Thursday morning we took off on one of the whale-watching tours in search of humpback whales, which can be found in Monterey Bay this time of year. The seas were rough, but some drug-store Dramamine did the trick well enough. Several other passengers were either not as well-prepared, or not as lucky. Not too far out, I saw my first lifer of the trip, and one of my most-wanted birds: a small flock of three Marbled Murrelets flushed ahead of us and skittered out of sight to the starboard side. It happened too fast to get a photo. It wasn't much longer before we started seeing Sooty Shearwaters, first one here and one there, and eventually flocks of up to several hundred.
Word came over the radio, which our captain relayed on the PA system, that another tour had found a Humpback Whale a few miles northwest of us. The boat picked up speed and in a few minutes, we had found the other boat, and the whale.
Shearwaters and albatrosses sometimes feed on the same foods as whales, and so where whales are found, seabirds are likely to be as well. This was no exception, and dozens of Sooty Shearwaters and several Black-footed Albatrosses were also cruising around the area. A close pass across the bow by a Black-footed Albatross was probably the highlight of my trip, despite the whale.
We were able to watch the whale as it surfaced twice to catch its breath, but ten or twenty minutes after we arrived, the captain told us that we had to turn back in order to end the three-hour tour on time. On the way back, we were moving with the waves, so the ride felt smoother. We picked up one new pelagic bird on the return trip, a species I have seen before, but not often: a Pink-footed Shearwater.
Although we didn't see as many pelagic bird species as we might have on a trip designed to search for birds, I still had a great time and saw some great birds. I'd recommend hitchhiking on a whale-watching trip as a decent alternative to a birding trip to any coastal visitor who can't adjust their schedule to match that of the few bird-watching trips.