Aug 25-26 BBC Pelagic Mega Rarities

The Brookline Bird Club's overnight deep water pelagic, which took place this past weekend, may go down as the best dedicated pelagic trip in New England history. It's biggest highlights were 1 or 2 BAROLO SHEARWATERS, an immature RED-BILLED TROPICBIRD, and ~8 WHITE-FACED STORM-PETRELS. Many, many more great birds were seen on this trip (including LT Jaeger, both phalaropes, "Scopoli's" Shearwater, Bridled Tern, many Band-rumps, etc etc), but I wanted to post photos of a few of the most impressive sightings ASAP.

The Barolo sightings came over the same chum slick about 90 minutes apart. Photo analysis may or may not reveal anything definitive as to whether there were one or two birds involved. Perhaps more regular out there than previously thought!

Barolo Shearwater at dawn

Barolo Shearwater sighting #2, in much different lighting conditions

The t-bird stunned pretty much everyone as it approached from the stern and made several passes directly over the boat, as we were still reeling from the first Barolo encounter.

Red-billed Tropicbird - note the black primary coverts in the last photo

The signature bird in these waters at this time of year, White-faced Storm-Petrels put on quite a show, particularly on Saturday afternoon. This species can apparently be expected at this time of year but is far from guaranteed. Overnight trips, with significant time spent in deep water, offer the best chance at seeing them.

White-faced Storm-Petrels
Much more on this trip to come...including more photos of these three species plus the several other goodies we came across.

 - Nick


  1. While you are telling us to "note the black primary coverts" on the Red-billed Tropicbird, why not also explain the yellow bill? To the uninformed - which includes me - it seems somehow wrong! 8-)

  2. Good question Roy - this is a young bird, hence the yellow bill. The bill becomes red as the bird matures, like in this adult that has been hanging out in Maine for several years now:

  3. beautiful pics, Nick! Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Thanks Brandon. The photos of the shearwater and tropicbird leave a lot to be desired. The second Barolo was in bright morning sun and should have been nailed...but my settings were off so I overexposed badly. The t-bird I just effed up a bit...should have run to the top deck for a better angle. But either way, they're all documented...

  5. That sounds like a spectacular trip! I just have a random question that has been bothering me lately. Is Barolo Shearwater a recent split from Little Shearwater, because I can't seem to find that bird in any of my field guides, including the updated NG sixth edition.

    James Purcell

  6. Thanks for posting, these are way better than the shots I got :-)

  7. Hi James, yes, Barolo Shearwater is actually still currently treated by the AOU as a subspecies of Little Shearwater. However this will eventually change as recent research has shown Barolo Shearwater to be quite distinct from the Little Shearwater of the southern oceans. You'll see most birders and current publications giving it full species status as Puffinus baroli, even though it doesn't appear that way in your field guides.

  8. Some truly spectacular birds. Great shots of them too.

  9. Congratulations on finding that Barolo's Shearwater. I'm sure you made more than a few people's day.

    Glenn Williams


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