Sunday, September 12, 2010

Punta Mala deep water pelagic: two species new for Panama, plus Inca Tern


On Saturday, September 11, Björn Anderson, Ken Allaire, Jan Axel Cubilla, Gonzalo Horna, Rafael Luck and Darién Montañez spent 11 hours out on the deep waters southeast of Punta Mala. The day started on a good leg at 6:30 am when the bird that was following our wake got close enough to show its white whiskers: an Inca Tern. The bird flew with us for five or so minutes, and eventually landed on the bow of our boat, where it hitched a ride for a while, allowing for great photos. Inca Terns invaded the Bay of Panama during the 1983 El Niño, and there may have been one in El Agallito during the 1998 El Niño, but has remained unreported since.


At 7:10 we saw our first storm-petrels, which turned out to be Wilson's Storm-Petrel. Minutes later we saw our first first record for Panama of the day: a Band-rumped Storm-Petrel, identified by Björn based on its pointier wings and Leach's-like flight. Every other storm-petrel seen that day, and there were many, was a Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrel.

At 8:30 we arrived at our first destination, a sea mound about 25 nautical miles (45 km) ESE of Punta Mala, and we started chumming. A few Galápagos Shearwaters and a Parasitic Jaeger were around, but soon we saw our unofficial target bird of the day: Tahiti Petrel. The bird was larger and longer-winged, and strikingly bicolored: darker above with a black hood and chest distinctly demarcated from the white belly and undertail coverts. In the scramble to get a look nobody managed to take a photo, but this was not an unexpected addition to our list, as it has been recently recorded from Costa Rica and is fairly common further north.
From there we headed south for the 3000m depths and from there towards another sea mound southeast of Islas Frailes. En route we had a Red-necked Phalarope fly by, and found a flock of six Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, with some flying close enough for great photos; more were seen later.



The rest of the day was spent looking through the Galápagos Shearwaters and Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrels trying to get something new, to no avail.


On our way back to shore we started seeing pelagic terns again, mostly Sooty Terns (including some juveniles that flew with us for a bit), but with a few Bridled Terns for comparison.
Bird list for the day, in roughly the order they were seen.
Punta Mala:
Sapphire-throated Hummingbird: 1
Cattle Egret: 12
Brown Pelican: 3
Ruddy Turnstone: 6
Spotted Sandpiper: 1
Great-tailed Grackle: 2

Pelagic:
Inca Tern: 1
Brown Noddy: 300
Osprey: 1
Tricolored Heron: 1
Blue-footed Booby: 1
Bridled Tern: 50
Barn Swallow: 12
Wilson's Storm-Petrel: 4
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel: 1
Magnificent Frigatebird: 15
Sooty Tern: 40
Brown Booby: 50
Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrel: 35
Galápagos Shearwater: 20
Parasitic Jaeger: 1
Tahiti Petrel: 1 (8:30 AM, N 07º 20.002' W 079º 36.910')
Red-necked Phalarope: 1
Wedge-tailed Shearwater: 10 (2:20 PM, N 07º 15.883' W 080º 00.146')
Cliff Swallow: 20
Neotropic Cormorant: 1

(Photos by Björn Anderson and Rafael Luck)

2 comments:

Alvaro said...

Hi - very interesting! I saw an Inca Tern on the Galapagos a few years ago, first record for the islands and in a year that had a pretty normal water temp. Perhaps they are regular in small numbers to Panama, but it is a question of getting out on the water? I was wondering if the Galapagos Shearwaters seen were all the classic birds with white on the underwings. Were any of the birds dark on the underwings? There is an interesting pattern of variation in the Galapagos with respect to underwing color. Thanks. Alvaro Jaramillo.

darién said...

Perhaps Inca Terns are more regular than we suspect, but so far all Panama records have been on El Niño years; we need more birders up here. This bird was really close to shore, though.
As for the Galápagos Shearwaters, they all had the typical white underwings. And we were checking, hoping for Townsend's Shearwater.
Thanks for the comment!

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