Wednesday, 4 August 2010
North Head, Sydney, Australia
The cliff top walk affords stunning views of Sydney as well as enabling the sea-watcher to gain an elevated vantage point with a huge expanse of ocean to watch.
To my naked eye, there was nothing to be seen, but a scan with the binoculars revealed the outline of a Black-browed Albatross as it wheeled and glided on stiff wings. One stopped to look at something in the water while another younger bird approached and chased the first one away. Note the younger one has a dark, not yellow bill.
Black-browed Albatross 6, Australian Pelican 1, Australian Gannet 1, Great Cormorant 4, Pied Cormorant 1, Little Pied Cormorant 2, Silver Gull 300, Lesser Crested Tern 2, Laughing Kookaburra 1, Welcome Swallow 8, Eastern Whipbird 3, White-browed Scrubwren 2, Silver-eye 60, New Holland Honeyeater 20, Noisy Miner 4, Red Wattlebird 10, Brush Wattlebird 2, Magpie Lark 3, Black-backed Magpie 3, Pied Currawong 2, Australian Raven 4.
Also seen in a wet and miserable Sydney Botanical Gardens and bringing the running total to 27 were;
Little Pied Cormorant 4, Australian White Ibis 8, Pacific Black Duck 2, Buff-banded Rail 1, Dusky Moorhen 20, Silver Gull 6, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo 6, Rainbow Lorikeet 8, Welcome Swallow 6, Noisy Miner 2.
Having read the post, you may now be interested to witness a neurotic breakdown.
The provenance of the albatross is in question. My colleague, birdie buddy and self-appointed proof reader, GL, has pointed out that the hitherto forms of the Black-browed Albatross have been split and awarded full species status. The original Black-browed Albatross retains the latin binomial, Thalassarche melanophris while the new Campbell Island Albatross goes by the olde Thalassarche (melanophris) impavida.
The Campbell Island Albatross is more restricted in its range. It occurs from the Campbell Islands, and adjacent islands off the Southern tip of New Zealand and is fairly common in the waters of the Australian states of SA, Vic, NSW and Tas.
I have trawled through pictures on the internet of both types and I am struggling to come to a decision. The honey coloured iris does not stand out until the bird comes very close. The broken underwing pattern is present on many of the photos titled "Black-browed", but many authors (who must have missed this taxanomic event, as I did) are still using the species and form, ie "Black-browed Albatross, Campbell Islands race"
To add to the dilemma, the IUCN notes the Black-browed on its Red List, but recognises a breeding population on Campbell Island.
So where does that leave us?
On balance, I am going to stick with my first impression that it is a Black-browed Albatross. The underwing pattern is not conclusive and indeed looks as if it could be half way between the two. The black brow is not so extensive to make me change to Campbell Island and even in super-duper full pge pixels, I can find no evidence of the honey-coloured iris.
If anyone with an experienced eye for this sort of thing would like to offer any help on this, both G and I would be pleased to hear from you.