Here is a summary of autumn sightings of seabirds during regular watches
off Maroubra, in south-east Sydney.
March to May is probably the quietest period of the year for seabirds off
this part of the coast, and there were no exciting records this time round.
Summer seabird numbers decline through March, and by April there are
generally few Wedge-tailed, Short-tailed or Flesh-footed Shearwaters.
Jaeger numbers, too, fall away through March, and winter birds generally do
not begin to appear until the end of April, and even by the end of May are
well below peak numbers.
This year was characterised by long periods of calm weather, light winds,
and low numbers of seabirds visible from the coast. The catastrophic
hailstorm in April was an exception to this. Bad weather occurred around
the end of March, beginning of April, and again between about the 23rd and
28th of April. The bad weather at the end of April brought in some
albatrosses, dark pterodromas, and two early Southern Skuas.
The following is a summary of seabirds recorded during these three months.
1 Little Penguin March, 1; April, 5; May, 1. Fairly typical
2 Wandering Albatross First of autumn on 9.5. No further records
3 Black-browed Albatross First record 21.4, another eight in April,
and only three in May, when the weather
remained largely settled with light winds.
4 Yellow-nosed Albatross First record was of three on 30.4,
followed by only two more in May, low
numbers compared to previous years.
5 Great-winged Petrel A period of bad weather with fresh
southerly winds at the end of March and
early April brought four close in on 31.3,
with another on 2.4.
During storms and huge seas on 23.4 there
were 35 birds, including a flock of most
of these about 200 metres offshore around
a group of unidentified cetaceans. A
further seven birds the next day.
6 Providence Petrel Six birds on 23.4 with the Great-winged,
two the next day, and a further nine on
28.4 during ssw gales (i.e. winds were
coming straight up the coastline).
7 Flesh-footed Shearwater Very high numbers (for land-based sea
watches) in early April, with ca. 69 on
2.4, and 18 on 13.4. Total for April was
93, which was higher than Wedge-tailed
Shearwater numbers for the month, and
compared to 29 Flesh-foots in March.
8 Wedge-tailed Shearwater 753 in March (at a rate of 43 per hour
average), 60 in April (at ca. nine per
hour), and just one May record, on 9.5.
9 Sooty Shearwater Just one record in March, and one for
April on 2.4.
10 Short-tailed Shearwater Numbers were already low in March, with
just 25 recorded (1.4 per hour), with a
further 16 in April and three in May, the
last on 22.5. This year there was no sign
of the northward migration from the coast.
11 Fluttering Shearwater Numbers of this species are low throughout
the summer, and in the years I've been
watching regularly haven't begun to build
up until late April or May, and then more
strongly in June.
This year eight in March, 53 in April (39
of these in the last four days), and 61 in
12 Hutton's Shearwater Just two, on 21.4.
13 Australian Pelican The only records were one in March and
seven in May. This is, surprisingly, the
best run of records for this species in the
four years I've been watching here!
14 Australasian Gannet Another species that reaches its lowest
point in summer, then gradually builds up
through March and April, with northward
movements generally peaking mid-May
(though later this year). 184 in March (10
per hour), 717 in April (22 per hour) and
706 in May (38 per hour).
15-18 Cormorants Great Cormorant was the most frequently
recorded, with Little Black and Little
Pied next, and approximately equal, and a
handful of Pieds.
19 Southern Skua Two early birds during bad weather, one on
23.4 and another (same?) on 24.4.
20 Arctic Jaeger 68 records in March (just under four per
hour), 31 in April (less than one per
hour) and two late May records, three
birds on 9.5 and one on 16.5.
21 Pomarine Jaeger Seven birds in March, and five in April,
with the last record as early as 6.4.
22 Long-tailed Skua After a good run of records in January-
February, three more birds on 14.3.
23 Silver Gull Lowest numbers around the turn of the
year, then a gradual build up, with some
evidence of migration through to April.
24 Kelp Gull One in March, 17 in April and six in May.
These are the highest numbers I've
recorded in four years. They are making
more regular appearances along this
stretch of the coast.
25 Common Tern Two in 14.3 were the last of the summer.
26 Crested Tern A migration peak, less marked than in
spring, occurs around mid-April. 277 in
March (8 per hour), 647 in April (20 per
hour), and 127 in May (7 per hour).
To unsubscribe from this list, please send a message to
Include ONLY "unsubscribe birding-aus" in the message body (without the