Short-tailed shearwaters and aboriginal Australians

This video from Australia says about itself:

A walk up to Cape Woolamai heads at sunset taken on a wrist mounted GoPro Hero HD2. The walk passes hundreds of thousands of Short Tailed Shearwater burrows to the head of the cape. There’s 4 wallabies in the video but you gotta look close to spot them.

From the Knox Weekly in Australia:

Boonwurrung salute sheer grit and showmanship of shearwater


12 Mar, 2012 03:00 AM

FOR almost two hours before sunset, the dark birds stream offshore over rough seas like wind-blown wreckage, splintering southward towards the granite headland of Cape Woolamai and back.

Some veterans among these short-tailed shearwaters – the muttonbird – may be trans-equatorial voyagers to Phillip Island after their 40th summer, with 2-million-kilometre lifetime trip counters.

An estimated 23 million yearly navigate 15,000 kilometres from Alaska to south-east Australia, with about a million making the island where most reclaim perpetual breeding burrows around the cape. Facing west into Bass Strait from the rookery, we ready for the birds’ nightly return as the sun sinks.

At twilight about 8.15, the horizon radiates an orange afterglow and two birds flash nearby, then hundreds follow.

Within moments, tens of thousands are rising off the black sea, swarming like locusts littering the dusky sky, then we are surrounded by a flight show of winged arrows.

On brief, strong wing beats they turn and twist and streak and dive and soar and slice the air, brush by our heads, avoid collisions and close on burrows.

A few nights before, members of the Boonwurrung Aboriginal community, led by elder Aunty Carolyn Briggs, gathered here, as their descendants had, to watch the shearwaters’ display.

Guided by Phillip Island Nature Park education ranger Graeme Burgan, the group’s visit was part of a cultural reconnection and renewal with the birds that will culminate in a festival in September when they return.

Long protected on the mainland, where the Boonwurrung once collected birds, eggs and down, licensed hunting continues in Tasmania.

Mr Burgan’s father and grandfather, like many others, once slipped onto the island to raid the rookeries and today, after 28 years with the park, his devotion to the shearwaters, their protection and people’s awareness is legend. ”I’m pretty well connected to it all,” he says laconically, as are the shearwaters to their environment.

”If there are any issues with climate change and changes in the ocean that affects krill production [a major food source],” Mr Burgan says, ”then the first thing that is going to tell us about that are the shearwaters.”

Their cycle spans spring to autumn – breeding, feeding at the polar front, rasing one chick, dodging cars and feral cats, foxes and natural predators – until departure next month. By Mother’s Day they are gone, come grand final day they are returning – the Boonwurrung will be waiting.

Shrikes and wheatears, new research

This is a red-backed shrike video.

Translated from an article by Erik van der Spek, on birds in the dunes of Texel island in the Netherlands:

Red-backed shrike and wheatear have been chosen for this study because they being predators, are at the top of the food pyramid in the dune grasslands. So, when they will do well, the entire food chain should be in order.


The red-backed shrikes are hurt more by a scarcity of flowers than the wheatears. Red-backed shrikes eat more flower visiting insects than wheatears do. Wheatears can catch for the second clutch chicks only about half the protein and fat compared to the first clutch chicks. In June and July there are too few insects which are suitable as food for the baby wheatears. Important prey animals of the wheatear have been found to benefit from somewhat more drift-sand like conditions in the dunes. With the antler moth (caterpillars) and Melanotus punctolineatus beetle doing very poorly in the Netherlands, only 50% of the food supplied by wheatears consists of these animals. That results in too few chicks fledging.


The opinion of the researchers is that the grasslands should be varied. Not only short and open, but a variety of local drift-sand pits, short dune grasslands, more overgrown areas and floral parts. Flowering herbs on the verges of paths may be important for bumblebees and other bees and butterflies and, as a consequence, for the birds that eat them. When the rabbit population will increase, there will be less need for cattle grazing. …

The research into the management of the dunes is still continuing.