To: Dion Hobcroft <>
From: andrew stafford <>
Date: Wed, 11 Oct 2000 01:32:33 -0700 (PDT)
Hi all

Dion's description of a probable Newell's Shearwater
is tantalising. On August 22 1999 on a pelagic trip
off Wollongong, I saw a black-and-white shearwater
closely similar to that described by Dion. It also
featured an extremely well-defined facial pattern with
a white notch behind the ear coverts, while the
axillaries were white with a small dark smudge on the
inner underwing coverts. The undertail coverts were
not seen. 

Unfortunately I failed in drawing other observers'
attention to this bird quickly enough (a Chatham
Island Albatross was already providing plenty of
excitement at that stage). The bird actually landed on
the water about 100 metres away but by the time the
boat was redirected, it was lost to sight.

Newell's, Townsend's, Manx and Audubon's Shearwaters
are a difficult group of birds to identify, especially
in Australia where their occurrence is very rare and I
suspect poorly understood. Seabird enthusiasts should
check out the photograph of a stated Audubon's
Shearwater photographed off Wollongong by Mike Carter
in 1984. It appears closely similar to the bird
described and can be viewed at Tony Palliser's home

Interestingly, this bird also features a white notch
behind the ear coverts, and although photographed from
below, I can't see the dark undertail coverts that are
supposed to be diagnostic of Audubon's. Why therefore
is this bird not a Newell's Shearwater, or Townsend's
for that matter?

I wonder if some claims of Audubon's and Manx
Shearwaters in Australian waters may in fact turn out
to be this bird. Certainly it should be borne in mind
as a possibility on east coast trips - much more so
perhaps than the utterly mind-bending occurrence of a
Tristram's Storm-Petrel! Who woulda thunk it?



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