Yes, I did go seawatching last week, and yes, I did delay for nearly a whole week before before posting my report! The shame is overwhelming; I solemnly promise not to let it happen again, at least not until this week.
It was an entirely ordinary day, except for the deluge of northbound Cassin's Auklets. I carefully tallied forty-eight. To my knowledge, this is a record count for the county. The Birds of Orange County lists a high count of twenty-five, and eBird, though more up-to-date, shows a previous high count of thirty. Interesting.
Newport Pier, Orange, US-CA
Jul 29, 2011 5:45 AM - 7:50 AM
Comments: Weather: cloudy, strong breeze (W, ~10 mph), cool (~65?F). Seawatching before work. Productive--I think the wind might have been blowing birds closer to shore, because a lot of the birds were closer to shore than normal (e.g., PFSH and SOSH visible with the naked eye, and CAAU just a couple hundred yards off the end of the pier). Or maybe it was a coincidence. Also had one distant whale sp. about a mile out--just saw it briefly while I was tracking a flock of CAAU flying by.
27 species (+1 other taxa)
Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis) 2
Pink-footed Shearwater (Puffinus creatopus) 1
Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus) 325 Perhaps slightly more than normal, including many very close birds (relatively speaking, of course).
Black-vented Shearwater (Puffinus opisthomelas) 1
Black Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma melania) 11
Brandt's Cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus) 14
Pelagic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pelagicus) 1 The first I've observed at the pier this summer.
cormorant sp. (Phalacrocorax sp.) 3
Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) 250
Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) 1 Fly-by bird with a broken leg hanging down.
Willet (Tringa semipalmata) 59 Big influx, including many juveniles--the first juvenile shorebirds (other than local breeders) I've seen this summer. Most were south of the pier, and most left once people starting showing up.
Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) 2
Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa) 28
Heermann's Gull (Larus heermanni) 300
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) 1 Strangely, the first I've had at the pier this summer. A raggedy adult-cycle north of the pier on the beach.
Western Gull (Larus occidentalis) 400
California Gull (Larus californicus) 2
Least Tern (Sternula antillarum) 2
Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia) 5
Forster's Tern (Sterna forsteri) 2
Elegant Tern (Thalasseus elegans) 85
Cassin's Auklet (Ptychoramphus aleuticus) 48 By far the most I've ever seen in one seawatch--almost every time I scanned, I had at least one or two small flocks going "north." Many were exceptionally close to shore. It's entirely possible that numbers like these are always present, it's just that they stick farther out where thy can't be seen.
Rhinoceros Auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata) 2
Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) 60
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) 1
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 1
House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) 1
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) 6