A new way to tick birds!

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: A new way to tick birds!
From: "Crispin Marsh" <>
Date: Tue, 9 Jan 2007 10:43:56 +1100
Dear Birders
I was out on a SOSSA pelagic from Wollongong yesterday and discovered a new way 
to get a tick!

SOSSA trips (normally the 4th Saturday in the month - see the SOSSA 
International web site) are always great birding but yesterdays trip had an 
extra attraction. A Westland petrel had been found in a distressed state at 
Narrabeen and given to the Taronga Zoo for rehabilitation. The time had come to 
release the bird back into the wild and it was on board in a "cat box". We were 
also accompanied by the veterinary nurse from Taronga who had nursed the bird 
back to health was also aboard to see her charge put back into it's natural 

On the way out to the shelf we saw quite a variety of birds among which were 4 
black petrels. One of these was caught for banding providing a wonderful 
opportunity to compare the black and the Westland petrels in the hand. I 
understand that the Westland bird was only a few months old whereas the black 
was probably a mature adult. The Westland seemed overall a bit larger but 
otherwise almost identical apart from the bills. The bill of the Westland was 
considerably larger and had a lot more black on it. The tip of both bills was 
black. The saddle of the Westland was also strongly black and the nostrils were 
a dark grey. By contrast the saddle of the bill of the black was yellow and 
nostrils were also yellow. In the Westland the non-black portions of the bill 
were bone coloured rather than black.

Both birds were then released. The black flew off immediately whereas the 
Westland stayed preening and washing itself vigorously for some time. It then 
lifted off briefly before dropping back onto the sea. It appeared that the 
weight that the bird had put on might have been weighing it down. We left if 
looking quite comfortable bobbing around on the ocean. I felt it appropriate to 
tick the Westland as it was alive and free after its release - any disagreement 
will be considered if in writing and accompanied by a $50 application fee :-).

Other birds seen included Gibson's albatross (1 banded but 5 seen), Australian 
gannet, wedge tailed shearwater (in large numbers and a number banded), short 
fly-bys of Buller's shearwater, white necked petrel and common noddy, a number 
of sooty terns, flesh footed shearwater, and short tailed shearwater.

In summary a great days birding made even more exciting by the release into 
tickability of the Westland petrel.
Peter Marsh

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