(And see California Dreaming Round 1- Jaegers/Skuas and Round 2- Sea Mammals)
Well, I'm off for two weeks of winter break, looking out my window at a raging blizzard (DIA is shutting down & Colorado's plains & Front Range are getting pounded!) So what better to do than to look back some more at the Monterey pelagic trip I took with CFO last September? (Well, there is my NAB report to compile, Boulder Christmas Count data to enter, carpets to vacuum, etc. but those don't sound as fun.)
Photographing fast-flying, rapidly wheeling birds from a rolling boat while coping with salt spray and a protesting stomach can be, um, challenging. But somehow I get more excited about this kind of photography than anything else. All I can say is thank goodness for image stabilization, AF-S autofocus, 5 fps continuous shooting, and large memory cards. And thank goodness for all of the sunshine we had on our two days out- on previous pelagics that I've done I had much tougher light to work with.
How about looking at shearwaters this time? We saw four species but our single Flesh-footed Shearwater was too distant to even try to snap. Sooty Shearwaters, however, were abundant (perhaps hundreds of thousands) and often close to the boat. I vastly improved my pics of this species- the ones I had from WA and ME weren't lit well which is especially tough on dark birds. So here are a few I like:
While not as abundant, there were still lots of Pink-footed Shearwaters. For some reason they seemed to approach the boat more frequently, though. Some even landed in the wake to get in on the chum-grabbing frenzy. A couple of these shots show how this bird group got its name- by knifing a wingtip along the water. Very sharp looking birds!
Probably the nattiest shearwater we saw, though, was Buller's. The pattern on their back is pretty sweet, kind of like a Sabine's Gull, and their underparts are gleaming white. There were fewer of these than Sooties or Pink-footeds, but still plenty for great observations and photo opps. Again you'll see a couple of these shearing the water with a wingtip.