Advice on identifying Albatrosses from shore

To: <>
Subject: Advice on identifying Albatrosses from shore
From: "Troy Mutton" <>
Date: Fri, 27 Jun 2008 21:41:44 +1000
Hi there,

I often seawatch from Maroubra, more often at Mistral than Magic Point, but 
here's my $0.02.

- Did you learn your id skills on pelagics trips?

No, I learnt them from more experienced sea-watchers, putting in time sitting 
on a cliff top looking at birds, reading/re-reading field guides and other 
reference books (working at a library with access to a decent collection of 
bird books is a huge perk) and looking at photos, both my own and others on the 
net, and comparing them with what I've seen, taking notes, and going back out.

- What percentage of the birds you id from that location are you unable to id?

Well, all the birds I id I'm able to id, but there's always something thats too 
far away/seen all to briefly to id. Totally dependent on the conditions - if 
there's a massive swell, you might glimpse something between heaving seas and 
not see it again. If it's fairly flat out, but windy - such as a couple of 
weeks ago when the Buller's Albatross was about - you have a more extended view 
of the bird and you get a better opportunity to id it.

- How close in are these birds coming?

Depends on conditions. There are times where you have albatross, shearwaters 
etc just off-shore and you don't need optical aids to id them, and others where 
all you can see is that there's birds waaaaaaaay out on the horizon, and that's 
as close as they come. Depends on the birds as well - I've seen Black-browed 
Albatross so close to the cliff that you can see its brow without any gear, but 
I've not seen a Wandering Albatross that close, for instance. Not to say they 
don't come in close, just I've not seen them that close.

- What optics are you using to see what you see, what magnifications, etc?

10x bins, 80mm scope with a 20-60x eyepiece, usually zoomed from between 20 to 

- Is there something special about Maroubra that brings them closer?

Probably the proximity of the continental shelf, being of decent height and 
exposure, and being readily accessible make it a good/popular place. In a 
southerly, it is the first (well, Kurnell is probably the first, but that's not 
too far away as the Albatross flys) bit of headland that sticks out for miles 
and miles.

- Are there other spots just as good?  How about in Victoria?

Any exposed cliff top in good (ie: onshore and windy) conditions is worth a 
look. Cape Solander at Kurnell can be good, but it's seriously exposed, so in a 
southerly, you do get somewhat buffeted. It's also jammed with whale-watchers 
(the freaks!) at this time of year.

>From memory, Sean Dooley's last book has a list of seawatching spots in each 
>state. When I was in Victoria last year, I had a quick look one 
>afternoon/evening at Point Lonsdale and while light conditions were appalling, 
>there were birds around. Couldn't id them, but there were birds.


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