Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Coronado Islands

After a very exciting first day of birding in California, I was not sure the second day could possibly be as exciting as the first. Since there were not any birding specific pelagic trips available, we had booked a 6 hour whale watching trip that also cruised around the Coronado Islands. After a great breakfast at Red Sails Inn, we headed to the harbor to board our boat. We were some of the first people there and got great seats right at the front of the boat!


A Western Gull welcoming us aboard

There were tons of birds in the harbor as we sailed out towards the sea. Hundreds of Surf Scotors were on the water while many gulls soared overhead. Once we got to the open ocean, most of the birds except for the gulls went away until we got further out to sea. Our first seabirds were Rhinoceros and Cassin's Auklets, lifers for Eric. Next, we found one of our main targets for the day, Xantus's Murrelet!

Xantus's Murrelet

Since this was a whale watching trip, we spend lots of time cruising with a group of Pacific White-sided Dolphins! We saw a Grey Whale in the distance, but it never let us get too close so we headed for the islands.

The Coronado Islands are located about 16 miles from the harbor in San Diego and are actually in Mexican waters. There are four islands, and we were able to check all of them out from the boat. You can get really close to the islands in the boat, but you are not able to go ashore in order to protect the thousands of nesting birds. As we cruised around the islands, we saw tons of birds including both Pelagic and Brandt's Cormorants, Brown Pelican, and Wandering Tattler. There had been a recent report of a hybrid Oystercatcher which we were lucky enough to see!

Hybrid American and Black Oystercatcher

Next, we came to one of the highlights of the whole trip, a colony of Brown Boobies! There were even some adults feeding chicks.

Brown Booby

Brown Booby in flight

We then headed back towards the harbor. On the way, we spotted a couple of whales in the distance. As we got closer, we realized there were actually 5 whales, and they were doing mating displays! We stayed with them for about 45 minutes and ended up being late back to the dock because of it.

Grey Whale

Grey Whale Flukes

As we got back into the harbor, we noticed a small group of Brant swimming around. This was a lifer for Eric and only the second time I had seen them!

Brant

It was a fantastic day out in the Pacific Ocean, and I would highly recommend that anyone traveling to San Diego go out with H&M Landing on the 6 Hour Whale Watching Tour!

-Rob

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Brian and Karen said...

What a cool trip and great pics. I am envious of the Brown Booby sightings.