Sep 06 2012

Antarctic Visitor

Published by at 5:50 am under Migration,Travel,Water and Shore

True confessions.  When I'm in Maine I usually go on a whale watching trip but my real goal isn't whales, it's pelagic birds.

I'm not the only birder on the whale watch boat.  There's usually a dozen of us keeping our eyes peeled for gannets, shearwaters, jaegers and storm petrels.

Storm petrels are my favorites because they're so dainty.  Only the size of starlings, they appear to walk on water as they search for food.

The most common type in the Gulf of Maine in early September is Wilson's storm petrel, pictured above.  When I learned where they came from I was amazed.

Wilson's breed in colonies on the coast of Antarctica.  Like most storm petrels they nest out of sight in crevices and burrows and only visit their nests under cover of darkness.  That's how they hide their eggs and young from raiding gulls and skuas.

When not breeding they live on the open ocean and never come to the land, but they're easy to see on a pelagic trip because they're willing to approach boats.

So while it's winter on the southern ocean I get to see this Antarctic visitor off the coast of Maine. Soon they'll journey back.

(photo by Patrick Coin via Wikimedia Commons.  Click on the photo to see the original)

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Antarctic Visitor”

  1. mary jo bermanon 06 Sep 2012 at 1:16 pm

    a little off topic — but really useful fact — Itunes store has Peterson Birds of North America app on sale for 99 cents. (normally $14.99). The app can run on ipad or iphone.

    possibly the best 99 cents you’ll ever spend!!

    I don’t work for Apple or Peterson, just a real happy customer.

  2. Kate St. Johnon 06 Sep 2012 at 5:41 pm

    Mary Jo, I bought the Sibley Guide for my Droid. More expensive than 99¢ but worth it.

  3. Juliaon 06 Sep 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Beautiful! Thank you.

  4. kcon 07 Sep 2012 at 1:08 pm

    One of the very first experiences that resulted in my diving into birding full force had to do with a storm-petrel. It was after an big storm which had been brewing over the ocean. I can’t recall what time of year it was right now, but it could very well have been fall. I was just starting to get interested in birds, but didn’t even have a field guide yet. I told my very knowledgeable bird friend that I saw a little bird on the ground with a hooked nose about a block from the beach. I described to him the white rump and that it was flying erratically. The erratic flight style stands out in my mind. It kept taking off in front of me only to land in front of me again. I was driving in my car. It did this a few times. I was so excited to witness this bird, but little did I know that I was seeing something pretty rare, a storm-petrel on land. Most likely it was a Wilson’s and boy would I love to meet him/her again.

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