Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cape Gannet at Point Danger, Portland

Lawrence Rocks and Point Danger both have Australian Gannet colonies, and they are the only places in eastern Australia where Cape Gannets can sometimes be found. The last reported sighting was of 4 birds on Lawrence Rocks in February 2005. In January 2004 there were 2 birds seen in the Point Danger colony.
Lawrence Rocks and Point Danger, nearest to them. Bottom left is Cape Nelson and top left is Portland (Goole Earth)

Back in May I was on my first ever Portland pelagic and as we were coming back into port we passed about 200 metres from Lawrence Rocks. I took 187 photos of the Gannets on the top of the rocks and when I got home I put the photos on the computer and looked for a Cape Gannet. Talk about playing “Where’s Wally”, with a magnifying glass! Total failure. Back on shore I went looking for the colony at Point Danger, got lost, and ended up at Cape Nelson, some 20 km from where I needed to be. Bother.
Lawrence Rocks

This last weekend I was on another Portland pelagic trip and I did my homework. I arrived at Point Danger without getting lost, but it was about 1800 and dusk. Worse, the dirt track was flooded and I didn’t want to risk getting bogged. I decided to give up and try on Sunday after the pelagic. When I pulled up outside my room at the motel Tim Bawden walked up and said, “We’ve just seen a Cape Gannet at Point Danger. Double Bother, or words to that effect! I looked at the time, remembered the road and decided to wait – but I think I almost cried into my beer at dinner when Paul Dodd showed me pictures.
Cape Gannet showing long gular stripe

After the pelagic on Sunday a convoy of cars headed to Point Danger but there was no Cape Gannet to be seen. I was staying the night so I went back at 0800 on Monday morning. It was a beautiful morning with no wind and bright sunshine, but no Cape Gannet. Hmmm, bother, again. I wanted to see an Olive Whistler for my year list so I drove the 65 km to Nelson (not Cape Nelson) and saw the bird and was back at Point Danger by 1200. I set my scope up on the viewing platform and the very first bird I looked at was the Cape Gannet. Yeeeeaaa! A quick dance around the tripod, another look, another dance – then it was time for some photos.
The colony on Point danger. Cape Gannet is bottom left.

Photos of birds standing still can be a bit boring but I took photos of the long black gular stripe and the all black tail. Another gannet arrived, an Australian Gannet, and neither bird stood still. There was lots of displaying with splayed wings and raised necks – and then they really started moving, they were pollinating! Well, being a nice girl that’s what I choose to call it (smile), others call it “copulating” or, or, no I can’t even type that word (smile).

The Cape Gannet went into display before his mate landed, I wonder if she called to him or did he just see her?

After some mutual displaying and the female had done some nest tidying the birds started "pollinating".

... but after it was over she quickly moved away and dumped him on the ground

It was then the male's turn to re-arrange the nesting material 

... and then go into another display while his mate preened

 A deep final bow to his mate, who wasn't even watching.
After watching the bird for about an hour I rang Paul and told him I had seen it, then headed off to fill the car with petrol, me with lunch, and start the long drive home. My photos are nowhere near as good as Paul’s but they are good enough for the record and they do show the birds “moving”.

All images and text © Jenny Spry


  1. Only us birders can get excited about seeing a bird that looks identical to the hundreds of other birds surrounding it, except for the longer black stripe down its throat. I enjoyed this post, you have a nice writing style! :)

    1. Thanks for the nice feedback Christian. I agree, it is a very small difference from its neighbours but in Australia, what a difference. And Gannets are so elegant too, I really enjoy them.

  2. Great pictures. They are all super birds for me but good job and effort and thanks for sharing.