JOUANIN’S PETREL: FIRST NORTH AMERICAN RECORD:
Today I learned that the “mystery” petrel briefly observed and photographed during the Saturday, September 12, 2015 Shearwater Journeys’ offshore albacore trip has been accepted by the California Bird Records Committee as a JOUANIN’S PETREL ( Bulweria fallax ). This record represents the first accepted record of this north-west Indian Ocean seabird for North America.
This was a sold out trip accompanied by leaders: Scott Terrill, Linda Terrill, Alex Rinkert, Mary Gustafson, Rick Fournier, and Debi Shearwater. In addition, Will Brooks (a leader) was on board as a “regular” along with his father, Jim Brooks. Expert seabirder, Fabio Olmos from Brazil was on board, along with many keen local and out-of-state seabirders: Cooper Scallan, Doug Koch, Bryan Hix, Paul Fenwick, Chris Hartzell, Hillary White, Peder Svingen, Peter Haines, and others. Our captain this day was John Klusmire whose experience with Debi dates back to the mid-1980’s.
Ace leader, Alex Rinkert, first spotted the petrel and called it a “Bulwer’s Petrel” from the stern of the boat which was a pretty darned good call. As the petrel circled the vessel toward the bow, Scott Terrill and I had a view as it crossed to the other side. However, having seen quite a few Bulwer’s Petrels (including the first record for North America on another of our Monterey Bay trips some years ago), I was immediately convinced that this bird was not a Bulwer’s Petrel, based on size alone. The sighting was in Santa Cruz County, based on using “nearest point of land” and at a depth of only 200 fathoms. This species occurs in shallow waters within its normal range.
It should be noted that an extremely warm water “river” occurred along the north coast, off Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay during this period. The presence of warm water by itself was not so much a factor, as the fact that it smashed into a front of significantly cold water. It was this frontal zone that produced the food for seabirds. (It’s all about food.) Indeed, only 3 days later, we found a WHITE-CHINNED PETREL on our September 15, 2015 Half Moon Bay trip. That petrel flew in and sat on the water for 45 minutes— birders seemed to become bored with it!
Much discussion ensued following the sighting of the September 12 petrel. Eventually, Scott Terrill and I put together all of the details we could muster— including many (not-so-great) photos which became known as “the petrel package.” This was circulated to some of the top world seabirders. David Ainley, Peter Harrison and Hadoram Shirihai responded independently and immediately that they judged the petrel to be a JOUANIN’S PETREL!
Finally, the package went to the CBRC and they made a concurring diagnosis. Of course, any first record for North America requires a laborious vetting, but especially so with seabirds which often present the most fleeting of views.
So, although we had a very good number of images, I would not particularly call any of them “great.” I will try to put up a post on my blog with some of these images. I will post about that when it becomes available.
Subsequent to our first record, nine months later (June 2016) a petrel captured during mist netting at Santa Cruz Island (southern California) was identified as a Jouanin’s Petrel. It may or may not have been the same individual we saw in September 2015.
Jouanin’s Petrel occurs widely offshore in the Arabian Sea and Gulfs of Aden and Oman, where it is the commonest pelagic seabird. It has showed up as a vagrant off Australia, Kenya, Seychelles, Saudi Arabia, and other places. BirdLife lists this species as Near Threatened. There are about 4 records for Hawaii.
If you’d like to read an interesting and fun tale about Jouanin’s Petrels, I recommend this article by my friend, Bob Flood:
HISTORY OF OFFSHORE MONTEREY ALBACORE TRIPS:
The “albacore, offshore Monterey” pelagic trip was invented by Debi Shearwater back in 1983. During the 1980’s albacore, a type of tuna, regularly occurred off Monterey Bay. Reports from fishermen of incredible seabird activity prompted me to begin offering these 12 hour trips. The purpose of this trip was to present a wholistic approach to enjoying marine life. To that end, we endeavored to search for key seabirds, including Craveri’s, Scripps’s, and Guadalupe Murrelets; blue and Baird’s Beaked whales; and to catch albacore, the “cadillac” of the tunas. We never dreamed these trips would turn out to produce so many incredible seabird records. Even though the albacore changed their migration pattern and rarely occur off Monterey nowadays, we continue to operate albacore trips. These trips always sell out in advance.
Other rare, or very uncommon seabirds we have discovered on Shearwater Journeys’ past albacore trips have included: Laysan Albatross; Cook’s and Hawaiian Petrels; Streaked, Flesh-footed, Greater, and Manx Shearwaters; Least and Leach’s Storm-Petrels; Red-billed and Red-tailed Tropicbirds; Brown Booby; Craveri’s, Scripps’s, and Guadalupe Murrelets. This is a spectacular trip for jaegers, often encountering over 100 in one day! We almost always have a “grand slam” on Pomarine, Parasitic, and Long-tailed Jaegers, Long-tailed being the most commonly sighted. It is the single best trip to see South Polar Skua.
Our September 9, 2017 Albacore trip indeed found all of the jaegers, South Polar Skua; Guadalupe, Scripps’s, and Craveri’s Murrelets, and many of the “regular” fall species. Northern Waterthrush and American Redstart were “bonus” birds.
OUR UPCOMING ALBACORE: OFFSHORE MONTEREY TRIPS:
SUN. SEP. 9
SAT. SEP. 15
See our complete schedule for 2018:
Past trip reports:
Oct. 6, 2001 with STREAKED SHEARWATER and Black-throated Gray Warbler:
Sep. 15, 2002 with 42 LONG-TAILED JAEGERS and murrelets:
Sep. 10, 2006 with ten FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATERS and 1500+ Buller’s Shearwaters:
Sep. 13, 2008 with 7000 ASHY STORM-PETRELS:
Sep. 12, 2009 with 24 COOK’S PETRELS and one HAWAIIAN PETREL:
I gratefully thank all of the leaders and especially, the participants from near and far —representing 14 different states in the USA and Canada and Brazil. Without you , the participants, we have nothing. Special thanks to the many photographers on board who sent their images, and to the reviewers who worked on this amazing record.
Now check that box!
Still discovering first North American records after 40 years of trips!
Shearwater Journeys, Inc.
PO Box 190
Hollister, CA 95024
Celebrating 43 Years of Seabirding with Shearwater Journeys