Latest additions to Ocean Wanderers

To review earlier additions (up to end of 2001), click here.

New York Rarities- Pacific Loon, New York City 1 May 2003.

Waterfowl Identification - Intermediate Brant in the East: Gray-bellied Brant or Hybrid?

New York Rarities - Male or Female Varied Thrush?

New York Rarities- Pacific Loon, Captree State Park 2 March 2003.

Seabird Conservation - Another major oil spill on coast of western Europe.

Seabirds wintering off the coast of western Europe are having a tough time! According to Birdlife Belgium, approximately 4000 oiled seabirds (predominantly Guillemots [Common Murres] and Razorbills) have been washed ashore in Belgium and Holland as a result of 170 tonnes of fuel oil which leaked from wreck of the cargo ship Tricolor on 24th January. Actual numbers of birds affected are likely to be much higher. This disaster comes hot on the heels of the sinking of the tanker Prestige off NW Spain which also took a major toll on wintering alcids. Some 13,221 oiled birds (3,873 live and 9,348 dead) of 62 different species have been recovered from the coasts of Spain, Portugal and France since November. (Added 30 Jan 2003)

Group of oiled Guillemots (Common Murres) at a rescue centre in Belgium Copyright Natuurpunt-BirdLife Belgium©2003

Seabird Anatomy - On-line collection of seabird skulls

Edward Soldaat from Holland has built a fantastic and quite unique web site showcasing his collection of seabird skulls from around the world. Focusing on seabirds, Edward's site features examples of Spheniscus Penguins, Divers / Loons, Grebes, Albatrosses, Fulmars, Prions / Blue Petrel, Procellaria Petrels, Calonectris Shearwaters, Large & Medium Shearwaters, Lesser & Small Shearwaters, Pelicans, Cormorants, Shags, Frigatebirds, Gannets & Boobies, Skuas Holarctic Gulls, Southern Gulls, Sterna Terns, Other Terns and Noddies, Large Auks, Small Auks, and Puffins. The two skulls shown here are from Atlantic (left) and Pacific (right) Fulmars illustrating the striking difference in bill shape. I have always felt that the two populations (subspecies) display such clear differences in plumage and measurements that they should be treated as different species. This web site is a very useful resource for seabird enthusiasts and is well worth checking out. (Added 27 Jan 2003).

Goose Identification - Lesser Snow Goose or Snow x Ross's hybrid?

Separation of Snow and Ross's Geese can provide a nice winter challenge. Here are some photographs of a blue-phase bird standing in the middle of a large flock of Ross's Geese feeding in a farm field in central California in late December 2002. The general pattern of the plumage resembles a Lesser Snow Goose, however, the bill is more Ross's like. So is this a hybrid? (Added 24 Jan 2003).

Recommended Books - Grebes of the World

Grebes are an amazingly interesting but somewhat neglected family of waterbirds. They are found on every continent except Antarctica and occupy both freshwater and saltwater habitats. Click here for an on-line review of Grebes of the World, the new book by Malcolm Ogilvie and Chris Rose (2002) This colorful large-format book is published by Bruce Coleman (ISBN: 1872842038), 112 pages, 22 color paintings, 2 color identification plates and numerous range maps. Distributed by NHBS Mailorder Book Store. (Added 20 Jan 2003).

Annotated List of Seabirds - Grebes

I have also created an annotated list of known species and subspecies of grebes. Several are illustrated with photographs from around the world. (Added 20 Jan 2003).

Recommended Web Sites

Birds and Mammals of the Bay of Biscay: Over the past decade the Bay of Biscay has emerged as Europe's premier region for pelagic birding and whale watching. Two year round ferry routes run from the English south coast to the Basque ports (Portsmouth - Bilbao and Plymouth - Santander) and from south west Ireland to northern France (Roslaire - Cherbourg and Cork - Roskoff) offer superb cetacean and seabird watching from a relatively stable and comfortable platform. An impressive variety of cetaceans have been recorded including several species of beaked whale. The Biscay Dolphin Research Programme (BDRP) has created an informative and well-illustrated web site which describes on-going research projects such as year-round oceanic surveys from the ferry the 'Pride of Bilbao'. There are also detailed accounts with photographs of the seabirds, whales and dolphins encountered in the Bay of Biscay and English Channel. (Added 17 Jan 2003).

Birds and Mammals of Monterey Bay:Monterey Bay in central California is one of the best places in world to observe marine mammals and birds. A submarine canyon reaches to within a few miles of shore bringing extremely deep water and associated upsetting. Don Roberson has prepared a set of fascinating web pages on birds, cetaceans and sea turtles found in Monterey Bay. The portal page is and from there are links to a dozen pages that cover all the common birds, all the rarities ever recorded in the bay, another page on the "far offshore" birds, pages on all the cetaceans, etc. There are unique photos of a beached Hubb's Beaked Whale on the linked pages discussed above. (Added 17 Jan 2003).

Whale Stranding - Sperm Whale washes up on a beach in New York City

On Sunday 5 Jan 2003, a calf Sperm Whale washed up on the beach at the boundary between Fort Tilden and Riis Park in Queens, New York. Click here to view some photos of this sad sight. (Added 6 Jan 2003).

Seabird Conservation - Prestige Oil spill kills seabirds off coast of Spain and France

Birdlife International reports that the number of seabird casualties from the the Prestige oil spill in Spain has reached a new peak. SEO/BirdLife's Seabird Campaigner, Carles Carboneras says, "The total number of affected birds (live and dead) recovered in the Province of A Coruña now exceeds 2,000, bringing the total number recovered in Spain to 5,000. However, only a small proportion of the birds affected - approximately 10% to 20% - are being recovered by our volunteers", Estimates for the total number of birds affected during the first month of the Prestige oil spill (16 Nov - 16 Dec) are between 20,000 and 40,000, primarily Atlantic Puffin, Guillemot (Common Murre) and Razorbill (77% of total). Other species affected include Atlantic Gannet, Great Cormorant and the globally-threatened Balearic Shearwater. (Added 3 Jan 2003).

Goose Identification

Photos of a puzzling branta-type goose taken in Queens, New York on 1 Jan 2003. Is this a brant x Canada hybrid or an aberrant Cackling Goose? (Added 2 Jan 2003, updated 8 Jan 2003).

Best Pelagics - South Africa, Prince Edward Islands and the Packice!

Read John Brodie-Good's account of a thrilling exploratory trip aboard the SA Agulhas leaving from Cape Town, South Africa and sailing to the Prince Edward Islands and Antarctic Packice Zone. The trip was organized by Birding Africa and lead by Peter Ryan. John's log is richly-illustrated with color photos from the trip. In spite of numerous storms, an amazing number of seabirds were observed including regional specialties Dark-faced (Lesser) Sheathbill, Crozet Shag, Kerguelan Tern and mega-ticks like Emperor Penguin, Light-mantled and Dark-mantled Sooty Albatrosses, Atlantic Petrel, Heaviside's Dolphin, Southern Bottlenose and Strap-toothed Whale. John is founder of WildWings and is one of the world's top seabird and marine mammal enthusiasts (Added 28 Dec 2002).

Seabird Conservation  - Threat to Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, Damas Island, Chile

Ursula Ellenberg reports on the Seabirds-L that an international company plans to construct several buildings including a first class hotel on Damas island, part of the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve. A commission in Santiago is working in weekly conferences to change the conservation status of the island. The Humboldt Penguin National Reserve is a protected area of international importance. Since 1990 the islands of Damas, Choros and Chañaral, which form the reserve, have been protected by law because of their ecological value and uniqueness. Among the plant and animal species inhabiting the islands are several endemics to the Humboldt Current upwelling system, including important breeding colonies of the worldwide endangered Peruvian Diving-Petrel (Pelecanoides garnotii, 1,500 breeding pairs) and more than 4000 breeding pairs of the endangered Humboldt Penguin (Spheniscus humboldti), a species considered as critically endangered on a national level and is classified as vulnerable on international level (IUCN 2000, CMS Appx. I). The area also hosts a population of the endangered South American Marine Otter (Lontra felina) (IUCN 2000) just to name some of the most important species. In addition to the five star hotel (200 rooms) there are plans to build apartment buildings and a wharf for at least 15 motor boats. An Environmental Impact Assessment has not taken place and the proposal ignores the Chilean Constitution and international conventions and agreements signed by Chile. For more information consult: ARENAph - Acción en defensa de la REserva NAcional Pingüino de Humboldt (currently only in Spanish - English version under construction) (Added 13 Dec 2002).

Save the Albatross Campaign: Keeping the World's Seabirds off the Hook

Throughout the world's ocean, longline fishing is taking a massive toll of seabirds, particular the albatrosses and larger petrels. The number of longline hooks set each year runs into the billions, and estimates of the number of seabirds killed by longliners reach a staggering 300,000 per year. While major progress has been made by some nations in enforcing 'bird friendly fishing methods, pirate fishing - which frequently operate under 'flags of convenience' and ignore all bird safety measures - kills up to 100,000 seabirds annually in the Southern Ocean alone, including up to 20,000 albatrosses!
    What can be done? There are a number of organizations actively campaigning to make policy makers and the public aware of this urgent problem. Foremost among these is BirdLife International's Save the Albatross Campaign which was formally launched in 2000. A major boost to the effort came when His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales strongly endorsed the albatross campaign and urged robust protection of the world's threatened seabirds. Prince Charles reiterated these sentiments in his opening address at a conference on the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) in Bonn in September 2002.
The Prince of Wales endorses BirdLife's Save the Albatross Campaign at an event held at St James's Palace, London. Copyright George Bodnar/Birdlife.

Other major conservation organizations are pitching in. Check out their web sites:

American Bird Conservancy's 'Albatross Action Campaign' (USA)
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB, UK)
Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society of New Zealand (Forest & Bird, NZ)
National Audubon Society's Living Oceans Program (USA)
Falklands Conservation (UK/Falkland Islands)

New York Rarities

Photos and discussion of a probable Hermit x Townsend's Warbler  hybrid from Jones Beach, Long Island, New York taken on 30 Nov 2002 (Last updated 1 Dec 2002).

New York Rarities

Photos of a Cave Swallow from Breezy Point, Queens Co., New York. (Added 25 Nov 2002).

Best Pelagics

The latest addition to the 'Best Pelagics' section is a richly illustrated log written by John Brodie-Good from the UK-based travel company WildWings which specializes in affordable trips to view seabirds and marine mammals.  This witty but detailed account describes our adventures last year in the Subantactic Islands of New Zealand and Australia. A voyage through this region offers some of the most spectacular pelagic wildlife in the world! Our accumulated trip list included an amazing 8 species of penguins, 14 species of albatross, 27 species of petrels and shearwaters, 9 species shags and a host of other goodies. Cetacean highlights included Gray's Beaked Whales and a multiple encounters with Hourglass Dolphins! Staggering numbers of albatrosses and petrels were seen throughout the trip. Many joyful hours were spent wrestling with great albatross identification as we toured the different breeding islands. You can read John's report here (Added 28 Oct 2002).

Recommended Books

The Atlantic Gannet by Bryan Nelson (2001). Published by Fenix Books Ltd in association with the Scottish Seabird Center, (ISBN: 095411910X), 396 pages, approximately 100 black-and-white photographs with 8 pages of color photographs, numerous line drawings and other graphics. Distributed by NHBS Mailorder Book Store.

Click here for a more detailed review. This is a major revision of a classic seabird monograph that was first published in 1978. The new edition is packed with updated information and richly illustrated with more than a hundred color and black-and-white photos. All of the world's gannetaries are described and illustrated. Some colonies are rarely visited and it is fascinating to see photographs of these remotes rocks which until now have been little more than a name. Other sulids - particularly the similar African and Australasian Gannets - are also illustrated and discussed. After reading this book, it is impossible to look at a gannet without wondering where it has come from and where it is going. Ardent seabird enthusiasts and conservationists will want a copy! (Added 26 October 2002)

Recommended Books (update)
Princeton University Press have added the excellent Shirihai and Jarrett antarctica guide (ISBN: 0691114145) to their line up. Note the minor change to the title! Click here to read a review of the Alula version with samples of the superb color plates (Added 18 Oct 2002).

Recommended Books
Brief reviews of Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum (a genre classic) and The Water in Between: A Journey at Sea by Kevin Patterson (Added 17 Oct 2002).

New York State Rarities
Willie D'Anna asked me to post his digiscoped pictures of a juvenile Sharp-tailed Sandpiper from Irondequoit Bay, Rochester, New York. If accepted, this will be the second or third record for the state. The bird was discovered by Dominic Sherony on the 10th October (Added 11 Oct 2002).

Recommended Books
There is a brief review of Blue Latitudes by Tony Horwitz. This is a very readable and informative account of Captain James Cook's three remarkable voyages of discovery (Added 11 Oct 2002).

Seabird Photographs
Aleix Comas donated photos of beached Mottled Petrel and Broad-billed Prion from Steward Island, New Zealand (Added 11 Oct 2002).

Shorebird Gallery
I have begun putting together a comprehensive gallery of shorebird photographs. The aim is to provide an on-line guide to field identification. Detailed commentaries to accompany each of the photos will be added in time (Added 11 Oct 2002).

Recommended Books

Review of A complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife: the birds and marine mammals of the Antarctic Continent and Southern Ocean by Hadoram Shirihai and Brett Jarrett (2002) Alula Press, Degerby, Finland. Seabird and mammal fans alike will want this superb new guide to the wildlife of the great Southern Ocean, including the subantarctic islands and continent of Antarctica. There is a stunning amount of information packed into the 510 pages, with hundreds of superb color photographs and more than thirty-five excellent field guide-style painted plates by illustrator Brett Jarrett. Click here for a more extensive review and some sample scans. The book is published by Alula Press, an offshoot of the superb Finnish birding magazine, but according to author Hadoram Shirihai, will soon be released in the United States in the near future by Princeton University Press. To put it simply, no pelagic birder or whale watcher worth his salt should be without it! (Added 23 Sept 2002)

Gull Identification
Gerard Phillips sent me photos of a probable Slaty-backed Gull he found this morning on Key West in Florida. (Added 22 Sept 2002).

Seabird Photos
I have added some excellent shots taken by Brazilian seabird researcher Fabio Olmos during study trips aboard commercial fishing vessels off Brazil in the South Atlantic and Desertas in the North Atlantic. Check out the Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, Atlantic Petrel, Fea's Petrel and Cory's Shearwater pages. I have also added videograbs of Red-billed Tropicbird and Black-capped Petrel from North Carolina, May 2001. The image shown below is of a Fea's Petrel near Desertas in September 2000. (Added 16 Sept 2002).

Seabird News
Added a number of pelagic trip reports from August and September 2002. Have a number on file that need to be formatted. (Added 9 Sept 2002)

Recommended Reading
I have added a number of seabird, marine mammal and marine life books to the list of suggested reading. This is an informal survey based on my own preferences. (Added 9 Sept 2002)

Seabird Photos
I have added a wonderful flight shot of the critically endangered Galapagos Petrel generously provided by Tony Pym, additional photos of Little Shearwater (2 subspecies) from Paul Scofield and Bernie Zonfrillo and Audubon's Shearwater from Bernie Zonfrillo. (Added 30 Aug 2002)

Chilean Seabirds
I have updated the Best Pelagics - Chile page and the specific account of enigmatic Juan Fernandez Petrel using photos and information generously provided by Martin Reid. (Added 29 August 2002)

Exploration & Travel Writing
I've added another title to this small list of recommendations. Check 'em out! (Added 28 Aug 2002)

Shearwater Identification
Richard White has generously provided a photo of an interesting small black-and-white shearwater captured on Ascension Island in the Mid-Atlantic. (Added 26 August 2002, latest update 30 August 2002)

Seabird Photos
I have finally managed to post some excellent seabird photos kindly donated by Lysle Brinker. Check out his shots of Kermadec Petrel and Buller's Albatross (Added 11 July 2002)

Identification of Plegadis Ibis
I have posted some recent photos to help those interested in the identification and aging of plegadis Ibis (Glossy and White-faced) Ibis. There are separate pages for adults, juveniles and oddities (Added 10 July 2002)

New York State Rarities
Photos of two different White-faced Ibis from Long Island. (Added 7 July 2000)

Seabird Photos
Tony Pym has kindly donated some alcid photos taken on this years 'Ring of Fire' trip aboard the new 'World Discoverer'. They can be viewed on the Least Auklet, Parakeet Auklet, Whiskered Auklet and Tufted Puffin pages. (Added 5 July 2002)

Seabird Photos
I have added a good number of pelagic bird photos to the Annotated List of Seabirds. Links to the illustrated pages can be found on the photo list page. (Added 3 July 2002)

Recommended Books on Exploration & Adventure
As part of the on-going update of the site, I've recommended some of my favourite travel books. Ideal for reading on long-flights to exotic lands! (Added 1 July 2002).

Reorganization of the Ocean Wanderers web site
During past few month OW has moved piece-by-piece to a new server. Many links had to be repaired and the laborious process is finally nearing completion. I appreciate your patience and many thanks to those who alerted me to broken links. A few new images have been added to the seabird section and I will post a comprehensive list of new additions in due course. (Added 21 June 2002)

Goose Identification
Photos of a probable leucistic Canada Goose from Jamaica Bay NWR, New York. (Added 9 June 2002)

Seabird Conservation - Abbot's Booby
The Australian Government's is proposing to build a 1200-bed detention centre for refugees on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean. The camp is to be located on mined land at the North West Point, immediately adjacent to one of the largest Abbot's Booby colonies on the island. Abbot's Booby is endemic to the island and the most recent population estimate (c. 1990) is an optimistic 2,500 pairs. It is listed as endangered under Australian legislation. However, the Australian Environment Minister David Kemp has decided to exempt the construction and operation of the detention camp from all environmental impact assessment requirements, because it is in the " National Interest" and important for border security (this decision is available at by following links to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act). The decision claims that there is no time to assess impacts or to consider prudent and feasible alternatives, even though there are many sites more suitable. The islands famous red crabs will also be threatened by road construction. (Added 13 May 2002)

Pelagic Birding
Trip report from the Ogasawara Islands, Japan (Added 11 May 2002)

New York State Rarities
Photos of a Western Grebe off State Island, New York in the first week of April 2002 (Added 7 April 2002)

Goose Identification
Discussion of three Black-type Brant from New York. (Added 6 April 2002)

Waterfowl Identification
Some photos of a possible Common Teal x Green-winged Teal hybrid from New York March 2002. (Added 27 Mar 2002).

Recommended Web Sites
The Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association (SOSSA) has revamped its web site. Formed in 1994 this is the umbrella organization for a number of study groups concerned with bio-diversity in the Southern Ocean. The web site is packed with information about albatrosses and archives reports of SOSSA sponsored pelagic trips. Check it out and perhaps get involved by joining (Added 9 Mar 2002).

Waterfowl Identification
Here are some photos and discussion of an interesting drake Aythya diving duck photographed on Long Island, New York on 24 February 2002. Similar birds have been described as Tufted Duck x Scaup hybrid but this begs the question, which scaup? (Added 28 Feb 2002)

To review earlier additions (up to end of 2001), click here.

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