A Shearwater in Dhaka?!

Those of you who are birders and know something of where and what Dhaka is like (and who read the title) will be completely understand the incredulity I’m feeling. Yesterday afternoons birding started just like any other of my normal birding days besides that I went up to our rooftop a bit earlier than usual and super cyclone Amphan had hit the coast the evening before. Now, if you’re an avid birder from the US you probably know that hurricanes (cyclone=hurricane just in a different ocean) are known to bring odd *pelagic species above land and sometimes surprisingly inland. But there’s never before been any interesting pelagic species seen in Bangladesh because of cyclones, except for right near the coast, so I wasn’t expecting anything. My main hope was the winds would blow in some resident species that would be new for my “yard” list.
(*for any non birders, pelagic species are basically any bird that spends it’s entire life at sea except for breeding. Check out this explanation if you want more details)

So, as I said, my birding started out fairly normally. I could tell there was a decent bit of bird movement including Black Kites in slightly higher numbers than usual, one or two Little Cormorants right away which was a good sign, and I heard a Common Kingfisher flying through. All this was in the first few minutes, and I was pleased with how much activity there was and hopeful for at least something interesting.

After about 4 minutes of birding I caught a glimpse of some bird flying to the right then disappearing behind some buildings. From the half a second view I caught of it’s flight style I immediately though Little Cormorant and was a bit proud to think I can recognize a cormorant from about two flaps of its wing from quite a ways away. But then, as my camera focused on it as it shot out into view again I was SHOCKED to see a long winged, fairly slender, completely brown bird! I soon realized this was some pelagic species blown way out of it’s course by the cyclone, and I snapped as many photos as I could in the 5 seconds it was in view before disappearing to the north.

I quickly checked my photos which confirmed my suspicion that it was some pelagic species and immediately sent a back of camera photo to many of my birding friends in country who were all just as shocked as I was!

Amazing back of camera snap 😂

I kept birding for at least 20 minutes, then couldn’t stand the wait any longer and went down, copied the photos onto my laptop, quickly sent them to people, then rushed back onto the roof where my brother had been keeping watch. (he sadly hadn’t seen the shearwater because he was downstairs doing chores 😦

I was quite worried that my blurry photos wouldn’t be enough to ID, but when I finished birding and posted them on Birds Bangladesh facebook group Wichyanan Limparungpatthanakij, an expert Thai birder, commented within an hour saying that from shape and structure he thought it was a Wedge-tailed Shearwater.

I knew my bird had some potential to be a first for the country since the pelagic list is pitifully low because there have been so few pelagic birding trips, but I hadn’t really expected it to actually happen! It has since been confirmed by many others to be Wedge-tailed Shearwater because the long tail rules out other all dark shearwaters and the long, slender, dark bill rules out Flesh-footed Shearwater. I can barely believe it, but I’m now the only person to have seen Bangladesh’s 707th species!

After I posted, I saw someone else had seen a Sooty Tern in western Bangladesh which was also a new record for the country (#706). West Bengal, India also had a number of unusual species blown in from the storm including multiple species of terns, at least one frigatebird, a probable White-tailed Tropicbird, and a (Swinhoe’s?) storm petrel! Needless to say this will be a day long remembered by me and the others who found cool birds, but we must all remember that for many people this cyclone was a nightmare, and caused much suffering and destruction.

You can view my checklist or my post in Birds Bangladesh group if you’re interested for more details.

If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe for more. As always, feel free to comment!

Published by Seth Miller

Teenaged birder and amateur photographer. Originally from Kansas, USA, but have grown up in Bangladesh.

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