[All photographs copyright, Gary Nunn 2014] – I spotted this interesting looking dark-rumped storm-petrel relatively close to Point La Jolla on the morning of 26 April 2014. Quite a crowd of birders were assembled there, because of the windy conditions, and watched it pass by with their field scopes. I obtained these photographs using my full frame Canon 1Dx and an effective focal length lens of 1000 mm – it was 7:09 am so the light was not great. The storm-petrel headed into the prevailing southwesterly winds and slowly made its way across the near shore kelp bed before disappearing. It stayed close to the water while in view and often dabbled its feet along the surface.
Observers quickly eliminated Black (this species is larger and with longer narrower wings), Least (this species is smaller and with different tail shape) and Ashy Storm-Petrel (this species has a pale panel on the underwing and is grayer toned in color) from consideration and it appears to best fit what we know as Chapman’s Storm-Petrel Oceanodroma (leucorhoa) chapmani (Howell 2012, p. 423). However a couple things seem a bit different to my eye. I am not sure I can see any visible white, or paler colored, feathers in the upper tail coverts. Usually some white dots are at least visible on the sides. But the thing that strikes me as most unusual about this storm-petrel is the substantial length of the nicely notched tail. When fanned out this bird has a very generous sized tail. Perhaps it is the behavior of the bird, flitting along, using the tail often in fanned and twisted actions. It is not often that you watch a storm-petrel from land after all! I can’t really tell what is up with this storm-petrel and I am not 100% settled in my mind about its identity. The tail just looks a bit big! If anyone has an opinion about the identity of this storm-petrel please leave a comment below!