Riverview Park Lake, Mesa, Maricopa County, AZ

Thursday, September 8th
After a full morning of activity, I was about to prepare lunch at 12:30 p.m.  Checked my phone for email and saw that Magill Weber had posted a sighting just minutes ago of a very rare bird on a lake about a half-hour drive for me. Jim McKay had posted earlier but I had not yet seen that report...but a Shout Out to him for checking the lake.

Knowing I might stay awhile, I tossed together a sandwich, grabbed my bag containing binoculars and camera and headed for the Red Mountain Freeway (202 Westbound).

Hurricane Newton that came north from the Pacific, hit southeast Arizona yesterday, including Tucson with wind, rain and a fall-out of sea birds. Yesterday I was jealous of all my birding friends running around in the rain seeking out rare Storm-Petrels at any and all ponds and finding various species of them.

You can imagine my excitement when I saw that a WEDGE-RUMPED STORM-PETREL was at Riverside Park's 3-acre lake -- a Life Bird, for sure.

Birds have wings?  Would it still be there?  As I walked toward the water from the parking lot, Susan Fishburn was leaving, having already seen this little 6" bird enjoying the entire lake by itself. Also walking toward me as I headed to the east side of the lake where birders gathered, Darrel Wilder told me he was on his way to the airport and had quickly stopped off. This was a LIFE BIRD for him, too, veteran birder that he is.

All photos below are of the mega-rare WEDGE-RUMPED STORM-PETREL
at Riverview Lake -- a FIRST for Arizona and Maricopa County

Because storm petrels are pelagic - meaning they live at sea and come to land only to breed - not much is known about them.  This WEDGE-RUMPED STORM-PETREL breeds in the Galapagos Islands and other islands off the northwest coast of South America, including Ecuador and Peru.

It eats crustaceans, plankton and small fish from the surface of the water - but not usually in fresh water. The "bump" on its bill apparently enhances its ability to smell.

Rear View

Preparing for take off

I saw the bird at 1:10 p.m. and stayed watching and photographing it for thirty minutes. Local, and not-so-local birders continued to arrive to catch sight of this small and unusual bird - living up to its name "Storm-Petrel".  So we enjoyed birder camaraderie, too. 

There is definitely something to be said for seeing a pelagic bird from the comfort of feet-on-the-ground -- instead of from a boat.  ­čśť

So, I cherish the sighting of such a rarity in the desert!  

Great fun!

* * *

[Tommy Debardeleben reported spending time with the above storm-petrel until dark that evening. It was active and appeared healthy, he thought.  Since it hasn't been seen since then, my hope is that it will find its way to the Gulf of California and the Pacific.]

[Birders reports and photographs need to be reviewed by birding experts at the local, state and national level prior to having our sighting being validated.]


  1. What a wonderful find! I love those ocean birds!

  2. What gorgeous photos! I love water fowl! :)

  3. What gorgeous photos! I love water fowl! :)