April 2018 Monthly Report
In March I thought it would be a good idea to give a monthly recap of what kind of birds and wildlife were around in the SB channel. I finally got around to it halfway into April. If you missed that post you can find it here. Originally, I forgot to mention that my goal is to make this a recurring post to keep me on track with my note keeping, photography, and of course inform all of you what is taking place just off shore. I edited that last post to now include that little tid bit. With all my time spent on the water, I thought this would be a good way to share my experiences with the birding community. So with that out of the way let us proceed into April!
In early April the continuing Basking Sharks that showed up in March, gave many passengers aboard the Island Packers boats their first encounter with this species. As the month marched on though, these hulking creatures seemed to slide away into waters outside our normal excursions.
The first two weeks of the month also had increasing numbers of Red-necked Phalaropes. Every so often I was spotting larger Phalaropes that I suspected were Red Phalaropes. I find the plumages during the spring time to be not as clear cut as they are in the fall. Some of these birds show nearly full alternative plumage, while others are in transition or just beginning. When in the transitional phase, the classic plain Gray back for a Red Phalarope and streaked gray and black back of a Red-necked are unreliable field marks most of the time.
Red Phalarope, they were seen eating small By The Wind Sailors-Velella Velella
RED Phalarope in transition
In general I usually spot a Red, by its larger size, and if you get a close look the bill is a bit thicker, and if you get a really close look you can often see the yellowy base to the bill if it is outside the high breeding season. If they are sporting their alternative plumage they are pretty easy to peg to the species and the bill should be almost completely yellow.
April also brought the first sightings of Sooty Shearwaters in the SB channel. I first noted them on April 4th. I expect there will be many more to follow. If you didn't know the header picture to this website is a massive flock of mostly this species as it swarmed around the Ventura Harbor entrance.
Brant in migration south of Anacapa Island
Spring migration is notable off shore when large groups of Brant, Loons, Surf Scoters, and Bonaparte's Gulls are seen flying through.
Alcids continued in good numbers including a few confiding birds
In addition to all the cool birds this month there were still plenty of whales. Most of the Gray Whales have moved through, but Blue, Humpback, Minke, and Fin Whales are still around. I thought this would be a good opportunity to go through some of the more complicated whale anatomy ;)
Dorsal Fin modeled by this lovely Fin Whale or if you like it as Fin Back Whale that is acceptable too
(platform Gina in the background as we looked north to Oxnard)
A Humpback Rostrum covered in Tubercles
Blowhole... two of them at that, this must be a baleen whale, and in fact it is the same Humpback
Any guesses...? This is an up close view of the Rostrum and Tubercles. This might be my first picture ever of whale hair. See if you can find the hair(s), whale lice, and barnacles.
You are looking at a zoomed out view of the scene in previous photo (not the same exact photo though) This is the underside and tip of the whales Rostrum.
This particular Humpback gave a great performance right along the side and under our boat. All of those white circles are where some of the barnacles have fallen off. It's pretty amazing to have an encounter so close with an animal so large. As kids (and sometimes as adults) we often wonder what it would be like to stand next to a massive dinosaur. This is probably what it would be like.
This post really only covers the first half of April because on the 16th my amazing wife gave birth to our second child Naomi, and I have been happily land based for the past 3 weeks admiring my handiwork :)
I'll be back at sea starting May 5th, so enjoy the rest of spring migration.
Also the other big news of the month, Island Packers has set the dates for two pelagic birding trips this Summer and Fall. You can find out more information on this website by clicking this link.