Herald Petrels in the Gulf Stream

Alex LamoreauxBird Sightings, birds in flight, RaritiesLeave a Comment

Last week the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology charted two back-to-back pelagics to the Gulf Stream with Brian Patteson, aboard the Stormy Petrel II. Both days were full of seabirds and we had some great photo opportunities. Mike Lanzone and I have been pretty busy with other things, but are hoping to get some more detailed posts (and photos!) up soon. In the meantime, here is a little sneak peak – a collection of Herald Petrel photos I took during our two days cruising around the Gulf Stream, offshore North Carolina.

Herald Petrels (also commonly referred to as Trindade Petrels on the East Coast) are uncommon migrants in the Gulf Stream, with the first ABA sighting from as recent as 1933! Most sightings have been offshore North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland between May and September. The plumage (particularly the belly feathers) of this rare seabird varies from light to dark. The dark type is much more commonly seen in the Atlantic.

On our pelagics we had 3 to 4 birds early in the day on our Monday trip – all of which were dark types. The first bird snuck in very close and then flared up within 30ft of the bow of the boat. I think all of the photographers on board were caught a little off-guard (I know I was – my first 15 shots of the bird are all super blurry), but luckily it circled back across the front of the boat and I was able to snap off the first photo below. A few minutes later, a second bird made a fairly close pass on the port side of the boat and then spent some time in the slick behind the boat.

Herald 'Trindade' Petrel (dark type) - Our first Herald of the two days. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Herald ‘Trindade’ Petrel (dark type) – Our first Herald of the two days. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Herald 'Trindade' Petrel (dark type) - Our second Herald of the two days. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Herald ‘Trindade’ Petrel (dark type) – Our second Herald of the two days. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

At 10:48am on Tuesday morning, Ryan Fick and Kate Sutherland spotted an intermediate type Herald Petrel sneak into the slick behind the boat along with 3 Black-capped Petrels. The four birds slowly worked their way closer to the boat, and the Herald made a close arc right behind the boat (first photo below). A few minutes later, the bird circled back around and ripped past the starboard side of the boat offering the best photo opportunity of this species during the two days out on the water.

Herald 'Trindade" Petrel (intermediate type) arcing behind the boat on our second day out. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Herald ‘Trindade’ Petrel (intermediate type) arcing behind the boat on our second day out. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Herald 'Trindade" Petrel (intermediate type) passing close to the boat on our second day out. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Herald ‘Trindade’ Petrel (intermediate type) passing close to the boat on our second day out. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Herald 'Trindade" Petrel (intermediate type) passing close to the boat on our second day out. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Herald ‘Trindade’ Petrel (intermediate type) passing close to the boat on our second day out. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Herald 'Trindade" Petrel (intermediate type) passing close to the boat on our second day out. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Herald ‘Trindade’ Petrel (intermediate type) passing close to the boat on our second day out. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Herald 'Trindade" Petrel (intermediate type) making one last close pass near the boat. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Herald ‘Trindade’ Petrel (intermediate type) making one last close pass near the boat. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)