Shearwater Mortality

To: <>
Subject: Shearwater Mortality
From: "Allan Morris" <>
Date: Wed, 1 Nov 2000 18:54:15 +1100
Hi Birders,
I was interested to read the report on shearwater mortality provided by Paul Andrew today (1/10/2000) , a Bird Curator from Taronga Zoo. The results certainly do not justify the personal abuse that I received from two members of Birding-aus when I suggested that large seabird wrecks of shearwaters, particularly of Short-tailed Shearwaters is an irregular but common phenonoma along the coast of South-east Australia.
One correspondent emailed me and said "Was it a person like you that once said that we will never have a nuclear plant melt down"! Hopefully it wasn't. My interest is that these large wrecks of Short-tails have happened before and we should keep that in mind before jumping to conclusions as to what has caused the current problem. It was stated on the ABC yesterday that the starvation may have been caused by an El Nino or La Nina event elsewhere in the Pacific that caused therefore unusual weather patterns in our Region.
I am interested in the fact that according to Paul Andrew, originally the advice came from  Dick Cooper and Ian McAllan that over 1000 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were found dead along the beach between Seal Rocks and Tea Gardens on 11 October 2000. As I personally looked at over 800 birds on 3 beaches on the Central Coast and they were all Short-tailed Shearwaters except for one Silver Gull! I wonder if in fact there has been a case of mistaken identity and in fact Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were not found at all. Nowhere does Paul say that he examined any Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. Perhaps some one can advise where else were there large numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters found dead?
I would also like to query the statement in Paul's note that "the die off seems to be about a month earlier" ie most die off occuring in November and December. In the seven years that other people and myself carried out and published reports of seabird mortaility in NSW 1970-1976, the mortality of Short-tailed Shearwaters was found to occur from September to February, one year it was February! High mortality in October is fairly common, and as a NPWS person who was regularly consulted on the preparation of press releases on the mortality of shearwaters for over 15 years I know that the problem usually commenced from mid to late October onwards. Furthermore when reviewing the literature it is well to remember that while the deaths may have occurred in late October, the counting on the beaches may not have taken place until the first week in November and so the event gets recorded as November!
 Alan Morris
NSWFOC Records Officer
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