California – Day 3 (July 28): Half Moon Bay Pelagic!

As we awoke on the morning of Saturday, the 28th, a slow realization came over us: in just an hour we would be embarking on one of the most anticipated stints of the trip: the Half Moon Bay pelagic!

Shearwater Journeys certainly pushed the boundary of a birder’s imagination by naming this trip ‘Cook’s Petrel Express’. At least that’s what I thought until I did a little research into their 2009 trips from Half Moon Bay: their website mentions Cook’s Petrels were “found in abundance on fall 2009 trips,” not to mention all three albatrosses, the first North American record of White-chinned Petrel, and a slew of other exciting highlights.

With this in mind, we boarded the boat early, while listening to the cries of Western Gulls and Elegant Terns flying about the harbor.

In short, seasoned Pacific pelagic birders would almost certainly consider our trip a bust. However, for someone with no Pacific pelagic experience, nor much pelagic experience elsewhere, this trip was a blast! Personal highlights included Western and Clark’s Grebes, Black-footed Albatross, Pink-footed Shearwater, Ashy Storm-Petrel, Wandering Tattler, Red Phalarope, all three Jaegers, California Gull, Marbled Murrelet (guess we won’t be returning to Portola after all!), Cassin’s and Rhinoceros Auklets as well as many others. Non-avian highlights included Leatherback Turtle, Harbor Seal and California Sea Lion.

Shearwater Journeys has posted a nice trip report at their site (click here). In fear of stealing their thunder, I’ll restrict the post here to some photo highlights (below):

Red-throated Loon (molting adult)

Ashy Storm-Petrel

Pink-footed Shearwater

Black-footed Albatross!

Arctic Tern

Pomarine Jaeger

Common Murre fledgling (the parent was close by)

Marbled Murrelet: seeing five on the pelagic saved us a return trip to Portola the next day. Awesome birds!


Elegant Tern

Common Loon

Black Turnstones

Pelagic Cormorant

From left to right: Pelagic, Double-crested, and Brandt’s Cormorants


Black Oystercatcher

Western Gull

Harbor Seal

Leatherback Turtle

It certainly was not the most comfortable pelagic I’ve been on. The combination of high seas, winds, and a small boat (about half the size of the party fishing and whale watching boats typical of New England pelagics) made for a rough ride. Numerous people on board got sick, and for part of the trip I was among them. Even Debi Shearwater herself developed a case of seasickness and bore the green mask for much of the ride.

Uncomfortable or not, I’m just itching to get out there again!


This entry was posted in California - July/August 2012. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to California – Day 3 (July 28): Half Moon Bay Pelagic!

  1. Yea, that sounds like one killer trip to me. No bust in my opinion. Awesome!

  2. Helen says:

    Wow, Alex; just wow! Sorry you had to be seasick for part of that amazing trip. I love your photos and continue to be jealous of all you are seeing. Enjoy the rest of your trip! –Helen

  3. Jim Dugan says:

    Great shots of great birds. Really like the Corm comparison. Can’t wait to hear about the rest of the trip.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s