Hastings Birdwatchers' president Peter West says the sighting of just the fourth Bulwer petrel in NSW is significant.
The bird is normally associated with an area about 1000 kilometres north west of Darwin.
Mr West said all four NSW sightings had been in the last six to eight weeks and coincided with the recent spell of windy weather conditions.
The president described the Bulwer petrel as "an exceptionally rare bird" for this area.
And, as fate would have it, the bird was handed to him in a box.
"Our club went to South West Rocks for a field trip on February 6 and we found what we thought was a pretty stunning bird, a Black-Naped Tern," he said.
"These are usually found in North Queensland and they are very rare in NSW.
"Then the following Tuesday, a neighbour came to our home with a bird in a box.
"I knew it was a seabird and it had been rescued before some cats could get hold of it.
"It was late at night and the bird was very bedraggled and wet. So we kept it warm and left it in the darkened box.
"To be honest, I expected the bird to be dead the next morning. But it wasn't."
To be honest, I expected the bird to be dead the next morning. But it wasn't.Peter West
Following a closer inspection, Mr West thought the bird a Shearwater, which is common for this area.
After checking with FAWNA and realising the bird was "pretty perky", he decided to release the bird back into the wild off Perpendicular Point in the Kattang Nature Reserve.
"It wasn't until I got out there and picked up the bird and had a closer look at it that I realised it was much too small for a Shearwater," Mr West said.
"But I didn't want to leave the bird any longer so I set him down on the cliff and left him to fly away.
"It wasn't until later that night when I was going through the photos I had taken that I realised it was a Bulwer petrel, an exceptionally rare bird.
"Significantly, all the other sightings of this bird have been in the previous six to eight weeks.
"He should be about 1000km north west of Darwin, around the Ashmore Reef area, so he's a long way from home."
Mr West said it is important to keep a record of where these rare birds are sighted.
BirdLife NSW woodland bird program manager and seabird enthusiast, Mick Roderick, said heavy weather had always knocked seabirds off course.
But while it was generally only wild weather that drove seabirds to land, Mr Roderick said large numbers of Sooty Terns had been observed feeding in harbours on the NSW coast recently, which was unusual.
He believed this might have been caused by a combination of things.
"It could be that they're not getting their usual food source and then they've just been smashed by this weather system," he said.
Mr Roderick said the Bulwer petrel was an extremely rare bird for Australia's east coast.
"There were no recorded sightings in NSW at all until December last year, and only a handful of sightings in Queensland," he said.
"They are a long way out of range. They don't normally stray far south of the equator in the Pacific Ocean. It is quite amazing."
Anyone who finds an injured or exhausted seabird - or any distressed wild animal - should contact FAWNA Wildlife Rescue on 6581 4141.
Hastings Birdwatchers' next outing is on Friday March 6, meeting at the Harrington breakwall at 8am. For more information contact Peter West on 0406 940 408.
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