This year on my birthday, I had the chance to go on my first ever pelagic birding trip in Monterey Bay. I went out with Debi Shearwater on a prefestival excursion while I was in California for the Monterey Bay Birding Festival.
Pelagic birding is fun, though it has it's challenges. Identifying birds (mostly in flight) from a moving vessel on the ocean is tough. I find the the lower the magnification of your optics, the easier it is to try and keep the birds in your field of view.
You and all year gear will get wet. Dress for the weather and be sure your binoculars are waterproof. I know that when I got back to my hotel, I had to give my 7x42's a good bath to wash off the salt water residue.
Pelagic birds aren't species most of us typically encounter, so all of those identifiable fieldmarks, calls, and behavior patterns that I have managed to cram into my brain as I have evolved as a birder were of little use. That didn't stop me from making the best of this experience though. Debi does a great job of surrounding trip attendees with the experts ready to point out birds and answer any ID questions one might have. It was a memorable experience and added 12 new birds to my life list!
In addition to birds, we had fantastic marine mammal sightings, including multiple Humpback Whales and Dalls Porpoise.
For a trip species list, check out Debi's blog here.
If you are interested in seeing some of the birds we sighted, Steve Howell posted photos from the trip here.