west out of the bay and around Point Pinos. Although relegated to the second most common species for the first time today, Sooty shearwaters continued to impress as well. Further out, as per usual, I picked a few more Pink-footed, and, closer in, a few additional Parasitic jaegers rifled past me. Wait.....what was that. That bird had a bright, all white underwing. The half-second view was immediately truncated by a wave crest. Damn! Oh wait, there it is again. Could it be a Manx? It was immediately joined by a Black-vent. This comparison showed the mystery bird to be slightly larger than the Black-vent - Manx was out. It also had white cheek, and a contrasting darkish cap. Could it be a Buller's? A quick bank showed the characteristic "M" wing pattern! Yes! This was a bird at which I thought I had an outside chance of finding. Although relatively common most years offshore from Monterey, numbers of this bird have been way down this year. This could be due either to the very warm water in the area (it was 63F today) or to some natural, unexplained fluctuation. Anyway, I figured this would be a tough one from shore on this down year. I actually picked a second one that fellow birders RJ Adams and Bill Reese were able to enjoy. This was a fantastic end to a long but productive day of seawatching. I will surely return to the point tomorrow for another bout of scanning tomorrow. A Flesh-footed shearwater was actually reported at the point before I arrived today by a reliable observer. In Monterey and Pacific Grove, you really never know what might go cruising by!
Me (with hat-hair), RJ Adams
OK, I am going to hit the hay a bit early to get some extra rest tonight!