“Have you seen any animals?” That is the question that I hear in every one of my live broadcasts from the ship. My first animal sighting this expedition came a few days ago when I found a bird in the doorway as I was going out for my morning breath of fresh air.
I am not very good at identifying birds so I relied on a google search to find the resources to make an identification. The first picture I found that looked like my bird was a black petrel. It was only found in the Pacific, but I was convinced that I was on the right path to making a final identification. I googled Atlantic petrels and found the stormy petrel. The bird I found fit the description perfectly.
Stormy Petrels are found in oceans all over the world. The name petrel comes from St. Peter because the birds seem to walk on water. Stormy refers to the birds coming to land only to avoid storms. Their legs do not support them on land very well so most of their time is spent at sea.
The bills of petrels have two prominent modified tubes on top. These tubes allow them to drink salt water and expel the concentrated saline solution by “sneezing” it out the tubes. It is believed that they have a strong sense of smell and some species are observed following ships at sea and feeding off of the garbage stream. According to sailing superstition, the appearance of a stormy petrel foretells bad weather.
Our petrel actually landed on the ship during a windy period and left a couple of days later when the winds had calmed and the air had warmed. It appeared to have needed a rest. We moved it from the doorway to a box on deck in a sheltered place. After resting for a couple of days, it looked a lot perkier. The bird disappeared during the second night on board. I like to think that it found its strength and returned to its life at sea.
Finding such a small bird in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean hundreds of miles from land was amazing to me. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about these birds and to share a few days caring for a member of another species.
You can read more about these fascinating birds at http://creagrus.home.montereybay.com/storm-petrels.html