Fishing with benefits
Some of you might remember my reports from seawatching earlier this year, when I went out most times there was a good westerly wind and managed to see northern fulmars, black-legged kittiwakes, and a black-footed albatross (which after some debate was accepted by local ebird reviewers). A few people responded suggesting that I try to go out on one of the fishing boats that go out on the channel daily, which as a bonus gives an opportunity to check for seabirds. (Or, in my case, offers the bonus of fishing in addition to watching for seabirds.) Perhaps this was a good-hearted way of implying that I was crazy to stand in the cold and wind and look at specks a mile or two out through a shaky scope when you can just get on a boat and get close to them, but regardless, I gave the fishing boat option a try yesterday and was not disappointed.
The boat didn't cross the channel but instead followed the coast west, staying about 4-5 miles offshore, until somewhere between Gaviota and Point Conception. This was not the route I had hoped for, but on the way back from the fishing grounds, it got pretty birdy. I saw a handful of black storm-petrels, a couple of dozen each of sooty and pink-footed shearwaters, a black-vented shearwater, some phalaropes, and two common murres, all of which are expected but still fun to watch at relatively close range.
Most fun were the jaegers, several of which circled the boat in the stretch between Gaviota and Capitan, about four miles offshore. Since they were coming in and out of sight I don't have a precise count, but I've identified at least 5 different individuals from my photos. This is the number I reported to ebird but there were most likely several more. Three of them were pomarine jaegers (two adults, one of which had intact streamers, and one probably second-year), and two were parasitic. Photos of all three pomarines and one of the parasitic are on my ebird checklist.
Not as good as a proper pelagic birding trip of course but still a good time. I suspect that if the boat had gone further into the channel there would have been a larger diversity of species. And in addition to the birds, I could bring home about 8 lbs of fish fillets, probably a dozen or so dinners. Thanks again to those who suggested the birding/fishing combo.
eBird checklist with some photos here.