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#ABArare – Great-winged Petrel – California

On Dec 18, Gary Nunn had one of those moments of which seawatchers dream, one which surely ranks among the Top Five greatest moments in North American seawatching history (though that’s purely conjecture — I’m not aware of anyone actually keeping such a list). Nunn went to San Diego’s La Jolla Cove on that day to see what some stormy weather might blow close to shore. He writes on his blog, “I was just thinking it was all so ho-hum when along came this beautiful sooty-brown tubenosed seabird making agile sweeping arcs in flight over the kelp beds of La Jolla Cove. I took one look at this bird and new immediately it had to be photographed!!” Luckily, his photographs were detailed enough to show that this seabird was a Great-winged Petrel (Code 5).

ABArare Great-winged Petrel 01

ABArare Great-winged Petrel 02

A pale area around the base of the bill and completely dark underwings are some of the features that identify this as a Great-winged Petrel. Photos by Gary Nunn

Considering how far from shore many birds are seen from a seawatch, this bird was quite close, probably only a few hundred yards. Nunn was also lucky to get identifiable photos given the light conditions at the time.

The ABA Area’s — and Northern Hemisphere’s — first Great-winged Petrel was found at the Cordell Bank off of Bodega Bay, California in 1996. There are now five accepted records from the ABA Area with another under review, all from California. This sighting would be the sixth or seventh record upon acceptance. It is also the first time this species has been seen from land in North America and the first from southern California.

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John Puschock

John Puschock

John Puschock reports ABA rare bird alerts and manages #ABArare for the American Birding Association. John is a frequent participant in rare bird forums around the web and has knack for gathering details necessary to relocate birds. He has been a birder since 1984 and now leads tours for Bird Treks, as well as for his own company Zugunruhe Birding Tours. He has led tours to locations across North America, from Newfoundland to New Mexico and from Costa Rica to Alaska. He specializes in leading tours to Adak in the Aleutian Islands.

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