Mr Al B Tross – The Mendocino Coast ONLY Albatross – he lived at Point Arena

This blog is a story of serendipity. A while back I was talking to a lady visitor. She was admiring the detail on our layout (a common comment I might add). She said, “I love the seagulls on the Virgin Creek Trestle diorama. But, you know, you should have an albatross too – there used to be one in Point Arena.” Now I am an old time auditor trained to nod in a way that people think I believe them so I tucked her comment in the old noggin. This week this photo appeared on the radar:

Albatross Sign at Point Arena

Albatross Sign at Point Arena

The only info that came with the pic was the caption, “Albatross sign at Point Arena.” Now the words, “Laysan Albatross” are not words that I would normally associate with Point Arena. Could the lady be right? So I started scratching the surface. I quickly got this “hit” in an Audubon website:

For 19 consecutive winters, a particular Laysan Albatross has hung out in the cove at Point Arena in Mendocino County. Locals have named him Al the Albatross, and occasionally Al B. Tross, and the bird has been known to be pretty social. He’s even been known to get close to the occasional cold water surfer. Anyway, quite a legend has grown around this bird — books have been written, websites dedicated, and all the other things that have ensured the bird’s place in the lore. Word is that Al is likely not a breeding bird, as he’s usually at Point Arena when most of the breeding birds are at Midway Island or one of the islands off Mexico where all the breeding takes place. Laysan Albatrosses usually don’t go anywhere near land unless they are planning to breed, so Al’s annual visits give bird enthusiasts a rare opportunity to view one of these spectacular birds without going to sea. Anyway, posts to the Mendobirds list serve today seem to conclude that Al has ended his Winter 11/12 visit. He was last seen on March 20.

This was part of an article written by Garrison Foster in 2012.

Next I hit upon a blog about the Point Arena Pier “owned” by Ken Jones. This appeared in the April 2015 blog:

The “Cove Coffee” shop at the Point Arena pier held a modest crowd, with people sipping hot brew and peering at their newspapers shortly after 7 a.m. Saturday. Then the front door was flung open.

“The albatross is back!” a young, bearded man announced. “Just saw him come in and land.”

The customers all nodded and smiled. They were relieved, because the bird had vanished for almost a week. It was easy to understand why someone might get excited about seeing a bird with a 6- to 7-foot wingspan sail into the home cove. I jumped from my table and went to take a look.

This illustrious visitor is a legendary bird locals had named Mr. Al B. Tross, a wandering Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) who has wintered at this harbor in southern Mendocino County for fourteen consecutive seasons. Though the phenomenon of “”agrants” — individual birds who depart or are blown away from customary migratory routes — is well-known in the birding world, this albatross is something special. He’s not simply dropping by. It seems he has adopted Point Arena as his winter home.

This was a clip from the San Francisco Chronicle of February 1, 2007 written by Paul McHugh,

In another Audobon site post I picked up a bit more info:

Al” (or Alice?) is the Laysan Albatross that inhabits Point Arena Cove during the winter months. Typically Al arrives in the area late November or early December, stays for two to three months and then leaves in February or March. Al has done this regularly since the winter of 1994, when first recorded by Todd Easterla & Jim Booker.

“Al has not been seen since 2013.

Typically albatrosses come to land only to nest, and then in colonies on islands such as the Hawaiian chain for the Laysan Albatross, so Al’s behavior is very unusual. The bird is probably not a breeder because it shows up at Point Arena at the beginning of the Laysan Albatross breeding season and leaves at the season end. As Ron LeValley, biologist and specialist in marine birds says: “Al is somehow mixed up.”

Ron guesses the bird goes to the Gulf of Alaska for the summer where most Laysan Albatrosses go. The adult life expectancy of Laysan Albatrosses is unknown but is probably multiple decades. The Laysan Albatross wingspan is approximately 6.5 feet.

I thought – there must be pics of Al. There are – buckets of them. Here’s a gallery I have put together:

Now I have also been told there’s a great white that “lives” at Usal ……..