Re: (Fwd) Amazing Sight!

Subject: Re: (Fwd) Amazing Sight!
From: "M. Scott O'Keeffe" <>
Date: Sat, 29 Aug 1998 00:03:05 +1000
Michael J. McLeish wrote:
> Given Tom's recent message about bird migrations I thought I would
> take the liberty of forwarding a message I received from a friend in
> San Francisco a couple of days ago:
> ...........................................
> So we're driving down to the beach, for no reason but
> that it's a nice day and it's one other way to get to
> where we're going when I look out over the waves and
> see this very long, very thick flock of birds flying
> low over the waves. Lots of birds. We're talking the
> flock runs the entire length of Ocean Beach! Proabaly
> thirty birds thick! So, after I crashed the car, I
> pulled the bins out of the boot and scrambled over the
> carnage (no pun intended) to get a better view.
> Sooty Shearwaters! On their migratory path up the coast.
> I remember seeing somewhere when I was with you that
> they breed in Southern Australia and then fly past SF to the
> Bering Sea. Thinking to myself back then, gee... that's
> something I'd like to see. AND I DID!
> So now I have an impossible benchmark. That was by far
> the LARGEST flock of birds I had ever seen! The Park Rangers
> watching with me said the flock extended down to Fort Funston
> four miles away. Since that was the way we were driving, I
> was able to confirm this factoid.
> I just thought I'd share this with you, having planted the
> seeds of this ornithological obsession in me several years
> ago one hot summer's day.
> Your avial (?) protege.
> .................................................................
> Mike
> Michael J. McLeish Ph.D.
> Department of Medicinal Chemistry
> Monash University
> Parkville VIC 3052
This seems like an interesting and perhaps productive topic for a
thread.  A few years ago now, while birding in southeast Colorado (USA)
in the winter, I came across the most spectacular flock of Red-winged
blackbirds.  It rose in the distance, flying towards me, with birds from
the passage wetlands (mostly dry, but full of dry typha).  When the
flock finally passed overhead, it was like a dark storm cloud on a late
afternoon.  The light really was reduced, and the sound!  A sort of
roaring whistled clatter.  The flock took nearly 20 minutes to pass over
and I guestimated the birds to be in the millions.  Thats the largest
number of anything (other than ants in my kitchen) that I've ever seen. 
Also spectacular was the snowbank on the edge of the slough on the
Alberta prairie one late autumn.  Yes, from a distance it looked like
snow.  Strange, thought I.  Snow is certainly believable at this time of
the year, but why is it just in one spot (even if it is a big spot)?  As
I got closer, the snowbank errupted into wheeling flight... Snow Geese! 
"Beware of Half-truths... you may have the wrong half"

M. Scott O'Keeffe
Centre for Conservation Biology
University of Queensland

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