Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Coastal Doings September 2015

Humpback Whale Surfaces at Surfer's Beach 
The warm Pacific Ocean around San Francisco/Half Moon Bay has attracted a variety of activities for the last few weeks including an invasion of Humpback Whales. This was evident today at Surfer's Beach at highway 1 where many Humpbacks were feeding to the delight of the unusually large crowds of people who gathered to enjoy the spectacle. Also in attendance where Heermann's Gulls, Western Gulls, Brown Pelicans, Elegant Terns, Common Murre's and California Sea lions.

The waters around Half Moon Bay have been 60 F or higher since early July, a phenomenon that has not likely occurred in the resent past. This higher temperature correlates with past El Niño years.

There is a major Common Murre die-off that FMSA (Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association) sponsor of Beach Watch of which I'm a volunteer has been investigating. On my last survey of Gazos Creek Beach 9/9/15 we documented approximately 75 dead murres. This die-off is 4X the normal year and is consistent with past El Niño years.

About 7-9 Brown Boobies have been observed on the Farallones and some have been spotted at Alcatraz and even one Boobie has been hanging out on the buoy off Miramar in the Half Moon Bay area. At least two Blue-footed Boobies have been observed on the Farallones and some have been seen from Santa Cruz to Point Reyes! Also of note but not a southern species is the Northern Gannet that has been hanging out on the Farallones for several years.

Some other activity of note are at least two incidents of Vellela Vellela (by-the-wind sailor) strandings in very large numbers. There has been an unusual number of Mola Mola (sunfish) juveniles washing up on beaches, plus the troubling rise in California Sea Lion mortality and Guadalupe Fur Seal strandings.

Heermann's Gulls enjoying
Whale Breath

Speaking of rare, today it actually sprinkled here, finally an opportunity for the weather gurus to use their much touted and little utilized "Storm Tracker" radar!    

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