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Coronado Islands, Mexico

It was another long day yesterday. I woke up at 3:30AM to drive down to San Diego to catch the “Grande” fishing/birding pelagic boat out to the Coronado Islands in Mexican waters. The weather was magnificent as we all enjoyed a beautiful sunrise just before the boat departed at 7AM. The sea wasn’t as gracious. Just as we left the safety of the harbor the waters began getting a little choppy. Within the first hour, I observed a few people graciously donating their breakfasts to the birds at the rear of the boat. Fortunately I’m never one to get sick – I suppose it’s the fact I always take a dramamine and make sure I have plenty of food and water in my stomach throughout the day. They also say you should also get a good nights sleep and don’t drink alcohol the night before. But that’s never stopped me!

Coronado Islads
Coronado Islands

As we were leaving the harbor we were greeted with Black-vented, Sooty and Pink-footed Shearwaters later joined by several Northern Fulmars. We were surpised at not seeing any Alcids (Rhino, Cassin’s Auklet, Xantus’ Murrelet, etc.) But by mid-day we encountered at least a half dozen Xantus’ Murrelets and several Rhinoceros Auklets. Along the lines of mammals, we had a few Gray Whales, a Fin Whale heading south, lots of Common, Risso’s and Bottlenose Dolphins and many California Sea Lions.

Coronado Islads
Coronado Islands

At the Coronado Islands themselves we found 20+ Brown Boobies, many of them nesting already. There was also a Peregrine Falcon pair entertaining us with their aerial acrobatics and high speed nose dives. All the other common stuff included Black Oystercatchers (many Am./Black hybrids), Brandt’s, Pelagic and Double-crested Cormorants, lots of Brown Pelicans and many Western and California Gulls.

Pink-footed Shearwater
Pink-footed Shearwater

Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon

Northern Fulmar
Northern Fulmar

Rhinoceros Auklet
Rhinoceros Auklet

Black-legged Kittiwake
Black-legged Kittiwake

Xantus's Murrelet
Xantus’s Murrelet

Brown Booby
Brown Booby

Sooty Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater

Coronado Islads
Searching the rocks for Boobies @ Coronado Islands

Guy Mccaskie
Guy McCaskie


GPS Track
GPS Track plotted by Google Earth

 

Posted by on April 5, 2009 in Photography Adventures

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Santa Barbara Channel Pelagic

Sunday, March 1 – Wes Fritz organized a pelagic aboard the Condor Express. The mission objective was to locate any Parakeet Auklets which sometimes winter as far south as Southern California. They have been recorded in counties just north of Santa Barbara County and a dead specimen washed ashore at Venice Beach in Los Angeles county last winter. To give you an idea of where Parakeet Auklets are normally found:



Parakeet Auklet Range Map

We set sail from Santa Barbara Harbor at approximately 0700 Sunday morning. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. No winds, patchy high/upper clouds and a sea that looked like glass. The combination of that and being on a large catamaran meant we felt very virtually no ship rocking. Perfect conditions for photography! Within 30 minutes of leaving the harbor we located a pair of Xantus’s Murrelet (scrippsi). They were quite cooperative allowing us to circle around them for optimal lighting conditions. At one point we were within at least 30′ of them.

After 15-20 minutes of spectacular views and photos of the Murrelets we continued on our way. Not even thirty minutes later, Paul Lehman shouted “STOP THE BOAT!!!!” And let me tell you, that catamaran can stop on a DIME. We all lurched forward as the captain put on the brakes. We were looking all around to figure out what Paul screamed stop for. We heard someone shout “PARAKEET AUKLETS”. A few moments later, one surfaced from underwater 50 yards from the boat. Moments later a second surfaced. The captain quickly tried to get the boat a little closer. More than 3/4 of the boat had cameras and you could hear everyone’s shutters going off at full speed.

The map below will give you an idea of our route. The top-left mark was where we located the pair of Parakeet Auklets. Top-right mark is Santa Barbara Harbor. The bottom-left mark is the Rodriguez Seamount – a 6,000′ deep trench.



GPS Ship Track Plot Map


San Miguel Island (Point Conception in background)

Aside from the Parakeet Auklets, I had an incredible photo day recording my best yet photos of Cassin’s and Rhinoceros Auklet and Xantus’s Murrelet:

Xantus's Murrelet
Xantus’s Murrelet

Xantus's Murrelet
Xantus’s Murrelet

Rhinoceros Auklet
Rhinoceros Auklet

Cassin's Auklet
Cassin’s Auklet

Cassin's Auklet
Cassin’s Auklet

Parakeet Auklet
Parakeet Auklet

Northern Fulmar
Northern Fulmar

Northern Fulmar
Northern Fulmar

Pigeon Guillemot
Pigeon Guillemot

California Gull
California Gull

Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale

 

Posted by on March 2, 2009 in Photography Adventures

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Coronados Islands – Nov 22, 2008

Nothing that out-of-the-ordinary on the Coronados Islands pelagic last saturday but I did get new photos of Black-legged Kittiwake and much better shots of Black-vented Shearwater. Also had a Peregrine Falcon do a fly-by a few miles from the islands – more than likely the same one that we see each time we visit the Coronados. As we got closer to the islands, a presumable House/White-crowned Sparrow flew up and over the boat. As we were all trying to ID the wayward sparrow, I shouted out “Where’s that Peregrine??!”. No more than 10 seconds after I shouted that, the Peregrine came out of nowhere and nailed the Sparrow!! Talk about bad luck – so much for any hopes of positively ID’ing the Peregrine’s snack.

Black-legged Kittiwake
Black-legged Kittiwake

Black-vented Shearwater
Black-vented Shearwater

Black-vented Shearwater
Black-vented Shearwater

Common Dolphin
Common Dolphin doing a back-flip

 

Posted by on November 25, 2008 in Photography Adventures

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Monterey Bay

Drove up to Monterey, CA this weekend for back to back Debi Shearwater pelagic trips. Debi is also the one we will be going to Antarctica with next winter. All six of the guides from the Antarctica trip happened to be on the boat with us, along with WINGS leader Steve Howell, which gave me ample time to pick their brains on any questions I had.

Saturday’s pelagic out of Monterey was pretty rough with swells exceeding 12′. Many people were sick, sacrificing their breakfast and lunch to the seagulls following the boat. Fortunately I was not one of them! Sunday’s boat trip out of Santa Cruz was much calmer as the winds had died down overnight. The highlight of the weekend were a pod of Humpback Whales that were being harassed by 6 Transient Orcas (Killer Whale). We suspect the group of Orcas were trying to kill one of the Humpback Whale calves. We don’t think they succeeded as we only noticed the remnants of a California Sea Lion floating in the water.

Lots of images follow:

Sea Otter
Sea Otter

Sea Otter
Sea Otter

Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale

Transient Orca
Transient Orca

Transient Orca
Transient Orca

Transient Orca
Transient Orca

Risso's Dolphin
Risso’s Dolphin

Risso's Dolphin
Risso’s Dolphin

California Sea Lion
California Sea Lion

Sooty Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater

Buller's Shearwater
Buller’s Shearwater

Buller's Shearwater
Buller’s Shearwater

Pink-footed Shearwater
Pink-footed Shearwater

Black-footed Albatross
Black-footed Albatross

Northern Fulmar
Northern Fulmar

Common Murre
Common Murre

Marbled Murrelet
Marbled Murrelet

South Polar Skua
South Polar Skua

Golden-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow

Northern Harrier
Northern Harrier

 

Posted by on October 13, 2008 in Photography Adventures

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