The following is a copy of what I have just posted
to Birding NZ.
Brent Stephenson and I were at Foxton Beach on the
west coast of North Island NZ this morning, and saw 2 "Gadfly" Petrels as
explained below. We are quite happy that one was a Phoenix Petrel (but equally
happy to take advice from any of you Aussie seabird buffs), but are completely
stumped by the second bird - any thoughts?
As there was a decent strong westerly blowing
we decided to have a look at the sea - plenty of Fluttering Shears, mostly a
fair way out, and a handful of Gannets were all that was apparent until we both,
independently, picked up something much closer in (about 200m). I was using my
scope and Brent his binoculars. A few expletives were followed by "it's got all
dark underwings and a white body - like a Tahiti Petrel" as the bird made it's
way north up the beach. We were left pretty stunned for a while and had a look
through the NZ Field Guide, realising that Tahiti, Phoenix and just
possibly Taiko, were the only possible contenders.....
After about 20 minutes Brent (who had by now got
his scope out) yelled "It's coming back!!" and sure enough the bird was moving
south at about the same range as before. Our view of the bird was interrupted by
another dark winged, light bodied petrel passing through the scope view, but
going the other way. This second bird was slightly smaller, with a square-ended
tail and an underwing pattern recalling a miniature Black-browed Albatross -
i.e. dark leading and trailing edges and a whitish central stripe, the white
underparts seemed to extend right up to the chin, and our impression was that
the white was not as pure as the first bird (which was a bright white colour).
The bird's upperparts were entirely dark brown. We have absolutely no idea what
this bird was, and have spent most of the afternoon looking through all the
relevant literature to no avail - so if anyone has any bright ideas, we would
love to hear from you.
As for the first bird, we have concluded that it
had to be a Phoenix Petrel - it lacked the long neck and
pointed, spiked tail of a Tahiti, and it's flight was all wrong with much
twisting and turning - nothing like the "languid" flight of Tahiti. The
underwings were completely dark, with no contrast whatever. Taiko is of course
hugely unlikely, but is also a much bigger, bulkier bird than our one, and the
colour of the upperparts was distinctly brown, rather than grey,