sooty shearwaters, in great numbers

A few evenings ago, August 4th to be precise, while pushing a stroller, trying to soothe a cranky baby, I found myself on West Cliff Drive just before sunset. I circumvented Lighthouse Field State Park, which meant I walked for several blocks along the ocean. The whole time I walked east, a stream of birds flew west over the water, an abundance of birds, an endless chain. They did not appear to be feeding, though I couldn’t see any individual clearly enough to be sure, just the great cloud of them. I kept expecting to walk past the place where the flock began, but I never did and it’s possible they were moving in a great circle, or it’s possible that the movement originated further down by the harbor or even beyond. I think it’s fair to say that I have never seen so many birds. I was awestruck.
I came home and hit the google and found that they are sooty shearwaters, making an annual visit to Santa Cruz. One online estimate had their numbers at 3000+.
Their migrations are also epic – 40,000 miles, the longest documented migration of any bird — so we are lucky to be on the route. There are pictures on the web that suggest their numbers and resemble what I saw. One can be found here: along with much intriguing information.

5 thoughts on “sooty shearwaters, in great numbers

  1. I’m always amazed to see the shearwaters on the Australian seaside when they are passing through. One year, I was confronted by how difficult their journey is by encountering hundreds of deceased birds on the shore during my morning walk. They had expired just out to sea during a storm that must have added to their exhaustion.

    They are also called ‘mutton birds’ here, and were often eaten by indigenous people in the early days after invasion (I don’t know if they were eaten before that!)

    • Hello, Nike! How nice to think that we’re connected by this epic migration. They must arrive here every year, but I never walk in the evening so that’s perhaps why I’ve never seen them before? More field work must be done. Hope all is well on the other side of the world. I will send you a message via the shearwaters. Wait for it! kj

  2. It is lovely to think of being connected to people on the other side of the world through such incredible acts of animal courage and determination. I’ll wait for your story, and send you one by return.

  3. I was doing research on your book” We are all completely ourselves” as we are reading it for our Willunga book group.So I also saw your blog and started reading that and saw about the Shearwaters. I have just done a textile fibre booklet on Migrations of animals, birds and insects. On one of the pages I mentioned the Sooty Shearwaters migration from New Zealand to the North Pacific and it said 6400 km. It leaves its chick to find its own way……love your blog,it was easy to be sidetracked….

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