A good year for Guadalupe Fur Seals in USA waters?
Alvaro Jaramillo is a Chilean bird tour leader based in Half Moon Bay, California. One of his offshore trips had Guadalupe Fur Seal last weekend, and I went out of Moss Landing on a “Fast Raft Ocean Safari” a few days before that, and I had a Guadalupe Fur Seal as well. For the past several years there has been an incursion of boobies (multiple spp) in California, perhaps remnants of a single large event a few years ago. Guadalupe Fur Seals could have been part of this same northward push or could be a new event unfolding right now.
In addition to my sighting, to quote Alvaro “The real oddity in the region has been the arrival of Bluefin tuna off Monterey, and Half Moon Bay. Big ones, averaging over 150 lbs each. This is not the norm, but is super exciting as it suggests northward movement of southern critters.” He also says, “Warm offshore water has been peeking close to Monterey Bay recently. The combination of potential for some warm water birds offshore, and lots and lots of food closer to shore is great! We have consistently found awesome feeding congregations of Humpback Whales about 10 miles offshore. On this last trip we also found Fin Whale where the Cassin’s Auklets were (krill feeding we assume), and a super pod of hundreds and hundreds of Pacific White-sided Dolphins with a good number of the always dapper Northern Right Whale Dolphin. Blue Whale has been seen this year, but not this last weekend.”
Should you come and try your luck? Although I think the safety on a boat — if wearing a mask and staying away from others — is reasonably good, I will also say there is a lot contact-intensive travel between where most of the site’s viewers live and the West Coast of California. I don’t recommend travel right now, but each of us decides odds on our own. As of this post (04 August 2020), there is no intra-state travel ban for California as a state, and indeed, I found hotels cheaper and emptier than usual during several recent in-state trips. Petrol prices are slightly lower than historic averages and most towns have restaurants with a take-out option. Masks are required state-wide and usually people comply. On average, most Monterey boats are going out only partially full, to allow for social distance. That however may raise prices, and some trips sell out. Out at sea, even on a half-full boat, if something good is seen, I would expect people to crowd that side of the boat.
If looking for a guide to go out with, I do recommend Alvaro completely, and his company is called Alvaro’s Adventures. On my “speed raft,” there were six seats total, two abreast in three rows. I was with two people whose ability to quarantine before the trip I do trust, and we sat one person per row, alternating. We hand sanitized before getting on board and wore masks the full trip. The captain cleaned the boat between excursions. I would rate it as “safe-ish” … or as safe as we can hope for in troubled times.
This was my experience; your mileage may vary.
Charles Hood / firstname.lastname@example.org
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To update the guad fur seal note, I forgot to mention that there is an annual 5-day birding trip out of San Diego the week after Labor Day. It is on board a boat called the Searcher. They get that species most years (including 2020).
From Todd McGrath’s Sept 2020 report on birding list serves:
“Marine mammals included ELEPHANT SEAL, CALIFORNIA SEA-LION, NORTHERN and GUADALUPE FUR-SEALs, COMMON, BOTTLE-NOSED and RISSO’s DOLPHINS, HUMPBACK, BLUE, and FIN WHALES.”