8 Nov 2014

8 Nov 14 - Topping Up on Petrels

Once the rain stopped, we went back out seawatching from the upper deck around the seamount about 20 nautical miles off Henderson Island. So it was back to the upper deck, which provided a number of places to watch from depending on the wind direction & weather conditions.
Looking forward from the centre of the starboard side
There was a route over the box to the left of the funnel which led to the helicopter deck: It currently held a large storage box with a couple of benches behind
Martin, Kim & Steve relax on the helicopter deck benches: In better weather on 9 Nov
The main highlight of the day was the Polynesian Storm-petrel which appeared in the last Post. But the other highlight were the Petrodroma Petrels seen during the day. Murphy's Petrels and Henderson Petrels were the commonest two species, with the occasional Herald Petrel and Juan Fernandez Petrel. The latter wasn't a species we had expected to see, but we saw one or two on most of the days that we were at sea. Frustratingly, the Juan Fernandez Petrels only ever seemed to be fly by Petrels & could not be attracted into the chum. Additionally, three Pseudobulweria Tahiti Petrels put in an appearance.
Tahiti Petrel: This is a medium-sized Pseudobulweria Petrel with long, narrow wings, a long body and long tapering tail. The bill is particularly thick. It breeds on New Caledonia, Fiji, American Samoa & French Polynesia
Tahiti Petrel: The black head & breast strongly contrast with the white belly & undertail
Murphy's Petrel: This is a medium-sized, heavy-bodied Pterodroma Petrel with relatively short, narrow wings
Murphy's Petrel
Herald Petrel: The key features of this Pterodroma Petrel are the long, narrow wings, pointed tail & relatively slim bill. Plumage wise the key features are the white belly, white lores & throat, smudgy grey breast band, dark undertail, dark underwing with pale band on the primaries which extends to the secondaries & another pale band on the leading edge of the underwing
Herald Petrel: They breeds from Raine Island (in the Coral Sea) to Tonga, French Polynesia & Easter Island
Henderson Petrel: This is a dark, medium-sized, slim Pterodroma Petrel with slim, long & narrow wings, relatively long, pointed tail (which it tends to keep closed in flight)
Henderson Petrel: Apparently, they are not separable at sea from dark phase Herald Petrels, but it should be fairly safe to assume all the dark phase individuals we saw were Henderson Petrels, given how this close we were to the only known breeding site of Henderson Island
Around mid afternoon we headed back to Henderson Island and as we got within sight of the island, we had three Kermadec Petrels heading past towards Henderson Island. Unfortunately, none were close.
Kermadec Petrel: Dark morph. This is a medium-sized Petrodroma Petrel with long, broad wings, short, squarish tail & short, stubby bill. Overall, it is a dark Pterodroma with an obvious whitish flash on the underwing coverts. There is a less obvious white band in the underwing secondaries & on the leading edge of the underwing: neither of which can be seen in this heavily cropped photo. This is the neglecta subspecies which breeds from New Zealand to French Polynesia & Easter Island. Another subspecies breeds on a number of islands off Chile