Date: 7/16/17 9:51 pm From: 'Alvaro Jaramillo' <chucao...> [peninsula-birding] <peninsula-birding-noreply...> Subject: [pen-bird] Wedge-tailed Shearwater - and otherwise good pelagic out of Half Moon Bay
I posted some quickie info to penbirds yesterday, in case anyone could find the shearwater from shore. We found it at the start of our pelagic trip, very close to shore. Sadly no one did find it. But here is the full story. Minutes from exiting Pillar Point Harbor, we saw this shearwater coming towards the boat with bowed wings, looking almost red-footed booby like as it came in head on. It went by at a moderate distance along the starboard side of the boat. My mind went to Wedge-tailed Shearwater, but the view was just not that good. While I was on the loudspeaker I yelled to look at this bird, asking "what is this thing?" The captain went to chase mode as we could see the bird heading towards surfers beach. Captain Tom Mattusch put full throttle on, and we raced chasing the bird while Logan Kahle and Chris Hayward kept the bird in view. Then we lost it.gone. Bird feeding frenzies were forming, and there were lots of birds around, so picking out a dark bird from lots of gulls and pelicans was a struggle. I communicated that I thought the bird looked like a Wedge-tailed Shearwater, but I knew that with that quick view and no photos, it would have to go down as a somewhat dodgy report for a bird this rare. Then, we got on it again, and were able to approach, the bird getting a little closer and closer and sure enough it gave an awesome and close fly by. The shutters were going, and we were able to document the bird really well. It was a Wedge-tailed Shearwater!! Photos available on our facebook site, thanks to the various photographers who were able to get superb photos in very low and gray light.
This was a dark morph individual. Key identification features are that this shearwater is long winged, with a distinctive wing shape, holding the wings bowed down when seen head on, and forward and angled at the wrist. Although a larger shearwater in length, this is not a heavy shearwater, so light in wing loading. In flight it flaps little, gliding much more than you would see in a Sooty Shearwater. Unlike a Flesh-footed, the bill is thin and dark. Key is that the body is long, particularly behind the wings with a distinctively long tail, which is wedge shaped. This individual was ratty and molting, with old outer primaries and new inners. Given that at this time of year they should be breeding, my assumption is that this is a first year bird as the adults would molt after they breed.
Needless to say while the rest of the pelagic trip was good, we all knew that it was likely that we had already seen the best bird of the day. In SF County a Wilson's Storm-Petrel was a nice goody, in with several Ashy Storm-Petrels. It was a good day for Tufted Puffin, we saw them (4) in both San Francisco and San Mateo. But in SF we had a "friendly" Tufted Puffin that would swim feet away from the boat and actually followed, I would say chased us, for some time. That bird was a highlight, and great pictures were taken. Note that local fishermen have told me that this week two days in a row a Tufted Puffin was in with the murres off Pedro Point in Pacifica! We found good numbers of Black-footed Albatross in both counties, Northern Fulmar in SF, more Ashy Storm-Petrels, lots of Sooty and Pink-foots, as well as Common Murres (many youngsters), Rhino and Cassin's Auklets. As it is early in the season only Red-necked Phalaropes were present. Three distant Pomarine/Parasitic jaegers were the first of the season. Most of the seabird activity was at the continental shelf edge and just outside but inside of the shelf there were few birds. Given the nice numbers offshore, the fact that we have found storm-petrels on both of our trips, and nice numbers of albatross and a rarity already - well it looks like it is building to be a great pelagic season. See you out there.