Hurricane Newton, the 9th hurricane of an unusually busy Pacific season made landfall in Baja California Sur as a Category 1 storm before pushing northwest along the peninsula and turning eastward towards southeastern Arizona, the first hurricane to do so in nearly two decades. Thought not an exceptionally strong storm by the time it reached the United States, it managed to entrain a great many seabirds of a surprising variety. The area around Tucson, Arizona, seemed to be ground-zero, not least of which because there are so many eyes there, and birders in the area were treated to a incredible show the evening of September 7th.
Reports were flying in from all over, and while it may take a little time to tally the entire list – particularly the storm-petrels as there are reports of at least two species, not to mention the possibility of newly-split “Leach’s”-types – it appears that Arizona added 4-5 species to its state list in one remarkable evening, including two stunners that I will highlight here.
Juan Fernandez Petrel was perhaps not unexpected in the ABA Area, but no one expected that 1st record to come from a yard in suburban Tucson. Brian Patrick Gibbons, having just come from a fairly successful trip to local spots where storm-petrels were congregating, returned home to photograph a Pterodroma passing over his driveway. This is likely to go down as one of the greatest yardbirds in ABA Area history.
Laurens Halsey, birding the Amado Wastewater Plant just south of Tucson, also pulled in an amazing bird. A large shearwater swung though, making a few passes before carrying on. Photos confirmed the bird as an ABA Code 4 Wedg-tailed Shearwater. The bird was a pale morph, a likely to be from the Hawaii breeding population.
We look forward to seeing that else is turned up as photos are scrutinized in the coming days. And as the storm moves north it is possible that there may still be surprises still hiding in there for birders in Utah or Colorado. Look to tomorrow’s Rare Bird Alert post for more of what is turning out to be a phenomenal day for birders in the southwest.