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.

2 thoughts on “Short-tailed shearwaters and aboriginal Australians

  1. Pingback: Seabirds die from eating plastic | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Tasmanian ‘developers’ destroy shearwaters’ nests for golf course | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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