Black-bellied Storm-petrel, again, off Lanzarote

Black-bellied Storm-petrel (Fregetta tropica tropica). Location: Banco de la Concepcion, 45 miles off Lanzarote. 18-8-2012. Photographer: Javier Portillo.

One of the most exciting moments of my birding career in the Western Palearctic occured last September off Lanzarote. While leading, together with Juan Sagardía, the very first dedicated pelagic off the Canaries, I was fortunate to call a Black-bellied Storm-petrel. Only the second WP record, and a really great bird to watch.

Given the mega rarity status of the species, who would have thought that we were going to see another one on the next late summer pelagic…?

So, after that very succesful first trip (where we also saw at least 3 South Polar Skuas), this year we´ve been running more trips through Lanzarote Pelagics, trying to break new ground out there.

We ´ve discovered that birds like White-faced and Band-rumped Storm-Petrels, Wilson´s and Bulwer´s Petrels, Long-tailed Skuas, Great Shearwaters, etc.. (some already highlighted on previous posts) are pretty common offshore at the right time of the year. And some surprises are still awaiting to be discovered…

On last weekend´s trip, and about 45 miles to the NE of Lanzarote, at the very same place where 2 South Polar Skuas spent more than an  hour around our boat last year, a stunning Black-bellied Storm Petrel was attracted to the chum. First located by Oscar Llama, the bird put on a great show for almost 20 mins, to the delight of all observers on board.

Black-bellied Storm-petrel (Fregetta tropica tropica). Location: Banco de la Concepcion, 45 miles off Lanzarote. 18-8-2012. Photographer: Juan Sagardia / Lanzarote Pelagics. Even if the black breast band can´t be noticed (broken on the upper breast on this individual), other visible features help distinguish it from both “White-bellied” Storm-petrels (Fregetta tropica melanoleuca and F.grallaria leucogaster), such as extensive dark hood, extending into the upper belly; dark markings on the underwing-coverts and black undertail coverts extending at an angle towards the black belly stripe.

Black-bellied Storm-petrel (Fregetta tropica tropica). Location: Banco de la Concepcion, 45 miles off Lanzarote. 18-8-2012. Photographer: Javier Portillo

Black-bellied Storm-petrel (Fregetta tropica tropica). Location: Banco de la Concepcion, 45 miles off Lanzarote. 18-8-2012. Photographer: Juan Sagardía / Lanzarote Pelagics

As can be seen on the photos below, last year´s and last weekend´s birds are definitely different individuals. Amongst other things, last year´s bird had a very striking and complete black belly-stripe, reaching all the way to the upper breast and connecting with the hood. Whereas this year´s bird had a broken and much less noticeable black belly-stripe, broken at the upper breast and not connecting with the dark hood.

Here is last year´s (2011) bird

Black-bellied Storm-petrel (Fregetta tropica tropica). Location: Banco de la Concepcion, 40 miles off Lanzarote. 10-9-2011. Photographer: Miguel Rouco

And here´s this year´s (2012) bird, again.

Black-bellied Storm-petrel (Fregetta tropica tropica). Location: Banco de la Concepcion, 45 miles off Lanzarote. 18-8-2012. Photographer: Javier Portillo. Note the broken an narrow breast band of this year´s individual.

We will keep running pelagics off Lanzarote, as there´s still much to learn on the distribution of many species of seabirds around the Canaries.

Time will tell whether these 2 sightings were a mere a coincidence, and we were just extremely lucky, or BBSP are not as extremely rare as previousty thought around the Canaries Current.

So why don´t join us next year?

More photos of the bird, and of all other species seen on previous trips, here

http://lanzarotepelagics.blogspot.com.es/

Black-bellied Storm-petrel (Fregetta tropica tropica) and Long-tailed Skua (Stercorarius longicaudus). Location: Banco de la Concepcion, 45 miles to the NE of Lanzarote. Photographer: Juan Sagardia / Lanzarote Pelagics.
2 great species side by side!

Special thanks to Marcel Gil for helping us out with this weekend´s trip.

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