Sea Watch: Northern Fulmar

On a Saturday morning in early March, I headed to the platform just below the Cliff House, I set up my tripod and scope to scan the Pacific to the west.

Before I focused my scope on the horizon, looked down at the tideline, sanderlings ebbing and flowing with the tide and a group of willets hung back and rested. I then scanned the rocks, just below my position. It didn’t take long to find the resident black oystercatchers who proclaimed their existence with their raucous calls, a call that carries above the din of the surf. A closer inspection revealed black turnstones and surfbirds working the inshore rocks.

I removed the lens caps from my scope and began to scan the waters beyond Seal Rocks. There was some movement of red-throated loons and cormorants but the bird I was looking for was a true pelagic species. A bird that remained on the outer range of most binoculars but in the winter of 2018, a number of northern fulmars had come closer to shore than in previous winters.

I continued to scan the water looking for something that stood out, something different from the roll of species that normally visited these waters. A 7:20, I caught a bird in my scope that was shearwater-like, flying low to the surface. A dark bird with a large head that was flap-flap gliding near the surface of the waters. This was it! Life bird #546, northern fulmar. toward the end of my sea watch I spotted another fulmar flying off to the south.

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