WOW!! What a day. After several cancelations and date changes, our first pelagic trip of the year was amazing.
The weather finally cooperated with no rain, little wind and calm seas. Viewing was perfect especially for alcids, with overcast skies and glassy water.
Traveling over the bar and into the open ocean was pretty easy compared to some spring trips.
The first shearwater we encountered was just past the bar. It was a SHORT-TAILED that is seen regularly during the late fall, winter and early spring.
It passed in front of the boat and the various field marks were observed. The rounded head, small bill, darker under wings, and short tail distinguished it from the more common Sooty Shearwater. During this time a MANX SHEARWATER was seen by a few with hope we could find another later.
We encountered few Common Murres in the area beyond the bar, where in a few months we’ll have hundreds. However, we did see many Rhinoceros Auklets and the beginning of numerous Black-legged Kittiwakes.
ANCIENT MURRELETS were spotted here as well and continued throughout the day into Grays Canyon. A Pomarine Jaeger was viewed by several in the back of the boat.
Continuing out, several crab boats attracted many Northern Fulmars, Herring and Glaucous-winged/Western Gulls and Black-legged Kittiwakes.
Sooty Shearwaters and a couple more Short-tailed Shearwaters were also seen.
At the edge of Grays Canyon, another Manx Shearwater was observed, again by a few, and the beginning of more alcids.
One very close CASSIN’S AUKLET provided great views as it tried to move away from the boat. It seemed well fed and finally dove to avoid us.
As we got into the deep water of the canyon, there were shouts of PARAKEET AUKLETS. We had several sightings throughout our time in the canyon with 14 seen. However, they were very hard to see as they never came close to the boat.
All our observations were of them flying away. The many photographs taken helped to identify some.
As we got close to our usual stop to put out chum, we saw a lot of splashing ahead of us. ORCAS!!
The dorsal fin of a large male, a smaller fin of a female and two smaller fins of young, plus the distinctive marks of these black and white mammals confirmed their identification.
The question was WHAT WAS GOING ON? Well it didn’t take long to see that a Steller’s Sea Lion was being eaten as it was struggling. These were the ocean going Transient Orca’s. They feed primarily on mammals and are considered to be a separate species, by some, from the Resident and Offshore sub-species that feed on fish.
As we watched this spectacle a good number of BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS, fulmars and gulls were drawn to this commotion.
Many photos were taken and we decided that we didn’t need to go to another area to chum, because of all the birds there. We were just about to leave when a LAYSAN ALBATROSS came in to join the attraction.
Again many photos were taken of this cooperative bird, which are becoming more regular. We believe that the breeding population off the Mexico coast contributes to most of our recent sightings.
Leaving this area and returning to the edge of the canyon, a MANX SHEARWATER cruised right in front of us for great views for all.
Also, as we motored back by the crab boats, most viewed a Pomarine Jaeger and the same Laysan, confirmed by photos. The other highlight was a FORK-TAILED STORM PETREL, seen by just a few.
Here are numbers of some of the species: Black-footed Albatross-74, Laysan Albatross-1, Sooty Shearwater-629, Short-tailed Shearwater-3, Manx Shearwater-3,