Victoria pelagic

To: "birding aus" <>
Subject: Victoria pelagic
From: "Stephen Keen" <>
Date: Wed, 18 Jan 2006 18:27:41 -0000

None of this is at all helpful, Simon!! The jizz was spot on for any Sooty I've ever seen. I've read that Sh-t can appear stockier, and a little Fulmar-like, which they definitely weren't, whereas those we saw a couple of days previously at Coff's Harbour did appear stockier. The underwing flash on most birds was decidedly white more than grey, and certainly whiter than the Coff's birds. Both features could of course be attributed to different conditions, but not consistently on such a large number of birds. The light was excellent off Bass Point, which could have accentuated the underwing colour, but other features I've read about for Sh-t include a paler throat and browner, more contrasting breast, neither of which were apparent and would surely have also been accentuated by the strong light. They weren't at any great distance either, with the vast majority of those we thought we'd IDed being 500m to 1km out. Nearly all of these inshore birds were heading south in a manner suggesting passage, whereas there were good numbers of birds further out (where most of the Flutton's were) which were flying in all directions, more suggestive of local birds. It wasn't possible to make out the underwing colour on these farther birds, but that is as likely to be due to the greater distance than any perceived darker colour. The albatrosses and jaegers seen were all also flying south. The weather wasn't actually that severe on that morning, with perhaps a force six from the SE, and from which we were sheltered, with squally showers, and nothing really that would suggest conditions to make a Wandering Albatross fly along the shore line, for example. However the previous day a rather marked front had pushed through from (I think) the SE, which may have pushed the more pelagic stuff closer in. I believe the albatrosses shouldn't have been so close in so late in the year, and the pale Wedge-t was certainly unusual, so clearly something strange had happened. Don't know whether anything I've said here is of relevance either way, but thought I might as well present the whole picture and let more experienced birders decide. I look forward to some expert opinion and I'm only going to improve my pool of knowledge with some well-balanced counter-arguments and corrections.

All the best


Stephen, It takes years of practice to correctly id seabirds, especially from the shore (and I am a looonnnggg way from being an expert) especially when you are generally on a headland with a rough wind blowing which is giving you severe image shake! At least in Australia the weather is generally warmer - I used to go seawatching regularly at Cley Coastguards in Norfolk when a harsh northerly was blowing trying to track down Little Auks, Puffins and Great Skuas!

Because of these generally poor viewing conditions jizz is so important (or is it jezz or jozz for those that have read Seans book). Sooty Shearwaters are very similar to Short-Tailed from a distance - a couple of features I tend to look for and can be reliable particularly if you can make direct comparison is that Sooty's have an "elongated" appearance relative to Short-Tailed due to their much longer bill (I think its about 1.5x longer), in addition in good light the underpanel of Sooty creates a "white flash" appearance as they glide from side to side, this is in contrast to Short-Tailed which just gives the appearance of a pale underwing (I think this looks more "greyish" than white or perhaps a dirty white rather than a more distinctive "flash") panel which is less obvious.

Hope this helps

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