Monday, February 6, 2012

The Birds

OK, so about three lifetimes ago I made a living for five or six years as a seabird biologist.  And thus the bird life of Bass Strait was a total kick for me.  If you'll indulge me...

First, the WANDERING ALBATROSS!  There is no other bird that evokes the inhuman loneliness of the Southern Ocean like this bird...  It comes from a place that haunts the minds of the adventurous, the great watery expanse of the aqueous globe where the graybeard seas reign, unimpeded by any land but the specks of rock where these birds nest.

Which is to say that I was totally choughed to finally see a few myself.

There were also a heap of shy albatross, which nest around Tassie.

Check out the angle of the head in this pic.  It was blowing about 30 knots and the albatross were swooping all over the place, never flapping their wings...

OK, still with me?  The last treasure of the crossing was a whole passel of common diving petrels, which I somehow managed to never see when we were in Tassie previously.  They all went by fast, and this was the best pic I came up with.  These critters are SO cool because they look just like members of the alcid seabird family of the northern hemisphere - the puffins and their kin.  But diving petrels and alcids are totally unrelated.  They only look alike because they've independently evolved this great seabird adaptation of using their wings to swim with and to fly with.  If two species use their wings for both tasks, the physics of optimisation mean that you get identical-looking, non-related animals at both 40° South and 40° North.  Classic convergent evolution...biology is too cool.

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