Baird’s Beaked Whale in California (not chaseable)
If one premise of this site is that all mammal species can be seen somewhere — once we figure out where that “somewhere” is — then I wanted to pass on information about a birding trip that usually gets Baird’s Beak Whale, Guadalupe Fur Seal, and, about 50% of the time, Bryde’s Whale.
Is there a catch? There is indeed. The trip is a week long, it only runs once a year, and it sells out two years in advance. And a fourth catch is that is is 95% pelagic birding and only 5% mammal watching.
Every year in the week starting on Labor Day Monday, a sport-fishing boat called the Searcher does a deep-water circuit out of San Diego as far as 150 miles off the California coast, trying to get such coveted ticks as Cook’s Petrel, Guadalupe Murrelet, and Townsend’s Storm-Petrel. I have just come from the 2022 journey and marine mammals included Blue, Fin, Humpbacked, Baird’s, and Killer Whales, but this year no Bryde’s. We had only two Guadalupe Fur Seals, a bit less than average I think.
If you’re not a birder I would think the trip would be grim indeed. There are hours and hours of sitting on a chum slick as the boat rocks side to side and everybody argues over minute differences in storm petrel feather patterns. It would be easy to start throwing up, not out of mal-de-mer but from boredom.
Even so, the trip goes to places you will not see otherwise and is cheaper than a full trip around Baja.
Trip for 2023 is sold out, and once the results of 2022 get out (( we had spectacularly good birding luck )), I assume 2024 will finish filling up as well. It’s not listed on the official Searcher website but you can call the office and get on the list.
Photo shows a dorsal fin of what were tentatively ID’d as Eastern Tropical Pacific orcas, which were chasing down common dolphins.
Our trip was slightly truncated by the impending arrival of Tropical Storm Kay.
Good food, small cabins, nice people if you like birders — it is what it is, and if you need those species, now you know where they are.
Charles Hood / firstname.lastname@example.org