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f you are a seafarer, there is no better pelagic birding opportunity in the United States than a cruise from Monterey Bay. Fall cruises from Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey will take you about 10 miles offshore during a seven-hour outing and often result in sightings of Sooty Shearwaters, Black-vented Shearwaters, Buller's and Pink-footed Shearwaters, Black and Ashy Storm Petrels, Tufted Puffins, Cassin's Auklets, Rhinoceros Auklets, Xantus' Murrelets, Pigeon Guillemots, Common Murres, Red and Red-necked Phalaropes, Parasitic and Pomarine Jaegers, Sabine's Gulls, Arctic Terns and more, ranging from single birds to large flocks. During a similar winter cruise, you can also hope for Black-footed Albatrosses, Northern Fulmars, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Short-tailed Shearwaters and more alcids.

Closer to shore, you should see Western, Herring and Heermann's Gulls; Brown Pelicans, Great Blue Herons, Double-crested and Pelagic Cormorants; Common and Red-throated Loons, and maybe a Pacific Loon; Western, Clark's and Eared Grebes; Elegant, Caspian and Forster's Terns; and Red-breasted Mergansers. During any pelagic trip, you can expect the unexpected -- a species rarely encountered in the area. Past trips have sighted Streaked, Wedge-tailed and Manx Shearwaters; Redbilled Tropicbirds, Layson Albatrosses, Leach's Storm Petrels and Horned Puffins. For a greater chance of seeing harder-to-find seabirds, consider a trip to the Monterey Seavalley 15 to 25 miles offshore. You should also see marine mammals, including a variety of whales and dolphins, plus seals, sea lions and sea otters. For more information about Monterey pelagic tours, contact Shearwater Journeys (408) 637-8527.

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