Sep 06 2012
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)