Graciosa Island is Monteiro's Central, with a couple small islets just offshore being home to most of the world's population of this rare seabird. We had 3 pelagic booked but unfortunately after the first the weather began to deteriorate and we did just a short boat trip close to shore on the second day and everything was totally cancelled for the third day. However, our first and only deep water pelagic was good enough and we got to see double-figures of Monteiro's Storm Petrel. It was a great pelagic and I think we did pretty well during our 7.5 hours out to sea.
Classified as Vulnerable by BirdLife International as it only breeds on these few small islets off Graciosa Island in the Azores.The population is estimated at 375-1499 individuals making it probably the rarest regular breeding seabird in the Western Palearctic.
|Monteiro's Storm Petrel|
At this time of year the Monteiro's are approaching the end of their breeding season and are looking rather worn, with the base of the inner primaries missing on many of the individuals we saw - but not all. And most of them had noticeable deeply-notched (forked) tails too. We did have a few 'odd' looking petrels and two birds in particular looked like good candidates for Grant's Storm Petrel. This species replaces Monteiro's on the breeding grounds usually from September onwards, with a big overlap during that month. So the 2 darker, squarer-tailed stormies probably have to be left unidentified. There was a paler. greyer-looking stormy that 'got away' too!
During our time at sea we had awesome close views of 1000's of Cory's Shearwaters and with the news there had been a White-chinned Petrel the week before on the other side of the Azores we grilled every single one! But to no avail!
But we had several Wilson's Storm petrels attracted to our chum slick....
|Wilson's Storm Petrel|
We were all hoping for Swinhoe's Storm Petrel but there wasn't much variety in seabirds at all, not a single Great Shearwater or even any skuas... But we did see a few Azores (Yellow-legged) Gulls, Leatherback Turtle and stacks of Portuguese Man O' War....
|Portuguese Man O' War|
On the much shorter second trip we managed to find a Sooty Tern, a much wanted lifer for yours truly (and yes I know it's a tarts tick and I was constantly reminded of this by my 'ship mates'...!), but it's a good Western Palearctic tick. And it was this bird that got me excited about Western P listing, and after counting up I realised what a pathetic list I have for this region. So I made a mental note to do something about this...