He’s simply known on California’s Mendocino Coast as Al B. Tross — “Al” for short. And he’s back at Point Arena Cove for the 14th straight year.
Mendocino Coast Birder Bob Keiffer sent this email alert Monday evening and other local birders confirmed Al’s arrival Tuesday morning. Said Keiffer: “The bird apparently flew in yesterday evening (apparently near dusk) and was confirmed this morning as it was still there resting. I will check my records and update this message tomorrow about historical arrival and departure dates….but I believe that this will be the 14th (documented) consecutive winter period that the albatross has used Pt. Arena Cove as it’s resting refuge. The condition of the injured leg (from last season) is not known at this time.”
A Laysan Albatross, Al usually arrives in late November or early December near the pier at Point Arena Cove and stays for several months.
What makes Al unusual is that he is the only albatross anyone has seen on the West Coast. These large seabirds breed on islands in the mid-Pacific, especially islands in the Hawaiian chain. Intrepid birdwatchers who venture out in large fast boats occasionally see them in the ocean waters of the North Pacific and the Gulf of Alaska. But seeing Al in Point Arena is a huge event for mainland U.S. birders lucky enough to spot him on Mendocino County’s south coast.
The Laysan Albatross is a little more than two feet in length with a wingspan of over six feet. It has black wings and tail, a white head and body, pink legs and webbed feet. There is a soft gray and black patch around and under its eyes. It has a large gray to yellow-orange bill with a black hooked tip. Males and females look alike.
Al was first discovered on Nov 30, 1994 by a visiting birder. He left the sheltered waters of Point Arena Cove on March 18 of the next year. Then, to everyone’s surprise, he returned in the fall of 1996. County birders have recorded the bird’s arrival and departure dates since that memorable first encounter. Al typically arrives around Thanksgiving and leaves by the end of March. This will be his, or her, 14th consecutive winter vacation in Mendocino County.
He is often seen or photographed quite easily from the public pier. When storm winds blow from the south, he seeks refuge in more protected locations out of the public view.