Storm Petrel – 1894

Procellaria pelagica

This, tiny Petrel, commonly known by the name of ” Mother Carey’s Chicken,” is resident on Skomer Island, where it nests in the chinks of an old wall on the top of the cliff, and probably nests also on other islands off the Pembrokeshire coast. When we were on Skomer on the last day of May we visited this wall, but as the Storm-Petrels are late in breeding there were no eggs there then, although we distinctly perceived the unmistakable Petrel odour clinging in places to the stones, showing that the birds were at that time visiting the wall.

The Storm Petrel does not lay its single white egg before the end of June, or even later, for in the Zoologist for 1886, p. 457, the Rev. H. A. Macpherson mentions an adult and nestling that he saw in Leadenhall market, in London, as late as 20th September. Both, he was told, had come from Skomer ; the nestling was taken on 18th September, and was fully feathered, but still retained some of the sooty down, especially upon the belly.

After severe gales the little Storm Petrel is occasionally picked up inland at some distance from the coast. In stormy weather in the autumn some are captured at the Light House on the South Bishop’s Rock; on the night of October 14, 1883, eight were taken; it was misty weather, with a S.E. breeze, and a drizzling rain. A great number of small birds struck that night against the light, ninety were killed, and two hundred were taken in a net. Three “Falcon Hawks and a Large-horned Owl” were also present, and “made sad havoc among them” (Migration Reports, 1883).

It seems strange that the Storm Petrels should be betrayed into danger by the glare of the Light House lights. One would have thought that, from being always about and skimming over the water at night time, they would have become accustomed to the lights; we can only suppose that in misty weather they are bewildered and become reckless, and so approach too near to what in ordinary weather they would be careful to avoid.

Mathew M.A. 1894, Birds of Pembrokeshire and its Islands

More about the Storm Petrel in Pembrokeshire