[All photographs copyright, Gary Nunn 2015] – Light westerly winds this Thanksgiving Day 26 Nov 2015 so I popped down to Point La Jolla in the morning to check for bird movement on the ocean. Large groups of Pacific Loon were moving south along with a few small flocks of Surf Scoter so I stuck around. About 9:41AM Matt Sadowski spotted a small dark-colored shearwater with snappy flight manner and quite dusky feathering on the underwing. That’s interesting! I watched and photographed it through the 1000mm lens setup capturing some distant photographs. It certainly looked to my eye to have more lightweight snappy flight action than a Sooty Shearwater, making some nice fast quick arcs, and also a more uniformly dusky looking underwing compared to this species. In addition the pale chin and throat area was noticeable, it also had a more dark capped appearance, and the secondaries looked paler on the upperwing sort of forming a panel (reflection of light off fresh feathers?). For a moment initially I thought it might be a dark Pterodroma gadfly petrel because the wings were held crooked much of the flight action, again unlike Sooty Shearwater in my experience. Putting together the field marks both Matt and I feel confident this is a Short-tailed Shearwater Ardenna tenuirostris which is rarely seen from shore here in San Diego County. In fact, checking eBird, there are no validated sightings of this species anywhere in Southern California this year. Nearest reports come from the currently active seawatching program at Point Pinos, Monterey, with a small number of sightings recently. Comparable photographs to the Point La Jolla bird can be found in Brian Sullivan’s eBird checklist.
A friend photographed one at close range in Ensenada, Baja California, sitting on the water on December 28. The bird’s identity was confirmed by Steve Howell.
Hi Enrique, it seems there are a small number of Short-tailed Shearwaters trickling through the coast of Southern California and now Baja. Thanks for your comment, look forward to hearing more about birds in your location!
Gary: I’d like a favour, s.v.p. I am researching an apparent (debated, but convincing to me) first Nova Scotia GRAY FLYCATCHER, at present on Sable I., well off our coast. (We’ve had all the other w. empids except Cordilleran in recent. years.) In doing so, I’d like to use cuts of two of your great images of the GRFLs that you have on your website: the one photo’d mid-April 2014, and the other early Oct 2013. This would be a non-commercial venture, of course, and any use of them online or in print (possibly in Birding mag.?) would acknowledge your ownership of them. There are huge numbers of online photos(with due wariness about mis-IDs) that amplify, and even contradict, the usual field-guide lore on IDs of empids (and many other groups).