22 Oct 2018

24 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Six: Ascension Island Band-rumped Storm-petrels

There was one final Seabird I wanted to see around Ascension Island: the Ascension Island population of Band-rumped Storm-petrels. I had seen a few Band-rumped Storm-petrels on the day before we reached Ascension Island. However, as we were around 150 nautical miles from the island, there is no certainty they were from the Ascension Island population. A few Birders had seen some around Boatswainbird Island on the first visit, but they they were brief sightings & none were seen from the bridge wing where I was standing. Therefore, as we were weighing anchor to leave Ascension Island, I headed back to the bridge wing with a fresh mug of coffee & with no intention of leaving my vantage position until I seen some Band-rumped Storm-petrels or it got dark. There were none around Boatswainbird Island, but fortunately, I picked up the first of at least eight as we were finally sailing away from Ascension Island.
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: Like the St Helena population, they show a slightly forked tail, a prominent clean-cut white rump & prominent pale wingbar
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: The white rump extends well down the sides of the rump
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: Another view of the same individual
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: Another view of the same individual
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: A better view of the sides of the rump
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: An underwing shot of the same individual
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: A final underwing shot of the same individual
Band-rumped Storm-petrel taxonomy is complex. A few years ago, Band-rumped Storm-petrels were understood to breed on islands in the Tropical Atlantic & Pacific Oceans, including the Portuguese Berlengas Islands, Madeira, Canaries, Azores, Cape Verde, Ascension Island, St Helena, as well as, the Galapagos, Hawaii & islands belonging to Japan. In the last decade, studies into the breeding times of year, DNA, vocalisation & morphology have identified that there are probably three additional species which breed on the Tropical North Atlantic islands. Studies of the Band-rumped Storm-petrels which breed on Ascension Island & St Helena are only just starting, but there must be a reasonable chance of additional splits of these populations once these studies have been completed. We had had good views of many Band-rumped Storm-petrels on St Helena & now we had seen & photographed individuals from the Ascension Island population.
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: The second individual didn't come very close
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: Another photo of the second individual showing the extensive white sides to the rump
The third Band-rumped Storm-petrel was a heavily worn individual.
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: Note, the worn plumage & active wing moult
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: This was a much tattier & worn individual
Band-rumped Storm-petrel
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: Note, the wing moult
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: It didn't show the crisp clean markings of the first two individuals
Band-rumped Storm-petrel
Band-rumped Storm-petrel
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: A final show of the third individual disappearing
There were also a few Leach's Storm-petrels. They were longer-winged & had a variable dark band through the centre of the white rump.
Leach's Storm-petrel: This individual has a very distinctive black band through the centre of the rump
Leach's Storm-petrel: The tail is deeper forked than the Band-tailed Storm-petrels
Leach's Storm-petrel: The feet also project beyond the tail in this one photo
Leach's Storm-petrel: Another photo of the same individual
Leach's Storm-petrel: The upper wing bar is also very obvious
Leach's Storm-petrel: The white sides to the rump are not as obvious as on the Band-tailed Storm-petrels
Leach's Storm-petrel: A final view of this first individual showing that the wings are longer, the white on the sides of the rump are less extensive & the tail is deeper forked than the Band-rumped Storm-petrels
Finally, some photos of a second Leach's Storm-petrel.
Leach's Storm-petrel: Superficially this looks like a Band-rumped Storm-petrel
Leach's Storm-petrel: However, it looks longer-winged & shows a dark bar across this centre of the white rump
Leach's Storm-petrel: Unusually, this individual doesn't appear to have a forked tail
Leach's Storm-petrel: The white is less extensive on the sides of the rump

19 Oct 2018

24 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Six: Bottlenose Dolphins At Ascension Island

While we were around Boatswainbird Island as we were leaving Ascension Island, we saw our first pod of Bottlenose Dolphins for the Atlantic Odyssey. Even better they were in a playful mode & were keen to get involved in some bow-wave action. Unfortunately, we were hardly moving as we were close to the island. But they hung around & as a result, we enjoyed some close views of this widespread Dolphin species.
Bottlenose Dolphin: The water was very clear allowing us to follow them underwater. Bottlenose Dolphins are one of the larger Dolphins with relatively a uniform grey appearance, a short, stout beak and a tall & sharply curved dorsal fin
Bottlenose Dolphin: Two more coming in to the Plancius
Bottlenose Dolphin: The first of the two breaks the surface
Bottlenose Dolphin: This is the dorsal fin of the second individual which has distinctive vertical scars on it
Bottlenose Dolphin: A close crop of the vertical scars
Bottlenose Dolphin: A clearer view of the short, stout beak and tall & sharply curved dorsal fin
Bottlenose Dolphin: A better view of the short, stout beak & the distinctive crease between the beak & the head
Bottlenose Dolphin: There is a minimal blow as this individual breaks the surface
Bottlenose Dolphin
Bottlenose Dolphin: It quickly starts to dive again
Bottlenose Dolphin: Cetaceans can be separated from Sharks, Tuna & other Fish by their tail fins which are horizontal on Cetaceans & vertical on species of Fish
Bottlenose Dolphin: This individual has a distinctive curved dorsal fin
As we were heading towards Boatswainbird Island, we had a brief encounter with an Atlantic White Marlin. This is one of the Billfish & can reach up to 2.8 metres long, so it is a similar size to a Dolphin, but it is much slimmer with a distinctive long bill.
Atlantic White Marlin: It leapt out of the water on a few occasions showing its distinctive bill
Small Clearwing: I saw at least 500 Small Clearwings during the afternoon as we left Ascension Island. The collective name for Small Clearwings should be a Confusion of Small Clearwings

18 Oct 2018

24 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Six: Boatswainbird Island Revised

There was a final treat for our prompt departure from Ascension Island & that was another stop at Boatswainbird Island. All the decks were crammed with people enjoying the spectacle around the island.
Boatswainbird Island: Named using the old sailors name for the breeding Tropicbirds
Volcanic rock
There are two species of breeding Boatswainbird or Bosunbird: White-tailed Tropicbird & Red-billed Tropicbird.
White-tailed Tropicbird: Adult
White-tailed Tropicbird: Adult
White-tailed Tropicbird: Adult
White-tailed Tropicbird: Adult
Red-billed Tropicbird: Adult. Note, the heavier, red bill, lack of a black secondary band, more extensive black leading edge to the primaries, scaly mantle & lesser wing coverts in separating it from White-tailed Tropicbird
Masked Booby: Adult
Masked Booby: Subadult
Brown Booby: Adult
Brown Booby: Juvenile
Red-footed Booby: Adult
Red-footed Booby: This juvenile briefly appeared right next to the Plancius