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Friday, November 10, 2006

Marbled Murrelet at La Jolla Cove

Driving back down to San Diego from San Elijo Lagoon, I stopped off to look for seabirds at La Jolla Cove. Lots of pelicans and all three local cormorant species on the rocks. I spent maybe 45 minutes scanning the water offshore, hoping to see a shearwater or some other sea bird. At one point I was enjoying the sparkling green eye of a distant Pelagic Cormorant, when on the edge of my view through my binoculars I saw a black and white bird dive. I was a bit frustrated, since the bird had been clearly visible but I hadn't noticed it while looking at the cormorant.

Eventually, the bird surfaced, and I was able to watch it on and off for about 15 minutes. It was a couple hundred yards offshore, and all I had were my Zeiss 7x42s, so I didn't get killer looks, but it was good enough to get the basic pattern of black above, white below, with white patches on each side of the back over the wings and side of rump. Also, the white of the face met a black cap at the eye line, with white extending back onto the neck as a collar. All of this pretty much added up to Marbled Murrelet. After double checking references back at my hotel room to make sure it wasn't something even more exotic (like Long-billed Murrelet from Asia or Kittlitz's Murrelet from Alaska), and realizing that this is an unusual bird in San Diego County, I emailed the local birding community. I grew up with these birds in Oregon, but don't get to see them much any more, so this was a nice treat. (

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