San Diego Bird Festival 3
The jam-packed bus left Marina Village conference center at 6:10 a.m. for the short drive to H&M Landing. We boarded the boat at 6:30 and set off about 7 through the harbor toward Islas Coronados in Mexican waters.
Cruising toward the breakwater, we saw Eared Grebe, Sanderling, Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Surf Scoter, harbor seals, Common Loon, Bufflehead, Peregrine Falcon, Brandt's Cormorant and Western Grebe with help from leaders Bob Miller, Pete Ginsburg, Matt Sadowski and Mark Billings. The captain, Myron, provided lots of information about the harbor's history and sights, including Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery and the U.S. Navy submarine facility.
In the open water, chumming with popcorn attracted Western Gulls by the dozens and a few Brown Pelicans. (I do not tire of watching pelicans glide above the water and then use their feets as brakes.) Numerous Black-vented Shearwaters zipped by at a distance, a trio of Pelagic Cormorants flew past the stern, and white-sided dolphins periodically cruised next to the boat, their white sides visible through the water.
It felt delightful to be on the water again with the warm sunshine and the fresh air. A good way to clear the mind of cobwebs and to refresh the spirit! Around one of the three islands, the California sea lions that swam toward the boat and seemed to frolic just for our amusement looked like I felt--content, not in a hurry to be anywhere, curious, enjoying the mild winter weather.
On and around the islands, we enjoyed lengthy views of Black Oystercatchers (they're near the water in the middle of the picture, I promise; see their carrot-stick bills?), northern elephant seals, Brandt's Cormorants, nesting Brown Pelicans, and seven Brown Boobies, some on nests.
On the way back to port, we continued chumming off the boat's stern. Matt began holding up popcorn between his fingers, and brave Western Gulls dove for the yellow morsels. You can see one gull in action by clicking on this video link. (I apologize for the resolution; it's a learning process!)