North American Birds

VOLUME 69 NO3 2016

A Quarterly Journal of Ornithological Record Published by the American Birding Association. The mission of the journal is to provide a complete overview of the changing panorama of our continent’s birdlife.

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318 N O R T H A M E R I C A N B I R D S P E L A G I C B I R D S F R O M C R U I S E S H I P S A LO N G T H E PA C I F I C C O A S T from winter tropical routes to summer Alaska offerings, and vice versa southward in fall. Some of these same routes are actu - ally stand-alone short segments of longer cruises from, for example, California or British Columbia to/from Hawaii or the start or end of a Panama Canal or South America cruise, and so are not true "repo - sitioning" cruises. Favored trips to date by birders are mostly on Princess Cruises in or out of Los Angeles (San Pedro) and on annually, and occasionally there are one-time, unique itineraries. Routes that provide for longer sea-crossings, and thus more daylight spent well offshore, include: • One-way, non-stops between various California ports and Victoria and Vancou - ver, British Columbia. Known by a variety of names, including "Pacific Coastals," these cruises are often referred to as "repo - sitioning cruises"—spring trips in which the ships are being repositioned northward from a smaller vessel with substantial boat move - ment. Some cruises pro- vide for a number of full days spent well offshore, near or beyond the shelf edge, thus maximizing the hours spent in deeper wa - ters, even under windy and rough conditions favored by many of the Pterodroma petrels. Such conditions would be unsafe or, at the very least, uncomfortable for regular one-day charter pelagic trips. These cruises also are excellent for ob - serving a variety of ma- rine mammals, including beaked whales. They are competitively priced and thus often very affordable. Unfortunately, but hard - ly surprising, the cruise ships have set routes and timetables to keep. They never stop or slow down to observe birds, and they do not chum. They also spend many or all night- time hours traversing these same productive offshore waters, and typically at close to full speed (18-21 knots) unless swell condi - tions warrant otherwise. Most of the non-birding passengers aboard would rather maximize their daylight time near or on shore, whereas most bird - ers would prefer the op- posite—so it is important to take trips where longer sea crossings are made and thus require many hours offshore during daylight. Cruise ships are really "ships of opportunity" to the birder. They open up numerous new possibilities, but they should not be thought of as a replacement for the typical one-day chartered pelagic trip. More background on these cruises, as well as a summary of some of the most productive birding routes available across the globe, are given in Mackiernan (2016). Many of the cruises along the West Coast of North America are offered several times per season or year, some are offered just once Figure 3. Typical trip-tracks for two-day or three-day northbound, spring (left) and southbound, fall (right) "Pacific Coastal" cruises ("repositioning cruises"), showing the average routes traversed during daylight hours. Much of the tran- sect is close to the continental shelf edge. Variation in the waters surveyed from trip to trip and from cruise line to cruise line results from the ports used, departure times, ship speed, and ocean conditions. Holland America Line uses San Diego as its primary California port, whereas Princess Cruises utilizes Los Angeles (San Pedro). Tracks by Michael Harrison. HOLLAND AMERICA AVERAGE CRUISE TRACK PRINCESS AVERAGE CRUISE TRAK NORTHBOUND • SPRING SOUTHBOUND • FALL

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