Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Intermission Birding

Fairy Prion

Wandering Albatross (Antipodean)

Big birding trips are great fun to plan and do but in the intervals between them are all the glorious days when the sun is out and the wind is soft and the birds wander about their business. Over the last few weeks I have done a pelagic trip out of Portland, Victoria, and a couple of trips down to my favourite playground, the Western treatment Plant.
The course to the shelf edge (thanks to Google Earth)

Doing a pelagic trip out of Portland is a social event with a meal organised at the local hotel the night before where there is a chance to chat with old friends, all dyed-in-the-wool pelagic-tragics, and get to know the new passengers for the trip. It is interesting to watch people's meal choices too as some hoe into a massive steak and chips meal with a couple of beers. Others go a lighter route with fish and chips and a glass of wine, and a few don't eat at all, depending on ones propensity to seasickness and beliefs about aversion tactics in the hope of a sickness free trip. I strike a middle ground with fish and chips and a nice dark beer.
The Southern Pride at the dock in Portland at 0700. She is a very comfortable boat that takes 12 passengers

The trip itself means a 25 nautical mile ride out to the edge of the continental shelf so in winter it is still dark when we board the boat at 0700. When we get back at about 1630 most of us have a 4 or 5 hour drive back to Melbourne so we disperse from the dock as fast as the seabirds disappear from behind the boat when the berly runs out.
We found this trawler out at the shelf edge with a big flock of Shy and Black-browed Albatross behind it. As you can see, the sea was not rough .......

... but there were some big swells running, left over from the gales of the previous day.

There was also a group of fur seals resting and cleaning up behind the trawler.

To make a good pelagic birding trip off southern Australia there needs to be some wind so that the birds lift off the water and fly but, hopefully, not so much wind that we all get wet and cold. The week before the trip there had been gales but they died down on the Saturday and on Sunday all that was left was a gentle blow from the west. The number of birds was not great but the variety was there with Wandering (Antipodean and possibly Snowy) Albatross, Southern Royal Albatross, heaps of prions including Slender-billed and Antarctic, shearwaters and Wilson's and Grey-backed Storm-Petrels. 
Grey-backed Storm-Petrel

Sooty Shearwater

Short-tailed Shearwater

Black-browed Albatross

Campbell Albatross

Slender-billed Prion

Southern Royal Albatross

Northern Giant Petrels

Immature Black-browed Albatross

Shy Albatross
Silver Gull

A sampling of birds from three trips to the Western Treatment Plant over the last few weeks.
Blue-billed Duck

Immature Blue-winged Parrots

Banded Stilt

Golden-headed Cisticola

Male Musk Duck trying to impress a female with his displaying

White-headed Stilts and Silver Gulls on the bay

All text & images © Jenny Spry