8 Jan 2018

Seabirding in the Humboldt Current - Part 2

Galapagos Petrel - Pterodroma phaeopygia

Waved Albatrosses were an almost constant presence as we approached the Galapagos Island group on the last few days of the voyage.

Waved Albatross - Phoebastria irrorata

Waved Albatross - Phoebastria irrorata

They would fly up from the wake and land, expectantly, beside the boat.  If they thought Sauvage was a trawler, they would have been disappointed at the absence of fish.

Waved Albatross - Phoebastria irrorata

Waved Albatross - Phoebastria irrorata
Unlike most of the other birds, at least “filling the frame” with them wasn’t hard.

White-chinned Petrel and Black Petrels were also seen....

White-chinned Petrel - Procellaria aequinoctialis

Black Petrel - Procellaria parkinsoni

Black Petrel - Procellaria parkinsoni

Hornby’s Storm-Petrels lived up to their reputation as being very “pelagic” - always hunting far from land.

Hornby's (Ringed) Storm-Petrel - Oceanodroma hornbyi 

Hornby's (Ringed) Storm-Petrel - Oceanodroma hornbyi 

The numbers of Elliot’s SPs dropped as we headed away from the South American mainland, and the proportion of Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrels increased in mid-passage, until they were the commonest Storm-Petrel in the wake.

Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrel - Oceanodroma tethys

Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrel - Oceanodroma tethys

In the right light conditions their rumps looked very bright indeed.

Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrel - Oceanodroma tethys

Occasionally the Wedge-rumped party was interrupted by two other Storm-Petrel species, neither of which lingered for long.

Leach’s Storm-Petrel -  the “split” in the white rump being a good feature,  but any brown-rumped Leach’s would have been baffling.

Leach's Storm-Petrel - Oceanodroma leucorhoa

Leach's Storm-Petrel - Oceanodroma leucorhoa

A few Band-rumped (Madeiran) Storm-Petrels appeared.  If the Pacific forms of Oceanodroma castro get split then the Galapagos population may become known as “Darwin’s” SPs. 

(Centre) Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - Oceanodroma castro

Band-rumped Storm-Petrel - Oceanodroma castro

Frigatebirds appeared, with the possibility of Magnificent or Great.

Great Frigatebird - Fregata minor

Magnificent Frigatebird and Nazca Booby

Magnificent Frigatebird and Nazca Booby

Magnificent Frigatebird - Fregata magnificens

I should mention that Rob Tizard diligently put several lists on eBird for every day we were at sea.

Finally, we started to get regular appearances of Galapagos Petrels.  Many avoided the boat, or were seen in poor light, but we got some good results eventually.

Galapagos Petrel - Pterodroma phaeopygia

Galapagos Petrel - Pterodroma phaeopygia

Galapagos Petrel - Pterodroma phaeopygia

Galapagos Petrel - Pterodroma phaeopygia

Galapagos Petrel - Pterodroma phaeopygia

Galapagos Shearwaters were seen with increasing regularity.  Always low and unobtrusive, these usually attracted notice as they were already passing the boat.

Galapagos Shearwater - Puffinus subalaris

A big pod of Short-finned Pilot whales provided our main cetacean excitement. There had been other sightings of whales and dolphins, but these Pilot Whales were right beside the boat at one stage.

One late-trip afternoon in the sunshine gave us a chance to improve our Storm-Petrel portfolios, and Elliot’s had started to re-appear by then.

Elliot's Storm-Petrel - Oceanites gracilis

Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrel - Oceanodroma tethys

On our final run-in to Puerto Ayora we passed close to the west of Santa Fe (Barrington) Island, where we could see the nest cavities of Swallow-tailed Gulls. Close flypasts of rafting Galapagos Shearwaters were a photographic challenge.

Swallow-tailed Gull - Santa Fe Island

Galapagos Shearwater - Puffinus subalaris

Galapagos Shearwater - Puffinus subalaris

At last, Puerto Ayora. There was a whole range of seabirds in the harbour, from Elliot’s Storm-Petrels to Magnificent Frigatebirds….

Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, Galapagos
But the Galapagos Islands are another story.

Thanks again to Didier and Sopie Wattrelot of Yacht Sauvage for looking after us, and to Kirk Zufelt, Mike Danzenbaker, Geoff Jones and Rob Tizard for their entertaining company during the trip.


  1. A wonderful array of species, John, on what must have been a truly incredible adventure. Thanks for letting us all enjoy it vicariously through your well-written and illustrated account.

    1. Thanks, David - it was tricky to decide what to include and what to leave out in the interests of brevity...

  2. Brilliant photos again John, you're a pelagic BIF champ!

  3. Thanks, Stu - of course BIFs comprise 90% of the photo opportunities on a pelagic...

  4. Good read and envy-inducing too. Good job you didn’t run out of petrels.