The first-ever unequivocal and photographically documented at-sea records of the Zino's Petrel

THE FIRST-EVER UNEQUIVOCAL AND PHOTOGRAPHICALLY DOCUMENTED AT-SEA RECORDS OF THE ZINO'S PETREL

The report of The Zino’s Petrel at sea expedition II - the best-ever pelagic in the Western Palearctic

Expedition diary by Hadoram Shirihai

Major part of the following report is originally published in the Birding World (issue: 22, pp 204-218), the essential magazine for WP birding discoveries (for obtaining hard copies of the paper and yearly subscription log to www.birdingworld.co.uk)

On behalf of the Tubenose Project: Shirihai, H. & Bretagnolle, V., illustrated by John Cox (in prep.) Albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters of the world: a handbook to their taxonomy, identification, ecology and conservation. Christopher Helm, London.

EXPEDITION SUMMARY

This year’s nine-day pelagic expedition, on 20–29 April, around Madeira was designed to find Zino’s Petrel Pterodroma madeira at sea, with the goal of learning and documenting its field characters. It followed the previous year’s success in observing and describing one bird in detail (Shirihai 2008: Birding World 21(6); see
www.madeirabirds.com/madeira_photo_expedition_hadoram_shirihai_2008
). Prior to that, the species had only been claimed on a few occasions at sea, and then usually as ‘possibly’ or ‘suspected’. There are no previous photographically documented at-sea records of Zino’s Petrel, even in the recent, highly acclaimed Petrels Night and Day by Robb et al. (2008), wherein there are images of a bird labelled an ‘apparently small-billed gadfly petrel’. However, the present expedition, during which we identified 13 Zino’s Petrels at sea, and photographed four of them, at last provided the first-ever documented at-sea record of Zino’s Petrel.

Zino's Petrel

Zino’s Petrel Pterodroma madeira, off Madeira, April 2009 (photo Hadoram Shirihai © The Tubenose project). The first-ever unequivocal and photographically documented at-sea record of the species (for details see expedition log). This image shows a bird of the dark-winged type. During the two Zino’s Petrel pelagic expeditions (2008 & 2009), it was discovered that the species has two colour types: dark-winged and white- (or ‘snowy’-) winged birds. Within the feae complex, the latter is apparently unique to Zino’s Petrel. (These plumages and their variations will be detailed and illustrated in forthcoming paper to be published in Birding World sometimes in 2010.)

As mentioned in last year’s report, I timed the work for the second half of April as Fea’s Petrel is still absent from Madeiran waters at this time, whilst good numbers of Zino’s Petrels have already returned to the colony. Given this, we could be more certain in identifying Zino’s Petrels, thereby learning about their appearance at sea and their numbers. Nevertheless, we are planning a trip in June 2009, when both species are present, to practice their separation at sea (see below). We used the same chumming technique perfected during the rediscovery of Beck’s Petrel (Shirihai 2008: Bull. BOC 128(1)), i.e. using frozen blocks of chum, of 10–20 kg each, comprising 70% fish, 10% fish oil and 20% water. The idea behind freezing the blocks is that the offal floats longer, permitting the petrels to take the food before it sinks; the blocks also create a rather obvious, smelly oil slick. One or two blocks were released overboard, at intervals of 30–45 minutes, to form a chum slick.

The Zino’s Petrel expedition team this year comprised John Cox from the UK (the tubenose project’s artist), Mark Gilston from the UK, and the lovely, highly enthusiastic and hard-working couple, Catarina Fagundes and Hugo Romano (of Madeira WindBirds, who organised the expedition), and myself. We used the brand new, 36-foot sailing vessel Sun Odissey (skippered by André Sá), which has very good sails and a quiet but powerful engine. It is also equipped with a modern GPS and navigation system, and other important equipment for our safety, as well as very comfortable (if somewhat small) cabin. The boat proved to be extremely stable, even in quite rough weather.

Hadoram Shirihai and Hugo Romano at sea

Hadoram Shirihai (front) with his team (including Hugo Romano, back) aboard Sun Odissey, here in action during the Zino’s Petrel at sea expedition II, April 2009.

Any petrel enthusiast will wish ‘pay their respects’ to the Zino’s Petrel colony with one of the accredited local guides (again contact the Madeira Wind Birds team www.madeirawindbirds.com). Thus, prior to commencing the pelagic work, and just after my arrival in Funchal on 19 April, Mark and I joined Buffy and Frank Zino for a nocturnal visit to the colony at the Pico do Areeiro. We had an amazing experience with the displaying Zino’s Petrels, and I acquired some 20 minutes of good sound-recordings. Frank, being a busy medical doctor, was unfortunately unable to join us at sea, but he was in constant contact with us, giving crucial advice and acting like the spirit of the expedition...

Frank Zino & Hadoram Shirihai with Zino's petrel in hand

Frank Zino (left) the man that save his petrel, with Hadoram Shirihai (among Frank's followers in petrel's research and conservation) holding a Zino's Petrel at the breeding site in Madeira. Thanks to Frank and his family in saving the species, we are the younger generation can enjoy finding this enigmatic and near-mystical seabird in the ocean, the Zino's Petrel.

The work in Madeira on Zino’s Petrel forms one part of this spring’s expeditions in the north-east Atlantic designed to investigate the feae complex – to better understand their field identification, taxonomy and conservation, by combining pelagic chumming trips with an emphasis on photography, and sound-recording and playback trials at colonies, as well as collecting blood samples for genetic sampling (three different genes will be tested) and biometric data. However, for those interested in the subject from a birding perspective, especially the field characters of the three taxa, later this year we plan to publish a comprehensive paper in Birding World, wherein photographs of Zino’s Petrel at sea will appear, along with a special plate by John Cox (from the forthcoming tubenose monograph).

Vincent Bretagnolle and myself very recently completed a successful expedition to the Cape Verdes, where we worked on Fea’s Petrel P. feae (together with Jacob González-Solís from Spain), and we are now preparing (with Frank Zino) our work on Desertas Petrel P. (f.) deserta for June 2009.

Fea's Petrel

Fea's Petrel Pterodroma feae, off Madeira, June 2009 (photo Hadoram Shirihai © The Tubenose project) During June 2009 Hadoram made another 8 days expedition with Madeira Wind Birds, and when he also observe and photograph Zino's and Fea's side-by-side. (These findings will be detailed and illustrated in forthcoming paper to be published in Birding World in 2010.)

As it can be seen from the subtitle of this article, we enjoyed one of the best-ever pelagic trips in the Western Palearctic’s Atlantic waters, at least in my view, demonstrating that Madeiran waters, despite being so close to mainland Europe, are the jewel in the crown of pelagic seabirding, for both species and numbers.

As well as the Zino’s Petrels, also on the chum we saw: a Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel Oceanodroma monorhis on 21 April and a local record of c.300 Madeiran Storm-Petrels Oceanodroma [castro] on 28 April. After three consecutive summers ‘chasing’ Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrels around Japan and close to North Korea, I know just how difficult it can be to find this bird at sea, and how lucky you need to be to observe this mega rarity in the Atlantic. The bird seemed to investigate the chum very briefly before continuing on its way, just like Swinhoe’s often behaves in Japan, where I found the species often takes time before they begin to ‘trust’ the chum and the boat. I found Magnus Robb’s (in Robb at al.) account of Swinhoe’s extremely logical, especially his distributional analysis for the north-east Atlantic.

Together with Frank and Vincent, we will attempt to learn about the castro complex, with an emphasis on the situation in Madeira, and it is thus too premature to discuss which form(s) of castro was seen during the expedition. The validity of the recent splits proposed by Robb et al. (2008), wherein as many as four species in the NE Atlantic alone might be recognised within the complex, requires much work. I admire Robb at al. for taking such a bold step, as I see myself as very much a beginner with these birds (despite that I have already seen and photographed virtually almost all of the populations around the world assigned to this complex), because I am still learning about this group! Here, I have tried to put into practice the guidelines Robb et al. produced for the group in their highly original book (which I cannot stop poring over). As detailed in the log, we used a special chum ‘recipe’ to attract storm-petrels in large numbers, for close views and photography, enabling me to photograph rather extensive variation within castro (c.120 individuals). In observing these birds at sea off Madeira and examining the many photos, I see two major problems. 1. I noticed extensive individual variation in their appearance, with, e.g., birds with deeply forked tails and birds with square-ended tails, blacker and browner individuals, and birds with thicker or narrower white rump bands and varied black tips to the rear edge of the rump. Thus, one could ask why, in one place, during just one chumming session, one can see so much variation, virtually comprising the spectrum of variation shown in Robb’s book for the four forms together in the Atlantic castro? Robb et al. admit that individual variation is still poorly known, and especially that young birds of all populations are completely unknown. 2. Further confusion exists because it is my impression that the vast majority of birds seen during the expedition were closer in plumage and tail structure to what Robb et al. described as ‘Grant’s Storm-Petrel’, which is not yet a formally described taxon. Robb et al. described the latter as a cold-season breeder on several Atlantic archipelagos, including Madeira, present or breeding in August–March (unlike Madeiran Storm-Petrel which occupies some of the same islands in March–October). It seems that this system is not really operating in Madeira: in late April, because the birds did not show heavily worn remiges (or post-breeding moult limits, or gaps in these feathers) suggest that these were still rather fresh spring/summer breeders, which better fits what Robb et al. consider as Madeiran Storm-Petrel. Maybe the confusion is partly due to the possibility that in Madeira there is a less sharp seasonal replacement of the two populations, i.e. cold- versus hot-season breeders, as Madeiran observations of castro suggest that they breed year-round (F. Zino in litt). Thus, even now, we can only say that there is much to be learned with many ‘grey areas’, just as frequently inferred by Robb et al. I have thus elected to regard any variation observed here as Madeiran (=Band-rumped) Storm-Petrel, at least until our study is completed. However, I pleased to present here some of the interesting images taken during the expedition:

Madeiran Storm-petrel

Note the relatively short and square-ended tail, but relatively rather broad white rump-band on this bird. During our expedition we did not find any ‘castro storm-petrels’ with active moult in their flight feathers, but some birds did show different generations of feathers (here, the inner two primaries seem to be of a different generation to the rest), suggesting that at certain ages some birds can show some a kind of partial or suspended moult at this time. Note that the blacker colouration of the secondaries is not wholly because of recent renewal, but because they are always darker than the primaries (and here the angle and lighting make them contrast more). Beside the existence of post breeding moult in adults, virtually nothing is known about the annual moult cycle and aging of these birds.

Madeiran Storm-petrel

Madeiran Petrel Oceanodroma [castro], off Madeira, April 2009 (Hadoram Shirihai). As it did in life, the bird in this photograph shows a relatively long, deeply forked tail, and long, pointed wings. Note also the slight brown tinge to the body and wing-coverts, the strong, pale diagonal band on upperwing, and the rather narrow white rump-band.

I fully agree with Frank Zino, and Robb et al., that Barolo’s Shearwater Puffinus (lherminieri/assimilis) baroli is become increasingly rare in the northern Atlantic and is perhaps the rarest tubenose of all in this region. On each of my visits to Madeira I have observed successively fewer birds. Can we allow ourselves to watch this tubenose slip towards extinction without attempting to conserve it? We saw single birds on most days during the expedition, and for the first time I managed to take a ‘reasonable’ image. From the taxonomic viewpoint, I prefer to use (for now) the term ‘Small Atlantic Shearwater’, encompassing the small Puffinus from the Caribbean (lherminieri) together with birds from Madeira and the Canaries (baroli), and those that breed on the Cape Verdes (boydi). The form baroli is often regarded as a race of Little Shearwater P. assimilis, whilst boydi is sometimes lumped with Audubon’s Shearwater P. lherminieri. Despite that the three Atlantic forms are genetically very close to each other, they are rather morphologically distinctive. But here, I will refer to the birds seen off Madeira as Barolo’s Shearwaters.

Only occasionally did we check closely the many Calonectris shearwaters around Madeira, and we only identified the Atlantic form C. (diomedea) borealis, i.e. Cory’s Shearwater. The daily maximum was 300 birds, much less than last year, when c.3000 were observed on 24 April 2008. Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus was seen in about the same low numbers as last year, with a maximum daily count of 20. However, we had rather high numbers of Bulwer’s Petrels Bulweria bulwerii this year, with up to c.80 daily (28 April).

Last year, I photographed the fourth Wilson’s Storm-Petrel Oceanites oceanicus for Madeira, and perhaps the first documented record of the species there. This year we saw four birds. We found several Leach’s Storm-Petrels O. leucorhoa this year, which was missing last year, but unlike 2008 we (unfortunately) did not find any White-faced Storm-Petrels Pelagodroma marina. We had no time to look at gulls and terns in detail but like last year we found a Sabine’s Gull Larus sabini, the fourth record for Madeira. On 25 April we observed single Pomarine Stercorarius pomarinus and Arctic Skuas S. parasiticus. Three species of oceanic dolphins were identified (associated with feeding shearwaters) and we saw a Cuvier’s Beaked Whale Ziphius cavirostris, which was attracted to the chum (see Expedition log).

EXPEDITION LOG

What follows is the daily Expedition log with a selective list of the birds recorded, as well as some of our experiences...

20 April

Chumming at: c.40 miles east of the main island of Madeira, from 16.00–20.15. I chose the chumming position today based on where I found Zino’s Petrel in April 2008. We left Caniçal just after 09.00, and due to favorable winds sailed most of the way (sometimes reaching 7–8 knots), it taking c.6+ hours to reach our position, for just over 4 hours chumming!

Sea condition: 10–15 knots wind, generally northerly most of the day; partial cloud.

Observers: Catarina, Hugo, Mark and myself.

Tubenoses and other seabirds observed:

Bulwer’s Petrel c.20

Cory’s Shearwater 300+

Manx Shearwater 10

Barolo’s Shearwater 1

Madeiran Storm-Petrel 100 is the best possible estimate at the chum I can give (max. 27 at once); 4–15 birds were virtually constantly present, with different birds arriving from the east (possibly en route to their breeding site on the nearby Desertas) and a large increase noted from 18.30, especially after 19.00 until darkness.

Sabine’s Gull 1 ad

Further notes: No Zino’s Petrels, but the area proved amazing for studying storm-petrels at the end of the day. I should come back at least once during the expedition to study the variation in these storm-petrels, and for John (Cox) to practice these birds too. My team tolerated the long hours, c.16 hours at sea, but when we reached Caniçal marina (at 03.00!) they politely asked if we could start a bit later tomorrow. Two of the team were very seasick today.

21st April

Chumming at: c.25 miles north of Madeira, from 16.20–20.35. We were actually en route to the east side of the island but just after leaving Caniçal marina (at 10.40) I decided to change direction for the north side of the main island – where the seas are usually much rougher. I wanted to take advantage of the calm sea today and check this side. I took this decision because of several geographical factors and the location of the Zino’s Petrel colony – based on the discussion with Frank and Hugo, and my experience with Fea’s in Cape Verde– all of which made me feel that this is the area to search for the petrel. We returned to shore very late (02.30), too late to write more, but happy as my dream has come true today…

Sea condition: 10–15 knots wind, generally northerly, for most of the day; partial cloud, but the island was only sometimes visible.

Observers: Catarina, Mark and myself.

Tubenoses and other seabirds observed:

Zino’s Petrel 2 (both dark-winged type): one photographed at 17.30 came from the west or north-west, passed south of us (where I located it), then seemed to smell the chum, changed direction to within c.70 m of the boat and flew directly toward us, but unfortunately as it got closer it headed back south (we were positioned too close on the chum!). Despite the short observation, we got very good views and photos – the first-ever documented Zino’s Petrel at sea! The other Zino’s seen was at 19.17 (a distant view). The emotion and physical effect of being with a Zino’s Petrel at sea was electrifying. The first bird today was a kind of a shock, and my left hand and leg were shaking for a few minutes afterwards. I was so excited I could not speak, nor even check my images because I thought I had missed the bird – it happened very quickly, almost too fast. Fortunately, the photos were rather good! As we arrived at the marina everyone gathered around my laptop to see the images and remember the moment, and I also e-mailed one image to Frank Zino and Vincent Bretagnolle. They quickly responded, “fantastic and how thrilling, fabulous photo” (Frank), and “absolute congratulations for this wonderful image, I was actually very confident that you would succeed, because you really wanted to get these photos and I saw how you proceeded in Cape Verde!” (Vincent).]

Bulwer’s Petrel 1

Cory’s Shearwater 200+

Manx Shearwater 8

Barolo’s Shearwater P. (a.) baroli 1

Madeiran Storm-Petrel 2

Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel 1 at 18.00 seen only by me, from 200 m to as close as 50 m; the observation lasted c.1 minute or less, and the bird investigated the chum very briefly before continuing on its way (as is typical of the species). Unfortunately there was confusion between us – I saw the bird from the port side as it was approaching the boat, but did not want to take my binoculars from my eyes since I was checking that there really was no white rump, whilst simultaneously Catarina out ‘storm-petrel’ – which I thought meant she was on the same bird, but unfortunately she was watching a Madeiran Storm-Petrel on the starboard side, which Mark also saw. Thus, they unfortunately missed the Swinhoe’s. I was sorry for them...

22nd April

Chumming at: c.25 miles north of Madeira, from 17.10–20.45. Obviously, I chose the same location. We left Caniçal at 10.30 (this time with John Cox, artist of the tubenose project), returning at c.01.30.

Sea condition: 10–15 knots wind, generally northerly, for most of the day; partial cloud, but the island was again only occasionally visible.

Observers: Hugo, John, Mark and myself.

Tubenoses and other seabirds observed:

Zino’s Petrel 3 seen at 17.45, 20.00 and 20.20 (but no photos): two were rather distant but one ‘white- or snowy-winged’ type Zino’s (highly distinctive!) was seen closer, at 200–300 m. The very extensive white underwing was extremely noticeable even at longer distances! We noticed that Zino’s Petrels have a ‘funny’ flight in moderate winds: as they reach the top of the arc they seem to ‘hesitate’ by means of a sudden break, as if going slow, with a change of wing direction, almost if ‘deciding’ in which direction to glide. We are starting to get the rather clear feel of a small quite delicate structured bird (compared to Fea’s in Cape Verdes). Furthermore, Zino’s Petrels seem to ignore (or miss the smell of) the chum, perhaps because of the wind direction or maybe they are already well fed, or perhaps the chum is not right somehow; furthermore we lack a ‘trigger species’ to get a feeding frenzy started.

Bulwer’s Petrel 4

Cory’s Shearwater 200+

Manx Shearwater 3

Barolo’s Shearwater 1

Madeiran Storm-Petrel 1

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel 1

Further notes: the chum attracted a small pod of Short-beaked Common Dolphins feeding with Cory’s Shearwaters; also, as yesterday, a small shark seen at the chum.

John Cox

John Cox (the tubenose project’s artist) on a constant watch for Zino's Petrel.

23rd April

Chumming at: c.25 miles north of the main island, from 16.30–20.40.

Sea condition: 10–15 knots wind, generally northerly, reaching up to c.20 knots towards the end of the day; rather sunny.

Observers: Catarina, John, Mark and myself.

Tubenoses and other seabirds observed:

Zino’s Petrel 3 seen rather distantly at 18.00, 18.30 and 19.55 (no photos): the underwing of one appeared dark. They are still missing/ignoring the chum – it’s killing me. John, Mark and I discussed the possible reason for this: the Zino’s Petrels seem to come from the north, which is also the direction of the wind, so they are missing the smell of the chum, which is blown southward meaning the birds can only smell it after they have already passed us. The lack of ‘trigger species’ (to form a feeding frenzy) is also a problem: the local Cory’s Shearwaters are not or only rarely attracted to the chum.

Bulwer’s Petrel c.10

Cory’s Shearwater 100+

Manx Shearwater 10

Barolo’s Shearwater 1

Madeiran Storm-Petrel 2

Possible dark-rumped storm-petrel (sp?) 1 at 20.15, rather close, but too brief to confirm what species it was. If we correctly judged its size and colour, my impression was that it was too big for a Swinhoe’s Petrel and yet far too small for being just a misjudged Bulwer’s Petrel. I said to my friends, “if I was in Japan, I would straightway call it a Matsudaira’s Storm Petrel, but let’s play safe here and call it a possible unidentified dark-rumped storm-petrel”.

Further notes: the chum attracted a small pod of Short-beaked Common Dolphins, as well as Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphins (huge animals), feeding with Cory’s Shearwaters. I am really enjoying the company of Catarina, Hugo, John, Mark, and the skipper André, and we all seem to have adjusted to the daily programme: leaving Caniçal at 10.30, for the six-hour voyage to our chumming position, arriving at 16.00/17.00, at which time the petrels are also starting to arrive, from the north, before ‘closing station’ at c.20.30. Once back at the marina, Catarina and Hugo alternate preparing the chum blocks (for the petrels) and food (for the team on board) prepared by Catarina’s mother. Today, on the way back, we started to feel a change in the wind, from calm to stormy, so I must decide about tomorrow. Hugo stayed on the island today (to prepare the chum) and went to Frank’s house to check on marine conditions for tomorrow. We decide to take a final decision in the morning...

24th April

Day on land: owing to high seas, with 25–30 knots wind, we cancel the pelagic today, and instead visited some birding sites in the north of the island. Birds seen/photographed include: Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus granti, Buzzard Buteo buteo harterti, Kestrel Falco tinnunculus canariensis, Trocaz Pigeon Columba trocaz –at least 20 birds, and I finally managed to get images (for A & C Black’s Birds of the World project) of this elusive endemic of the Laurel forests, Plain Swift Apus unicolor, Berthelot’s Pipit Anthus berthelotii madeirensis (near Caniçal marina), Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea schmitzi, Blackbird Turdus merula cabrerae, Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla heineken, Madeira Firecrest Regulus madeirensis, Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia madeirensis, Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs maderensis and Canary Serinus canaria.

We ended the day with a celebratory dinner at Frank and Buffy’s house, toasting the expedition and the first-ever documented Zino’s Petrel at sea. Celebrating this with the Zinos – the family that rediscovered the species and have done so much to conserve it – was something very special for all of us. Their house is old and traditional, with many nice paintings and furniture, and a massive garden in the middle of Funchal. We were made to feel part of the family, and the dinner prepared by Buffy was delicious, whilst the Madeiran wine was also great ... though we all kept ‘clear-headed’ for tomorrow’s pelagic. We checked photos of the Zino’s Petrels that Frank has handled over the years, and we learned about the bird’s fascinating history, whilst Frank and I discussed future projects, including our work with Vincent into the taxonomy and separation of the castro complex in Madeira, as well as efforts to find the breeding locality of Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel in the north-east Atlantic.

25th April

Chumming at: c.25 miles south-east of the main island, from 17.00–20.40. We decided to head south with a strong wind aft and a high sea. En route to the chumming position, we passed close to the largest of the Desertas, where a few Mediterranean Monk Seals survive. We checked the shores from some distances, keeping to the regulations of the marine park, but we failed to see the seal. We were short of time and could only reach a rather near-shore position, no more than 12 miles off the Desertas, meaning that we hit the storm-petrels returning to the islands rather too late.

Sea condition: 20–25 (temporarily up to almost 30) knots wind in the morning, but 15–20 knots in the late afternoon / evening; generally northerly for much of the day; partial cloud.

Observers: Catarina, Hugo, John, Mark and myself.

Tubenoses and other seabirds observed:

Bulwer’s Petrel c.25

Cory’s Shearwater 300+

Manx Shearwater 20

Madeiran Storm-Petrel 20

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel 2

Leach’s Storm-Petrel 2

Pomarine Skua 1

Arctic Skua 1



26th April

Chumming at: c.20 miles north of the main island, from 16.30–20.40.

Sea condition: 15–20 knots (temporarily reaching almost 25 knots in the morning), generally northerly for most of the day; 4-m waves in the morning (rather dramatic), but 2–3 m later; partial cloud, but again Madeira itself was very overcast and only occasionally visible.

Observers: Hugo, John, Mark and myself. Hugo (who is now the official expedition ‘chumming officer’) brought fresh frozen chum blocks on board, and we departing at about 10.30 and sailed for six hours to the north. We were all amazed how the boat easily handled the big waves.

Tubenoses and other seabirds observed:

Zino’s Petrel 4 seen at 14.30, 18.05 (photographed), 18.40 (photographed) and 19.01: the underwing of the second bird appeared intermediate-white, and the others dark-winged. The second Zino’s was very responsive to the chum with some dramatic (fast high arcs) and a close approach to the boat, investigating the slick, although it did not feed there.

Bulwer’s Petrel c.15

Cory’s Shearwater 300+

Manx Shearwater 15

Madeiran Storm-Petrel 3

Leach’s Storm-Petrel 1

27th April

Chumming at: c.20 miles north of the main island, from 16.30–20.40. Same schedule as described above.

Sea condition: 10 knots wind, generally northerly for most of the day (too calm!); sunny.

Observers: Catarina, John, Mark and myself. Today, due to the calm sea, Mark tried his skill at making a traditional Middle Eastern dish, ‘humus’, which formed our dinner on the way back from a great day... Well, I prefer to comment on the quality of Mark’s ‘humus’ another time.

Tubenoses and other seabirds observed:

Zino’s Petrel 1 (dark-winged, photographed) at 18.05; owing to the calm sea, the petrel ‘snuck-in’ very low between the waves and over the chum slick, so we got on it rather too late, and only distant images were obtained this time. We ‘missed’ the bird partially also because of a mechanical problem with the boat’s engine (see below).

Bulwer’s Petrel 7

Cory’s Shearwater 100+

Manx Shearwater 4

Leach’s Storm-Petrel 1

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel 1

Further notes: a small pod of Striped Dolphins (c.10, feeding with Cory’s Shearwaters), and a young Cuvier’s Beaked Whale, were attracted to the chum. We had a breakdown, just as we reached the chumming position, but luckily on the way back the wind was stronger and we sailed to the marina.

28th April

Chumming at: c.35 miles east of the main island, from 16.00–20.15. Today we aimed to reach as far east as possible, to hit the storm-petrels’ evening return wave to the Desertas, for a more comprehensive look at these poorly known birds. Despite some delay in getting started, with the boat being fixed again, we reached the position in good time, and … what a nice way to end the expedition.

Sea condition: 15 knots wind, generally northerly for most of the day; partial cloud.

Observers: Hugo, John, Mark and myself. Just as Mark had tried his skills at ‘cooking’ his ‘humus’ yesterday, I decided to prepare a special storm-petrel dish that I developed in French Polynesia, for the Polynesian Storm-Petrel. I had asked Catarina and Hugo to do some shopping in Funchal – 20 tins of tuna and 3 kg of margarine as a base material. These were mixed and boiled together to form a microscopic tuna ‘dust’ with tiny drops of fish oil and margarine mixed – this way the food does not sink and also seems to be very tasty: I call it ‘storm-petrel liqueur’, because the birds seem almost to suck it from the surface. Hugo, John and Mark enthusiastically cooked it, along with some popcorn to mark the chum patches for the petrels. The response was amazing.


Mark and Hugo

Mark Gilston and Hugo ‘cooking’ the ‘storm-petrel liqueur’




Tubenoses and other seabirds observed:

Bulwer’s Petrel c.80 (max. 9 birds at once)

Cory’s Shearwater 100+

Manx Shearwater 6

Barolo’s Shearwater P. (a.) baroli 1

Madeiran Storm-Petrel c.300 conservatively estimated (max. 70 at once) and at least 120 different birds were photographed. This must be an Atlantic record for the species.

Leach’s Storm-Petrel 1

Acknowledgments

I already mentioned the great contribution of the rest of expedition team, Catarina, Hugo, John and Mark, as well as Buffy and Frank Zino for their inspiration, many ideas and great hospitality. Also special appreciation to André Sá who skippered the boat with almost no sleep, but with great enthusiasm. My co-author of the tubenose project, Vincent Bretagnolle, provided much moral support and many interesting ideas, both in relation to this expedition and our overall studies. I would also like to thank Bill Bourne, for his personal confidence in this work, following the first expedition in 2008, and Tony Pym too, for his cheer and help with contacts. I also thank Richard Millington and Steve Gantlett from Birding World for their encouragement, and Guy Kirwan for editing the first draft of this report and his personal support of my petrel studies around the world.

Related publications:

Bretagnolle, V., Zino, F., Gangloff, B., Gonzalez- Solis, J. & Shirihai, H. In prep. a. Taxonomy, variation and

conservation of the complex of gadfly petrels (Pterodroma feae, madeira, deserta) from the north- east

Atlantic.

Shirihai, H. 2008a. Rediscovery of Beck’s Petrel Pseudobulweria becki, and other observations of tubenoses

from the Bismarck archipelago, Papua New Guinea. Bull. Brit. Orn. Cl. 128: 3–16.

Shirihai, H. 2008b. An April expedition to Madeira and the challenge of Zino’s Petrel at sea. Birding World 21:

282–288.

Shirihai, H. 2009. The Zino’s Petrel at sea expedition II— and the best pelagic birding in the Western

Palearctic. Birding World 22: 204–218.

Shirihai, H. & Bretagnolle, V. In prep. Albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters of the world: a handbook to their taxonomy, identification, ecology and conservation. Christopher Helm, London.

Zino, F., Brown, R. & Biscoito, M. 2008. The separation of Pterodroma madeira (Zino’s Petrel) from Pterodroma
feae (Fea’s Petrel). Ibis 150: 326–333.

Addresses: Hadoram Shirihai, e- mail: [email protected]

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