Day 13 | muttonbirds at Port Fairy: checking out the wildlife

Last time I was at Port Fairy, with my ex-partner actually, the muttonbirds had left their breeding colony on their annual migration to Siberia.

It must have been autumn or winter. But you could walk around the 40,000 burrows where they live for the summer and raise their young before abandoning them to learn to fly by themselves, while they go on their 40,000km round trip.

A sign down near the nesting grounds said that 90,000 of them return to the same burrows each year. Humm. I wonder how they find the old habitat. There was a hint on the sign that while they are here breeding they return to their burrows each evening after having spent the daylight hours catching fish 100s of km out to sea.

That would be something worth seeing: 90,000 birds coming into land in the evening: must be quite a sight.

I went over to the colony before dusk. No sign.

I waited.

I waited a lot more. Dusk came. Wait a bit more, after all they have to come back.

Darkness fell. I waited another half hour.

Eventually the birds started arriving in the pitch black. Flying low over the dunes in their hundreds searching for their own particular burrow. I was wandering around the nesting area with the black birds zooming past in the darkness. I’ve no idea how they could pick out their own roost.

I could hardly see my feet and they still kept on flapping in, at dangerous pace, whizzing past my ears.