Well, its been a pretty hectic few days since leaving Portland. We caught an Amtrak train South to Salinas, and got a bus on to Monterey, ready for a pelagic trip the following day.
The train journey itself was pretty good, and we saw some quality birds including White-tailed Kite, White-faced Ibis, Long-billed Curlew and Marbled Godwit as we trundled along.
Early on the morning of the 29th we joined up with Debra Shearwater for a rare November trip. Even waiting on the quay I picked up a lifer in the form of a Pacific Diver fishing around the supports, along with a load of Black-necked and Western Grebes. Setting off out of the harbour a Black Turnstone was ngits way through a steaming pile of California Sea Lions hauled up on the breakwater, and flocks of Surf Scoters scattered as we passed close by. As we got out into the bay we came across plenty of Rhinocerous Auklets loafing about, and soon after masses of shearwaters started to appear. The vast majority were Black-vented Shearwaters but with a smattering of Sooties and Pink-footed, and a couple of Short tailed. Highlight of the day for all the locals on board was a Great Shearwater (heaps rare out here apparently) but for me a late Bullers Shearwater stole the show. A good number of Black-footed Albatrosses was entertaining too. I bloody love albatrosses, they're right up there with the best birds in the world, and this species is no exception, being a totally different colour to any other members of the family, they are a truly striking bird, and I apologise to anyone next to me on the boat who might have been slightly shocked by some expletives that I couldn't hold in upon seeing the first of these beasts glidig into view.
Further quality came in the form of Cassin's Auklets and Ancient Murrelets that were all over one particualr area of sea, and the trip was rounded off nicely by a school of Pacific White-sided Dolphins that came in for a bit of bow-riding as we steamed back.
Overall an excellent day on the water with a good variety of species, including some much wanted lifers. Though I must say that I wasnt impressed with the price of the trip compared to the others i've done around the world.
The next day was spent in Monterey recovering from bar-based celebrations of the pelagic. This turned out to be a good move however, as we were walking along the sea-front we spoteed a pair of Harlequin Ducks hanging around some rocks in the marina!! All the photos that i've seen of these stunning birds couldn't quite prepare me for just how exquisite a drake Harlequin Duck, they are superb little birds, and all the better for the fact that I really wasnt expecting to see them. After getting good looks at wintering Townsends Warbler, Audobons Warbler and Black Phoebe in nearby trees we had some fun feeding bread to the gulls (Heermans, Western and California) and enjoyed a brunch of Clam Chowder from one of the many outlets on Fishermans Wharf.
After Monterey, we headed up to San Francisco (Matt was lucky enough to pick up Yellow-billed Magpie on the journey). We were supposed to be moving South again today, but the hostel we're staying at is just too good and we were in no fit state this morning to sort out trains and stuff, so we're staying for another day at least. Having seen Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge yesterday, we might try and hit up a few museums today, before coming back to the hostel for the promised 'Beer Olympics', with free booze from a local brewery, I said the hostel is good!!!!