Re: Hutton's Shearwater at WTP

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Subject: Re: Hutton's Shearwater at WTP
From: "Ken Rogers" <>
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2003 12:53:41 +1000

 I was going to put a posting on birding-aus about seeing Hutton’s Shearwater at the Western Treatment Plant yesterday, but I see John Barkla and Fred Smith have beaten me to it. However, perhaps an independent record of the same bird/s will be of interest:

 I visited the Western Treatment Plant yesterday afternoon, and from about 2 to 3 pm spent an hour enjoying a big flock of Fluttering Shearwaters. They were feeding about half a km off the coast between Kirk Point and the end of Beach Road, some birds sometimes coming to within 200m of the shore. They were close enough to make telescope views very satisfying. I think they were picking up items from just below the surface; most were swimming on the surface, and repeatedly sticking their heads underwater to see what was below. They were reaching well down to grab whatever it was they were eating, but seldom actually dived. It was a very active flock. The general tendency was for birds to drift north-east from around Kirk Point towards Beach Road (at which point they were closest to shore), and then they would take off and head back towards Kirk Point. Different birds made this flight at different times, so there were always lots of birds on the water, some in the air. The movement made it difficult to count them accurately. I came up with a  count of 2000, but there could easily have been several hundred more.

 After an hour of observation I had contented myself that there were at least three Hutton’s Shearwater in the flock. I found each one on the water initially, picking them out because they seemed longer-billed and blacker-backed than the surrounding Flutterer’s, with more extensive dark grunging on the sides of the face and neck; this extended onto the sides of the uppermost breast as an incomplete gorget. I stuck with each bird until it had taken off, and had good views of the underwing in each case. They all showed the classic underwing pattern of Huttons: extensively darkish smoky grey, including the entire subhumerals (I thought one had a small whitish smudge at the base of the subhumerals) and broad, diffuse leading and trailing edges to the wing-coverts, including the greater underprimary coverts.

 I don’t know if this near-shore visit by the shearwaters was a one-off or something they are likely to continue doing for a while. But it is certainly worth keeping an eye out for them in the near future – a spectacular sight, and a rare opportunity to see Hutton’s Shearwater in Victoria without getting onto a boat.


Danny Rogers.

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