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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Offshore neighbors

During late summer and fall, I try to get out on at least one or two pelagic trips to Bodega Canyon and Cordell Bank.  I went out on September 19th with Shearwater Journeys aboard the New Sea Angler.  Here are a few trip highlights:


Guadalupe Murrelet (Synthliboramphus hypoleucus) — (in 2012, Xantus's Murrelet was split into two different species, Scripps's Murrelet and Guadalupe Murrelet).  Guadalupe Murrelet is one of the southernmost breeding alcids (a group that includes auks, auklets, guillemots, murres, murrelets, and puffins).  They nest on islands off the west coast of Baja California and then disperse northward after the breeding season. However, it's rare to see them in central/northern California.  

Note the amount of white on the face and how it arches up and over the eye.  Also look for the white wing linings in the last picture (below).





We also had great looks at an adult Tufted Puffin (in non-breeding plumage): 


And although challenging to photograph, there was a good number of Arctic Terns (Sterna paradisaea), ~180 during the entire trip.


The mammal highlight was a lone male Orca (Orcinus orca) — a different individual than the Orcas we observed on 7 September:


This Orca wasn't rising very far above the surface, but here's another image in case it's useful for identification purposes: 


Every trip out to sea is different, and I'm thankful for every opportunity to become more aware of our "offshore neighbors."  Spending time on a boat changes how I look at the ocean from land.  When I scan the western horizon from Bodega Head, I visualize these amazing animals and wonder about their lives in the open ocean.  It's helpful and inspiring to know who lives out there!

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