I return reluctantly to the “Great Shearwater” phenomenon to give, I hope, closure to the topic for this season and with luck for several years to come. A great many people have engaged with the debate about the large number unfortunate birds found either dead or dying in the water or (especially) on the beaches of Abaco and beyond. You can see the original post, a tabulation and map based on the reports I received or came across, and the views of the experts HERE.
This occurrence appears to have declined considerably from its peak last week, presumably because the migration has moved rapidly northwards. Already, reports from the eastern US Atlantic coast (e.g. Cape May) of a great shearwater influx are coming in, so we must hope that the attrition rate in the Northern Bahamas has stopped, or will stop within the next few days. This is evidenced by this FB clip from Tom Reed, a photographic contributor to THE BIRDS OF ABACO
The ABA (American Birding Association) has taken an interest in the problem on Abaco, and reported the incidence of shearwater die-off HERE. For the sake of completeness, I have updated reports I have received or found over the last few days below, together with an updated distribution map. More sad images are included because, pitiful though they are, photographs are of real assistance in the study of migratory die-off. For example, it is likely that juvenile birds are more likely to be affected by exhaustion in the course of their 10,000 mile journey than adults. Photos enable an assessment of the age of the birds to be made.
Exhausted shearwater, Delphi beach. Is this a juvenile, less able to make a huge journey than an adult?The yellow tip to this bird’s beak shows that it is a different species of shearwater, the Cory’s. Like the Greats, these birds are also rare transients on Abaco, and also make long-distance migrations. A Cory’s was photographed a couple of weeks ago swimming happily off the Delphi beach. This one has obviously run out of stamina. It has the chance to recover, but it is vulnerable in this state; and turkey vultures are quick to move in on fatalities…
- Delphi Club Beach – 20 plus + 1
- Schooner Bay – 5
- Bahama Palm Shores – ‘many many’ dead birds washed up on the shore
- Casuarina Beach – 1
- Cherokee (Watching Bay) – 3 or 4
- Cherokee (Winding Bay) – 4
- Little Harbour – 3
- Marsh Harbour area – about 5
- Great Guana Cay, southern end – 1 (possibly a gull)
- Tilloo Cay – 13 at least on Junk Beach, more than ever seen (see photos below)
- Elbow Cay – 2 + 1 Atlantic side beach near Abaco Inn
- Elbow Cay – 2, North End
- Green Turtle Cay beach – 2
- Green Turtle Cay, offshore – “a lot in the water”
- Man-o-War Cay – 1 by the roadside
- Ocean 20m from HT Lighthouse – 2 in the sea
also Exuma Sound (5 birds), Shroud Cay Exuma (gull?”), Briland Beach,Harbour Island Eleuthera (“some” + 4) , and Church Bay, South Eleuthera – 10 + 2
Ellen Bentz, who reported the Church Bay birds, has frozen 3 of them for research purposes; it will be extremely interesting to see what results from their examination, from the ages of the birds to condition to likely cause of death. She also took photographs to aid species identification and diagnostic efforts.