Pelagic Birding Charter Trips
Birds occupy almost every habitat on earth and there are some species that spend almost their entire live on the open ocean. These birds have developed special adaptations like webbed feet, waterproof plumage, glands that efficiently extract salt from their metabolism, keen sense of sight and smell to spot distant prey, and the ability to sleep while resting on the waves, even in flight over the windswept seas.
Birders (don’t call them bird watchers, this is a serious sport), aim to see and identify as many species of birds as possible, either in given geographical areas, or worldwide. A life list is not complete without the pelagic species. And to see some of these birds, one must venture beyond the Channel Islands to the often challenging waters at the edge of the continental shelf.
Condor Express hosts very popular pelagic birding charters throughout the year, which are typically sold out. We have good success at finding the Southern California specialty species, like Red-billed Tropicbird, Ashy Storm-petrel, Craveri’s Murrelet and the newly split Scripps’s and Guadalupe Murrelets, as well as deep water species like Cook’s and Murphy’s Petrels, Laysan and Black-footed Albatrosses and several sub-species of Leach’s Storm-petrel; and we find our share or mega-rarities like Parakeet Auklet, Tristam’s Storm-petrel and Hawaiian Petrel.
Depending on the season we often find Arctic and Common Terns; Pomarine, Parasitic and Long-tailed Jaegers; South Polar Skua; Sooty, Pink-footed, Short-tailed, Black-vented and Buller’s Shearwaters; Northern Fulmar; Sabine’s Gull; Black-legged Kittiwake; Rhinoceros and Cassin’s Auklets; Pigeon Guillemot; Blue-footed and Brown Boobies; and Black and Least Storm-petrels. We also occasionally find Horned and Tufted Puffins; Manx, Flesh-footed, Wedge-tailed and Streaked Shearwaters; and Fork-tailed and Wilson’s Storm-petrels. There are many more mega-rarities lurking out there; that’s why we keep venturing to the deep waters.
The Condor Express is the ideal platform for deep water birding trips because of its unsurpassed speed and stability. We can safely and comfortably bird areas in a day long excursion that would otherwise require multi-day trips. We also have the flexibility to adjust our itinerary according to where the target species are and we can often chase rapidly moving birds.
Each trip is stocked with a healthy contingent of leaders which include some of the most experienced sea-birders in the state, including Todd McGrath, Paul Lehman, Dave Pereksta, Jon Feenstra, Kimball Garrett, Terry Hunefeld, and Dave Compton among others.
These trip outside of our normal stomping grounds in the Santa Barbara Channel can also be fantastic for whale watching as they often also yield rare and exciting species of marine mammals that are rarely seen close to shore. Sperm whales, Cuvier’s, Baird’s and Stejneger’s beaked whales, pilot whales, northern right whale dolphins, short-beaked common dolphins and Northern and Guadalupe fur seals are all seen on our pelagic birding trips, as well as specific pods of killer whales that are not recorded anywhere else.
Deep water trips are the ultimate box of chocolates; you truly never know what you are going to get. Every trip could be the one to uncover a first California record.