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Buller's Shearwaters off Gaviota Area, Etc.

Robert A. Hamilton <robbham@...>
 

Hi Barbarians,

As you may have seen recently in the News Press, I'm just back from a
few weeks in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I'm still just recovering
from the shock of re-entry to "civilization" and wading through 237
e-mails, more than a couple concerning Curlew Sandpipers (I'd vote for
the two-bird theory unless photos show otherwise) and American Dippers!
I'll be putting together some information on my trip -- part scientific
expedition (trawling to determine how much surface plankton in the open
ocean consists of tiny bits of plastic debris -- looks like about half
-- yikes!) and part birding adventure (seven lifers including four
Pterodroma -- a Baird's Sandpiper collected 1,000 miles offshore and an
adult Red-footed Booby several hundred miles offshore were interesting
oddities).

Approaching Point Conception from the open ocean on the morning of
Saturday 4 September, we experienced exceptionally calm weather and
overcast skies, with hundreds of Sooty Shearwaters zipping about. As we
turned eastward and steamed slowly past Gaviota, approximately 3-4 miles
off the coast, we started picking up Buller's Shearwaters sitting on the
water and soaring around near our boat. I counted five between Gaviota
and Refugio, and would expect that some were visible from promontories
in this area. It was a county bird for me, and Lehman 1994 lists only 16
records, just two of which were seen from shore. East of Refugio the
seabird numbers really dropped off, and waters in the Coal Oil Point
area were disgustingly oily as ever. I was also interested to see a
flock of 20 Northern Rough-winged Swallows flying south and calling a
half mile off Campus Point. Good birding to y'all, and send a Curlew
Sandpiper down to Orange County, por favor!

-Robb Hamilton
Trabuco Canyon
robbham@...