> Paul Walbridge wrote:
> I refer to a posting regarding the release of two seabirds off Southport on
> 15/6/02. I have since received a couple of concerned phone calls and e-mails
> regarding the matter. When releasing any seabird the subject is observed for
> some minutes to ensure there is no waterlogging of tail, wing, or body plumage
> before the vessel leaves the area.
> These birds have sometimes been in captivity for some days even weeks and
> their initial response on being released is to bathe, quite often at some
> length. This involves a plunge into the water and a lifting of the entire
> body out of the water, this can sometimes last for a considerable period of
> On the May trip out of Southport we released several Wedge-tailed Shearwaters,
> two of these birds very quickly water-logged and were immediately rescued.
> They obviously hadn't, or were incapable of using their preening gland(s)
> whilst in captivity.
> The birds in question on the Southport June pelagic were a Northern Giant
> Petrel and a Brown Skua. The Skua is basically a Gull, with greater wing to
> body mass area than the Giant Petrel therefore having more immediate lifting
> capability. The Giant Petrel was showing NO water-logging on our departure.
> I was on the Wollongong pelagic this weekend past and observed a freshly
> captured then released Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross showing the same
> post-release actions. The same procedure was followed at that venue as off
> In future, patrons having concerns about something they have observed on these
> pelagics regarding the above or maybe sightings in general should talk to the
> organizer or some other experienced birder on board before submitting
> erroneous statements through channels such as Birding-aus.
> Cheers - Paul Walbridge.
I can't recall anyone else sending in a report of that trip, so presume Paul's
comments refer to the item I posted - which I have appended below. Basically I
"the released birds took a bit of time to get their bearings when released -
both splashed about for a while. The skua seemed to be more at home than the
petrel - appearing more confident in its bathing and bobbing about - it took off
about 10 minutes after it was released. The petrel on the other hand, seemed
more awkward in the water [the chop was a bit harder where we released it] and
we didn't see it take off."
I didn't say that the petrel was in trouble - only that it was more awkward -
you can't read too much into that given that I said that the chop was harder, so
of course the bird would appear less elegant. The fact that it was a younger
bird may have also had something to do with it. What I did notice was that its
bathing style was different, with the skua being more duck-like in its
Where someone may have got the wrong end of the stick was that I said that we
didn't see the petrel take off. What that means in this case, is that we left
the site [again 10 mins or so after the bird was released] before it took off.
Pelagic birds aren't like swifts [ie don't spend all the time on the wing] so I
don't see that my comment should be taken to imply that the petrel didn't take
off in its own good time.
Above all, I didn't express any concerns or judgement about the process of
releasing pelagic birds.
Perhaps, the bottom line is that people should have got clarification from me as
to what I perceived before hassling Paul. To be honest, I don't see what the
problem is in this case, Paul, given that it provided you with an opportunity to
educate the BOz community on the behaviour of released birds.
More generally, my posts about the pelagic trips I go on are intended to provide
a bit of colour for those who have never been on a pelagic trip, and don't know
what to expect. They are a record from someone who is learning the process.
The important thing for people who are hesitant about dipping a toe "in the
water" is that if you compare my third report with my first report, one thing I
have shown is that the motion sickness pills do their work when taken before
leaving terra firma.
Given the now-you-see-it, now-you-don't nature of watching birds from the deck
of a boat, I suspect that digi-binos and their successors will be much used
equipment on pelagic trips in the future as they will provide an opportunity to
get an instant tele shot which will settle some of those disputes that often
Subject: Southport Pelagic Yesterday
Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2002 13:00:03 +1000
From: Laurie&Leanne Knight <>
To: Birding Aus <>
I went out on Paul Walbridge's pelagic yesterday - third trip, third different
boat. This one had a good upper deck, and although there was a bit of a nasty
chop in places, I had taken my motion sickness pill and had no problems.
It was a bit of a quite day, with the north-westerly wind pushing the birds out
to sea. No rafts of shearwaters just outside the bar this time.
Ticks for me this time were a providence petrel and a wilson's storm petrel.
There was the odd black-bellied storm petrel about, but I didn't get to see the
The feature of the trip was the release of an immature northern giant-petrel and
a brown skua [they had been recovering at Sea World - one had been picked up at
Noosa and the other from Fraser Island]. This brought to mind the recent thread
about official birding records.
Pizzey and Knight don't list the brown skua, and with my untrained pelagic eye,
I really couldn't see the difference between it an the great skua. Paul said
that the brown skua was bigger than the great skua and that the published C&L
was out of date with its taxonomy. Of course, old the reader's digest book of
Australian birds doesn't even include the south polar skua that we saw in April
- so I guess that's an indication of the extent to which pelagic records have
trailed the terrestrial.
For what it is worth, Pizzey and Knight weren't much help in separating the
immature northern and southern giant-petrels.
In both cases, the released birds took a bit of time to get their bearings when
released - both splashed about for a while. The skua seemed to be more at home
than the petrel - appearing more confident in its bathing and bobbing about - it
took off about 10 minutes after it was released. The petrel on the other hand,
seemed more awkward in the water [the chop was a bit harder where we released
it] and we didn't see it take off.
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