Spectacular shearwaters at sunsetOur recent sunny weather and forecast for more sun on the way make it the ideal time to come and see the spectacular natural attraction that is Shearwaters at Sunset.
Towards the end of September each year the annual migration of the short-tailed shearwaters, or mutton birds (see picture, by Neil Leed of Travellers Notes) of , occurs as they arrive on Griffiths Island from their far flung journey in the northern hemisphere. Griffiths Island can be reached via walking tracks and a causeway and is a great place to explore, with the nesting birds and the iconic Port Fairy Lighthouse.
The island is home to the mutton bird colony, which spend our winter months around the Aleutian Islands near Alaska. The shearwaters are a spectacular example of the natural life cycle that Port Fairy is lucky to share with the wider community. Their arrival is a really fascinating time – they generally return to the breeding area on the same day each year (usually September 22) and occupy the same nest as the previous year, with the same breeding partner.
The birds nest in burrows in the sand, incubating their eggs through to hatching in January. By April the adult birds set off on their annual 15,000 kilometre migration, leaving the chicks behind. Eventually hunger will force the chicks to follow their parents on the two-month voyage, which passes Japan and skirts the coast of North America.
It is quite a sight to see the masses of birds returning to their burrows at dusk each day between September and April. If you are visiting the island please keep to the tracks as wandering off tracks can collapse the burrows and bury the chicks. For more information on the short-tailed shearwaters and other bird life on Griffiths Island contact the Visitor Information Centre on Bank Street, ph 03 5568 2682.
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