[All photographs copyright, Gary Nunn 2013] – Pelagic trips are always so unpredictable off of San Diego. After a “here-one-minute, gone-the-next” experience earlier in the day (what was that dark blur on the camera back?), everyone finally connected with a superb Flesh-footed Shearwater Puffinus carneipes that was tracking a large pod of Common Dolphin over the Nine Mile Bank. Careening around at high speed after the dolphins, along with twenty or so Pink-footed Shearwater, the Flesh-footed played a wild game with us before settling down on the water a couple of times. Snappily reversing course, the captain of the sport-fishing vessel Grande had managed to catch back up with the rapidly passing dolphins that were heading “uphill” into the wind and small swell. The pack of large shearwaters were excitedly staying with the wide swath of active dolphins and the Flesh-footed was soon picked out again as we caught up. Amid some chaos, and hollering out where the bird was located, it showed off very well to the 56 birders crowded near the bow. At least twice it settled down on the water for a few minutes and allowed a close approach by the boat and the birding paparazzi got to work! Everyone on board, birders and bird photographers alike, came away satisfied with the fantastic experience of seeing this very sought after tubenose seabird. The beaming smiles and cheers all around ended a classic day at sea for the SoCalBirding 12-hour pelagic out of San Diego, California.
San Diego Field Ornithologists (SDFO) considers Flesh-footed Shearwater a Category B rarity occurring here in the county perhaps one or two times a year. The species was high on the wanted list following several reports from further north in California this year. Earlier in the day another Flesh-footed Shearwater had been spotted by keen observers at the back rail of the Grande. That bird moved away quickly and was only seen by two lucky observers, keeping us all on tenterhooks until we found our much wanted quarry later in the day!