Common Murre Diving on the San Mateo Coast

The Common Murres started their plunge not so much as a dive, but as a tipping over. It wasn’t the curved lunge you see with a Canvasback duck or a Double-crested Cormorant, but a more gentle pitch into the ocean. The murres appeared to be swimming along without any intention at all when, suddenly, the beaks dipped down and the murres just tipped forward, wings splayed, feet paddling into an arc of water spray as they disappeared.

This dive was one of the most endearing seabird behaviors I’d seen, watching from a dock on the San Mateo coast. It appeared at once precise and awkward — a little jumbled but still exact and repeatable. Without polarized vision, there was no way see the transformation happening below, where these murres become agile aqua-birds and mini-subs. But, you can see that incredible, underwater dance in the YouTube video below, shot at the Farallon Islands (by diver Ron Elliot)

Olympus Em1mkII + Lumix 100-400mm f/5.0-6.3 | ISO 800, 1/2500, f/7.1

Video of Common Murre Diving at the Farallon Islands

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