On the Sunday Sydney pelagic on 10.9.00 at 34.01.352S and 151.35.242E at 300
metres water depth with a surface temperature of 17.4 degrees Celsius,
Andrew Stafford and I both spotted a dark Pterodroma with a distinct oval
white belly patch at about 9:20am. Suspecting a probable Kermadec Petrel we
stopped the boat. Andrew relocated the petrel flying directly in towards the
stern and those on board were treated to a close banking fly past view.
There was no indication of any white primary shafts which we all
specifically searched for and would have been evident in the good view. The
oval white belly extended from near the feet to the base of the chest. It
was well defined and appeared clean pure white. The undertail coverts and
undertail were dark as were the lateral flanks and then the chest and
greater remainder of the underparts. The upperwing surfaces at close
distance appeared uniformally deep grey with a frosted fresh finish and a
slightly contrasting M pattern. There was no discernible dark scaling to the
mantle and back like a fresh juvenile Providence Petrel. This petrel
differed from a typical Kermadec in not having a pin head and narrow neck.
This petrel had a longer more pointed tail than a typical Kermadec Petrel.
The under primary pattern resembled a Providence Petrel with a suggestion of
greyer secondary coverts. One feature not seen by me is the pale leading
edge to the inner wing. Still I am confident this bird was not an aberrant
partially leucistic or extremely worn Providence Petrel. The petrel appeared
very fresh in feather wear. Structurally it differed from Providence Petrel
in not appearing as massive and bulky. Particularly dainty and gracile in
bill structure which was more gull like and not dissimilar to Kermadec. The
petrel was not as barrel chested and massive as a Providence and reminded me
of Soft-plumaged Petrel overall. It gave the impression of having a darker
eye patch slightly contrasting with the rest of the facial pattern. We
concluded we were being treated to a particularly unexpected view of an
intermediate Herald Petrel verging on the darker edge of the polymorphic
cline. Best illustrations of similar birds are figure3, plate 32 Hanzab Vol.
1 opp. page 465 and Seabirds of the World- A Photographic Guide by Harrison
fig. 154, pp 56. Unfortunately it disappeared quickly and we were left in
almost stunned disbelief, which became happiness as reality sank in. Still
not even a county tick for me having seen my only other in October 1982 off
Other birds included Cape Petrel (3), Great-winged nominate(20), Providence
(100), White-headed (3), Antarctic Prion (2), Fairy Prion (100),
Wedge-tailed Shearwater (50), Hutton's Shearwater (1000), Wandering
Albatross-gibsoni-antipodensis types (10), Shy Albatross (2), Black-browed
Albatross (10-1 adult melanophrys), Yellow-nosed Albatross (3) and
White-faced Storm-petrel (5). Also 3 Southern Skuas and 1 Arctic Jaeger.
4 Humpback Whales won gold in the offshore synchronised swimming with high
scoring breaching, spy hopping, tail slapping displays. Also recorded Common
and Bottlenose Dolphins.
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