Santa Barbara, California Pelagic on Condor Express Sept 24th 2005

Published by Andrew Birch (andyrbirch AT

Participants: Condor Express and leaders Todd McGrath, Brad Schram, Bernardo Alps


The Condor Express catamaran left Santa Barbara Harbor at 7am. Once out of the harbor, the boat can go much faster than conventional boats so within half an hour we were close to the Channel Islands. Unfortunately, there were some big swell and it was pretty rough.

One of the first birds picked up was an adult Pomarine Jaeger cruising past high. Later, we came across a large flock of Sooty Shearwaters with a few Pink-footed Shearwaters mixed in. The sooties were so full they could barely take off . Behind the shearwater flock, a Black Storm Petrel was flying away purposefully. Humpback Whales were also seen here.

By 9am, we had our first "good" bird, a South Polar Skua harrying some gulls. The bird was a little way off but gave all on board good views. We continued west until we came across a pod of dolphins with quite a few shearwaters in attendance. Almost immediately, Todd McGrath shouted "Flesh-footed Shearwater!" We got decent but distant looks as the bird moved amongst the swirling flock of Pink-footed Shearwaters but persistence paid off and the bird gave some great views as it flew up and down each side of the boat. Then it became a moment of which way to look first as shouts of Buller's Shearwater and South Polar Skua came up instantaneously. Both birds were close and on the bow. The skua circled the boat giving crippling views and was one of several birds we saw well. The Buller's showed off it's distinctive "m" patterned upperwing.

We then hit a quiet spell late morning as we headed out to the 1000 fathom line. Birds became sparse, and the ride became choppier. When we finally hit deep water at midday, the only birds of note were good ones however: Sabine's Gull and Long-tailed Jaeger.

The ride back was much smoother and punctuated by odd sightings of Pomarine Jaegers, Parasitic Jaeger and Cassin's Auklet.

Great team leaders made sure that everyone saw the birds and were very sharp at IDing everything often before many of us had seen the birds.
Condor Express Website

Species Lists

This is what I saw, numbers were higher as I didn't see everything (eg a Short-tailed Shearwater was seen briefly):
1 Black Storm Petrel
100+ Sooty Shearwater
30-40 Pink-footed Shearwater
1 Flesh-footed Shearwater
1 Buller's Shearwater
1 Parasitic Jaeger
1 Long-tailed Jaeger
5-10 Pomarine Jaegers
3 South Polar Skuas - very close
1 Sabine's Gull
1 Red-necked Phalarope
2 Cassin's Auklets
2 Common Terns

many Pelagic and Brandt's Cormorants

Humpback Whales and Risso's Dolphins