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Wedge-tailed Shearwater at Cable Seashore – 10,000 Birds

On Wednesday 5th October I headed off on my bicycle to Cable Beach to walk from the Surf Club towards Gantheaume Point. I had hoped to find Pied Oystercatchers that still had chicks, but sadly that is not the case. The weather was perfect for a long walk anyway with a high of around 30c and a breeze off the Indian Ocean, so I continued along the beach. The tides were not moving much at all that day, so there were only a handful of shorebirds. The resident Red-capped Plovers were nipping up and down the beach and the migratory Sanderling, Greater Sand Plovers and Red-necked Stint were also running around chasing the little crabs. There were several bluebottles washed up as a result of several days of rough seas and I wasn’t going to get my feet wet with those in the Indian Ocean!


As I approached Gantheaume Point, where there are buoys for mooring this time of year, I observed a bird bobbing in the Indian Ocean. It clearly wasn’t a Brown Booby, which often roost on the buoys or in the ocean at this time of year. The header photo is my first distant photo of the bird I saw at 10.45am. The wind was west/north westerly and over recent days there had been an influx of birds that would normally be seen further offshore. The bird appeared to be exhausted and allowing the tide to move it towards the shoreline and I watched and waited.

By 11.05am the seabird was much closer to shore and could be identified as a Wedge-tailed Shearwater. It continued to come closer to shore, but was also being moved along by the tide and was going north parallel to the beach. We have observed Wedge-tailed Shearwaters after tropical cyclones on Cable Beach, but as deceased specimens and not alive like this.

Wedge-tailed Shearwater

As the Wedge-tailed Shearwater came closer to shore it got caught up in the shallows and the small waves. Some of the waves it was able to surf, just like the Black Swans have done in the past here, but other waves came through and it was clearly dumped.

Surfing Wedge-tailed Shearwater

I was just considering if I needed to make a call to the local wildlife rescue people to take it in for a short time to recover when it decided to take flight. It didn’t go too far, but beyond the breaking waves, which was definitely a good move!

Wedge-tailed Shearwater in flight

Wedge-tailed Shearwater in the Indian ocean

I continued on my way heading north back to the surf club and the Wedge-tailed Shearwater was also continuing to head north. I don’t think it had too much control over the direction it was getting pulled by the tide, but in deeper water it was no longer getting dumped by the waves. I observed the Wedge-tailed Shearwater for just over an hour over a five kilometre stretch of Cable Beach.

In the coming months we will head into our cyclone season and see what else gets blown towards the Australian mainland. There’s always something going on at Cable Beach if you have an interest in birds.

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