Glancing down at my feet, I studied the vegetation cover: none. The pitted cement was, however, littered with a dreary conglomerate of cigarette butts, sunflower seed shells, and bloody fish offal. A senile pigeon lay in a lumpy heap several feet away. Sighing, and trying to ignore the overpowering stench of what smelled like putrid sea lion breath, I returned my eye to my scope eyepiece, and instantly forgot my immediate surroundings, mesmerized by a line of Sooty Shearwaters sailing over the gray sea.
A couple hours of seawatching before work in the morning is a good way to at least partially satisfying bird-related cravings during the rest of the day. It's also an effective way to cramp your legs while enduring the angry ramblings of drunken hobos, the cold stares of die hard fishermen, and the insolent curiosity of preppy tourists. Endure these hardships and you may be rewarded with fleeting glimpses of gray specks flitting in and out of the swells.
But, those specks are shearwaters, alcids, and jaegers. So show some respect.
I've been out on Newport Pier every week since I've been home. Hopefully, this trend will continue through the end of the summer. Below is my eBird list from the session.
Newport Pier, Orange, US-CA
Jun 8, 2011 5:58 AM - 7:49 AM
Comments: Weather: cloudy, light breeze (SW, ~5mph), 62°F
Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica) 1 One alternate-plumaged bird, close, going "north."
Pink-footed Shearwater (Puffinus creatopus) 6 Several, including one nice close fly-by.
Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus) 375 Only a few, extremely distant birds at first, but by the time I left, there was a steady stream going by fairly close.
Brandt's Cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus) 1
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) 2
Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) 350
Willet (Tringa semipalmata) 1 On the beach with the godwits.
Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa) 4 On the beach south of the pier.
Heermann's Gull (Larus heermanni) 5 More than I've had the last couple times--post-breeding dispersal already?
Western Gull (Larus occidentalis) 250
California Gull (Larus californicus) 1
Least Tern (Sternula antillarum) 25
Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia) 10
Forster's Tern (Sterna forsteri) 50
Royal Tern (Thalasseus maximus) 15
Elegant Tern (Thalasseus elegans) 800 There seemed to be more terns around than usual.
Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger) 2
Common Murre (Uria aalge) 2 Weird, two! First, I spotted an alternate-plumaged bird on the water (!) fairly close, straight off the pier...first time I've ever had one sitting from a seawatch. Later, I had another flying "north"--could have been the same bird, I suppose, but I caught it well before it crossed the vicinity of the sitting bird.
Cassin's Auklet (Ptychoramphus aleuticus) 8 All fly-bys, all heading "north." Most were distant, but a party of three was only a couple hundred yards from the pier.
Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) 40
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) 5
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 2
House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) 1
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) 3