Friday, September 20, 2013

Eaglehawk Pelagic, Tasmania 14th and 15th September

On Saturday we saw 29 species of seabird off Eaglehawk Neck followed by 35 species on Sunday. It was, without a doubt, the most remarkable 2 days of pelagic birding I have had in over 30 trips. Eleven species of Albatross came and went and both days were topped off with 10 Grey Petrels and “flocks” of White-headed Petrels!!! Unheard of! To put it in perspective my highest previous one day count was 22 species off Port Fairy, Vic. Birds of the trip? Grey-headed Albatross, Grey Petrel, Sooty Albatross and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross.
Location and trip map; with thanks to Google Earth

In this blog I will concentrate on seabirds other than the Albatross, and those I will give their own blog because they were so numerous and beautiful.

I used to think all it would take to cure my Pelagidipphobia ('the fear of missing a new bird or wonderful sighting by missing out on going on a pelagic birding trip’. According to the medical professions, once acquired this phobia is totally without cure [smile]) would be a weekend like this but no, the “win” has just left me stressing for the next trip – hopefully out of Portland, Vic, in October. And then in December I am doing a half-day pelagic out of Cocos Is. No one, as far as I know, has ever done a pelagic out of Cocos, there might be anything out there. Just think of the possibilities!!

The condition were perfect with low water temperatures, light to moderate winds, just enough to get the birds off the water, sunshine and a moderate swell with small waves on top. We motored out of Pirates Bay in the Pauletta and headed for the Hypolites Rocks where there was a small group of Australian Fur Seals and one New Zealand Fur Seal and the normal groups of Black-faced Cormorants and Australian Gannets.

The Pauletta on her moorings in Pirates Bay
Hypolites Rock and the cave and rock shelves that the seals enjoy.
Once past here it is not far out to the edge of the shelf, and Tasman Island and the tall rock spires of Cape Raoul form the back-drop to the trip. By the time we were at the edge of the shelf and in about 200 fathoms of water the albatross and petrels were becoming common but further out we could see large numbers of birds rising above the horizon. We motored on out to a depth of some 600 fathoms, about 35 kms off shore, and here the real birding started. Seabirds flew past, circled the boat for a look and came in to the berley trail. Each species came close enough so we could get good looks at all the markings, and watching various species of albatross glide in on massive wings was sheer bliss.

Northern Giant Petrel with its dark bill tip

Southern Giant Petrel portrait showing the green bill tip

Northern and Southern Giant Petrel. They are about the same size as the small albatross (molymawks)

Soft-plumaged Petrel

White-chinned Petrel

Great-winged Petrel race gouldi

Great-winged Petrel race macroptera

White-headed Petrel dorsal view

White-headed Petrel ventral view

Grey Petrel

Grey Petrel

Cape Petrel race australe from New Zealand waters

Cape Petrel race capense from the Indian Ocean and South Africa

Slender-billed Prion

Fairy Prion

Antarctic Prion

Blue Petrel ventral view

Blue Petrel dorsal view

Short-tailed Shearwater with Tasman Island in the background as we headed back to Pirates Bay

Every time I think of the two days a smile comes to my face and my eyes glaze over and I am back out there, bobbing around in a boat surrounded by magnificent birds. To misquote the Bard, “Such trips as this my dreams are made on;”

all images and text © Jenny Spry


  1. What a great trip - no wonder you want to go back!

  2. Great trip, Jen. Thanks for the photo feast I'm sufferring badly with Pelagidipphobia after reading this post. Keep up the good work. x