birding-aus Seabird autumn in Maroubra

Subject: birding-aus Seabird autumn in Maroubra
From: Rod Gardner <>
Date: Fri, 2 Jul 1999 14:10:53 +1000

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
                           in May.

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).

Rod Gardner

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