Saturday, April 30, 2005

30th April - Albatross!

We’d booked an early whale-watching boat trip into Monterey Bay this morning and were quite excited by the prospect of seeing whales, dolphins and seabirds at close range from the boat. Well, it was a good trip but we didn’t see any whales apart from a couple of Gray Whales which hardly surfaced at all. There were dolphins though – a large pod of Risso’s Dolphins with a few Pacific White-sided Dolphins.

The birds were good, though not as good as I’d hoped. A pair of Harlequins in the harbour on the way out were best but there were loads of Pelagic Cormorants, Pigeon Guillemots, Sooty Shearwaters. Unfortunately 2-3 Rhinoceros Auklets dived as soon as the boat got anywhere near them preventing even half-decent views. On return, the Harlequins remained in the harbour along with several Great Northern Divers (Common Loons in American).

Vitty had wanted to visit the aquarium in Monterey so we went there next. It was quite good, but I think we both found it a little disappointing. Apart from the fish, the Sea Otters were cool as were the jellyfish, but the penguins looked very unhappy about their very unnatural habitat, a big condensation-covered fish tank.

We then drove round Monterey Peninsula stopping here and there but not generally seeing much. When we reached Bird Rock, a rock covered in about 400 Brandt’s Cormorants and 60 Brown Pelicans, I noticed a couple of other birders watching the sea. Walking up to them I asked if they’d seen much and they advised me they were watching an Albatross!

It turned out that there were 2 Black-footed Albatrosses flying past, with a Sooty Shearwater in between for size comparison – fantastic timing! This was a species I had hoped (not expected) to see from the boat so I was well pleased with this. But as if this wasn’t enough, a few minutes later one of them called a puffin. Sure enough there was a Tufted Puffin flying by – a real goodie this far south and something I certainly didn’t expect to see this holiday.

Other birds seen from here included about 100 Sooty Shearwaters, Greater Yellowlegs and Wandering Tattler.

We finished up at Carmel River Mouth, a nice spot with plenty of birds visible from beside the car park. There were 200 California and 150 Western Gulls, 60 Brown Pelicans, the only Goldeneye of the trip and a selection of waders including Spotted Sandpiper. A Violet-green Swallow was with the Tree, Barn and Northern Rough-winged Swallows flying around.



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