Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sept 29 (Day 272) - Getting ready for Monterey, thoughts on using sailboats this year

After the huge Pacific golden-plover triumph of yesterday, I today had to retrace my tracks south through Santa Cruz to reach Salinas, CA. I knew exactly what to expect for the first half of the ride, but the second half was a much tougher than I thought. I had been able to ride on Highway 1 north of Santa Cruz, but was not permitted to do south south of that point. As a result I was shunted onto side roads that had lots of short but steep hills. After a total of 92 miles today, I was wiped out when I reached Salinas. Luckily tomorrow will be a short ride to Monterey where the sea birding will be heavily featured for the next 3-5 days.

One topic/idea that has been raised at various points this year is if it would be possible for me to sail out into Monterey Bay to add the pelagics species that are there found. I have decided against doing this. The main reason is that any sailboat that would be able (i.e. big enough, safe enough) to take me out into the often unpredictable Monterey Bay is going to have to use its motor (and gas) to get in and out of the harbor. It is illegal to be under sail in harbors as it puts the sailboat and all other boats at risk. I thought about kayaking out to a boat that had already left the harbor, but this all seems like trying to exploit loop holes so at to maximize my species count. Speaking with Mark Kudrav this week, we both felt that this would be disingenuous and contrary to the spirit of green birding. We agreed that there is a much better, more sincere and appropriate solution to the challenge of how to add seabirds to the list: seawatch harder. Sure, I would add more species by being out on a sailboat, but the integrity of my list is more important than the number of birds on it. For example, I have not taken my bike on a ferry this year. This has added many hundreds of miles to my route. Likewise, I have not accepted rides when offered. I could have birded the bird-rich Delmarva Peninsula in Jan/Feb on my way down the east coast and then hitched a ride over the 21-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. This would have saved me from going through the birdless (and dangerous) areas of Baltimore and Washington, DC. However, I felt that doing this would have again been disingenuous. I have certainly had lots of help from people in cars this year, but I think I want to draw the line at the boat. I know I am going to get a bunch of emails saying this is a good idea or that this a terrible idea, but it's how it's going to be. When you do your green big year, you can feel free to do it however you want. Just know that the 2 guys with the highest single-year-species-totals to date both decided against the sailboat. Lastly, kayaking would certainly be possible, but I do not think it would be as productive as seawatching from a good, high perch since I would be so low on the water and I would be scopeless anyway. 

It is going to be very interesting to see what happen if organizations start keeping green birding records like they do for more conventional methods of transportation. We will certainly have to come up with some standards moving forward. I will have lots to say about this later in the year, don't you worry! For those that are new to the blog, I did write a bit about this earlier in the year. You can see some of those thoughts here.


  1. I suppose hang-gliding off an ocean cliff probably doesn't sound appealing either, right?
    I think you're doing the right thing, even though using a kayak wouldn't be too hard if the sea was calm. But not sure how far out you would get and if that would get you anything your scope couldn't get from shore.

  2. Seawatching is one of the most thrilling subgenres of birding, so have fun while at it. Kudos and good luck.