Advice on identifying Albatrosses from shore

To: Birding-Aus <>
Subject: Advice on identifying Albatrosses from shore
From: "David Adams" <>
Date: Thu, 26 Jun 2008 17:59:19 +1000
I'm writing in to ask for some advice on learning more about
identifying Albatross from shore. I really never go on pelagics (too
disorganized) so I haven't made a lot of progress. For years I've been
staring off of headlands at large seabirds with binoculars wondering
"are those Albatross or are they immature Gannets?" I bought a scope
last year with a 20-60x zoom and have it mounted on a swivel head so
that I can track birds in flight. I went out to Blue Point (Bermagui,
Far South Coast NSW) this morning and end up staring at distant birds
wondering "are those Albatross or are they immature Gannets?" ;-)
Actually, with the scope I can tell that some of them aren't
Gannets...but I have little idea how to go about sorting out which
species they may be.

I've had a look at the SOSSA (Southern Ocean Seabird Study
Association) site which is a good start but am looking for more advice
or references. (The month-by-month guide at SOSSA is very helpful, by
the way.) I have lots of bird field guides but none devoted
specifically to seabirds. Is there something I should be getting?
Andrew Isles sent along a note just today that there's a new book out
on the subject of albatrosses but it doesn't sound like a field guide.

I regularly see reports on this list from people confidently
identifying various sorts of Albatross they've spotted from shore so
there must be a way to do it. Are there headlands where the birds come
in close enough for clear identification or are there a series of
distinguishing marks that let you sort out the species by process of
elimination or some other means? Size is basically useless as a field
characteristic for distant birds over water and some of the other
field marks would require a close view (color of the bill, color of
the tip of the bill, color behind the eye, etc.) so I'm a bit stumped.

Suggestions much appreciated! I suspect others may have the same
question I do so please post back answers to the list, if possible.

 David Adams
 Wallaga Lake 2546 NSW

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