Westward Ho! I’m in the skies once again. Not towards a bird, but towards a boat- that we’ll take out of Bodega Bay Saturday and then again on Sunday. This is one of the “tricks up my sleeve” I mentioned last week. No specific target birds in mind since I’ve already seen all of the expected west coast pelagic birds. Now the more cynical among you may cackle, “This is nothing more than a wild goose chase”, but think about it. There really aren’t any vagrant birds for me to chase right now. Where else could I go where I could possibly pick up two or three mega rarities? And don’t fool yourself, that’s what these pelagic trips are all about. It’s not just any boat, it’s a small, fast “6-pack” boat designed for six birders plus the captain. And these aren’t just any birders; some of the best sea birders in the country are among them. Ken Petersen (see “Chaos in Coney Island” Aug 2) organized this adventure. Steve Howell, whose new Petrels, Albatrosses and Storm-Petrels of North American will be published later this year, will be on board. Todd McGrath, he of the mischievous wit, will tag along as well. Todd is still excited, I’m sure with his White-chinned Petrel find in September off the coast of Santa Barbara. Tom Blackmon, whom I met last weekend on the Grande pelagic trip, will participate as well as two other gentlemen, both pelagic fanatics.
I know what they hope to see. Ken whispered the password to me in September. “Parkinson’s Petrel – think Flesh-footed Shearwater, but with dark legs. And whisper is the appropriate phrase, less someone else overhear the name and certify all of them insane. Parkinson’s Petrel has only been seen twice in U.S, waters. But for me any garden-variety megararity would be just fine. You see October is considered the best month for finding pelagic rarities. So bring on a Streaked Shearwater. Let a Mottled Petrel slice through the ocean waves with its stiff, pointed wings. Allow a Short-tailed Albatross to fly into the wake of our six-pack boat to munch on chum. I’m ready for any of them. In fact I’m ready for two or three of them this weekend. My sleeves are loaded with a couple of white rabbits – its time to pull them out (or have I mixed metaphors once again?)