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Today was a day which will go down in Arizona birding history. Hurricane Newton swept over Baja California and the Sea of Cortez, depositing an unprecedented wreck of seabirds in the desert, the like of which has never been seen in these parts before.
Where to start? How about with Brian Gibbons, who watched a LEAST STORM-PETREL trying unsuccessfully to avoid traffic on Houghton Rd in Tucson, after which he found a ‘white-rumped’ storm-petrel at a pond. Heading home, he conducted a brief ‘sea watch’ from his yard and scored with another storm-petrel, and what looks like being the first ever sighting in the ABA Area (USA & Canada) of a JUAN FERNADEZ PETREL! This is Brian’s post on Facebook:
At Patagonia Lake, at least seven storm-petrels were present, a combination of at least one LEAST STORM-PETREL and five or more ‘white-rumped storm-petrels.
I headed to Amado Pond (aka Amado WTP) on hearing the startling news of what was going on there. A ‘white-rumped’ storm-petrel had been reported, so Laurens Halsey went along to investigate. When he arrived he found several ‘white-rumped’ storm-petrels and a LEAST STORM-PETREL, and then amazingly a shearwater flew through which was later identified from the photos as a WEDGE-TAILED SHEARWATER, the first record in Arizona! Here’s Laurens’ post on Facebook:
When I arrived a small crowd had formed and four storm-petrels were present, one LEAST and three ‘white-rumped’. While I was there another one or two ‘white-rumped’ birds flew through, and when I left there were four ‘white-rumped’ and the Least still present.
The consensus on the ‘white-rumped’ birds is that they are WEDGE-RUMPED STORM-PETRELS, yet another state first! The other options are Leach’s Storm-Petrel, the newly-split Townsend’s Storm-Petrel, and the less likely Ainley’s Storm-Petrel. None of them have been recorded in SE Arizona before – today there could have been upwards of 15!
I took a lot of photos, none of them very good, but worthwhile record shots under the circumstances. Here is the LEAST STORM-PETREL:
It’s fun to see birds meet for the first time. The BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCKS were wondering what was going on as the Least Storm-Petrel flew by (below the left sitting duck).
I took even more photos of the WEDGE-RUMPED STORM-PETRELS:
My favorite photo is this one, which might convey the uneasy sense of incongruous disbelief at seeing seabirds in the desert.
We were able to see these birds between showers during the afternoon, as the eye of the storm passed over. The rains came again in the evening and may have downed more lost seabirds. What will tomorrow bring? Stay tuned…