Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Wildlife Wednesday - Fleshy-footed Shearwater

View over Lord Howe Island lagoon and Mounts Gower and Lidgbird
For the month of July, I'm going to feature the wildlife of Lord Howe Island to get you excited for Deep Diving (or to make you sick to death of it, depending on your perspective!).

So today, a photo to give you a picture of the island... then the Shearwater, locally called the Muttonbird. They belong to the Petrel family.

Shearwater or Muttonbird
The first time I went to Lord Howe, it was March 2000 and I'd never seen anything like the flocks of Shearwaters that would fly into the island each evening. It was like they were kamikazes. They seemed to fly straight into the cliff face. It scared the hell out of me. Then I got on a point and watched more closely, and they actually flew into nests along the cliff face. I was so relieved.

I went again in April 2003 and there weren't as many then, or maybe I just didn't spend the time looking at them. The first time I visited I was alone, so I could do all the things I wanted without any interference. The second time Mr E came...and I didn't realise people wanted to do different things to me. What a shock! I couldn't spend every moment of every day in the water. I had to climb the wretched hills!! I had to eat regularly, and do things as regular times. What a shock... but back to the birds.

Shearwaters are migratory and are not found in Australia between April and September. They spend the winter in the north Pacific, somewhere across the Equator. They breed when in Australia. Their nest is scraps of vegetation in a burrow 1-2m long (!!) from near sea level to high on hills...on further reading, some nest in rocky crevices. They lay 1 large white egg.

They take food from the water in flight, while swimming on the surface, or when 'flying' underwater on half-open wings. If feeding is scarse during migration, you can sometimes find them washed up ashore, under nourished and incapable of returning to their site.

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