The BAYBOCA trip to Mud Island on Sunday 24 February was in perfect conditions.
Sea absolutely flat, morning overcast but clearing later, very light breeze.
We first travelled along the coast towards the Rip, getting brief views of a
Little Penguin and a small pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins. A leisurely chug
around Pope's Eye brought wonderfully close views of Australasian Gannets of
all ages, Black-faced Cormorants and at least 30 Ruddy Turnstones. An
Australian Fur-seal lazed on the rocks. Wedge Light was entirely deserted - no
birds at all. This had been reported from the BOCA Bay Trip on the preceding
weekend. Our final stop before Mud Island was to the Caisson, or Chinaman's
Hat, which seems to be rapidly disintegrating. It was however covered in
seals. The nearby replacement that was built last year actually had two seals
on it. Perhaps when it smells more "fishy" the other seals may move over there.
We finally reached Mud Island and were then ferried to the sand bank in the
dinghy. From the sand bank we waded a hundred metres or so into shore, never
more than knee deep in water. Whilst waiting for the dinghy, we scanned the
shoreline and surrounding waters and saw various cormorants, gulls, Pied
Oystercatchers, Black Swans (in large numbers), terns and waders. Those
reaching the shore quickly put up their scopes, checking out both the shoreline
and what could be seen of the central lagoon. Once everyone was ashore, Alex,
the marine biologist from the Marine Discovery Centre in Queenscliff, surprised
everyone by offering tea, coffee and biscuits. What a civilised way to start !
We then made our way to the lagoon to check out the birdlife. Unfortunately,
as soon as we arrived a large flock of knot and godwits took off and headed
over towards Swan Bay. It seems the tides were not in our favour. In fact, by
mid-afternoon there were no waders at all around the lagoon. However, in the
morning we had large flocks of Red-necked Stint and Curlew Sandpiper, with
Red-capped Plover, Double-banded Plover, a few Lesser Sand Plover, Grey Plover
and the odd Red Knot. Pelicans were grouped at one side of the lagoon and
included some well-grown babies. We slowly made our way along one side of the
lagoon to the other end of the island where we stopped for a well-earned lunch.
The White-faced Storm-petrel that graced us with its presence last year at
lunchtime failed to put in an appearance, but had obviously arranged to be
replaced by the two Arctic Jaegers that flew past.
After lunch, we walked around the western half of the island back to our pickup
point. The receding tide had left extensive mud and sand banks around the
island, attracting a horde of stint, sandpipers, plovers, turnstones,
oystercatchers, herons, ibis and gulls. Additional highlights were several
raptors : Swamp Harrier, Little Eagle, Brown Falcon and Black-shouldered Kite.
Back at the pickup point, we slowly made our way back to the boat. The wind
had picked up somewhat since the morning and it was a rather choppy return with
quite a bit of spray. However we were soon safely docked and unloaded at
Portsea, ready for the long drive home.
Trip list :
Little Pied Cormorant
Australian White Ibis
Pacific Golden Plover
Lesser Sand Plover
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