Birds Australia Victoria pelagic trip off PORT FAIRY, VIC, 4 September 2005
OBSERVERS: Geoff Walker, Frank Pierce, Steve Clark, Clive Garland, Frank
Rheindt, Jim Caine, Glenn White, Rob Berry, Dave Torr, Gail D'Alton, Andrew
Wells, Brian Johnston & Rohan Clarke (organiser/report compiler).
WEATHER: Conditions were overcast with total cloud cover in the early am
clearing to blue skies by 10 am and remaining that way for the rest of the day.
Conditions were therefore bright with good visibility throughout Cool.
Generally calm (too still!), though an occasional breeze to 5 knots was
SEA: Glassy calm for most of the day. An occasional ripple was as rough as it
got which is quite remarkable given not one of six attempts at a trip in August
got out due to the poor weather! Swell was irregular but gentle and mostly
1.5-2 m. No one seasick.
ACTIVITY: Sailed at ~0655 EST. After a short detour soon after leaving the
river for a distant large whale (which disappeared) we headed directly to the
shelf break with a couple of short stops for aggregations of birds on the way.
Reasonable numbers of birds (mostly prions and small albatross) in offshore
waters around the 60-70 fathom mark. We crossed the shelf break (100 fathoms)
at around 0935. We stopped and berleyed with shark liver at three locations,
first near the shelf break at 38º49.06'S 141º53.04'E, then in 600 fathoms of
water at 38º52.53'S 141º48.69'E and then back in 110 fathoms at 38º48.11'S
141º48.53'E. At all three stops the birds took some time to build to reasonable
numbers. Headed back in at ~1300 arriving at Lady Julia Percy Island at 1450.
Stayed with the fur seals for a while before making the final run back to Port
Fairy where we docked at 1610.
Common Dolphin: A feature of offshore waters with 7 different groups of between
2 and 20 individuals encountered in offshore waters. Most groups joined the
boat and rode the bow wave for a period.
Sperm Whale. Two adults beyond the shelf and over a 600 fathom 'hole' were
watched for some time as they gathered their breath before deep diving. In the
calm conditions excellent views were obtained and this was probably the
highlight of the day.
Unidentified large cetacean close inshore to Port Fairy as we departed. The
blow suggested humpback but this was a very brief sighting of a distant animal
and identification was far from certain.
40 or so Australian Fur Seals at sea in inshore and offshore waters in addition
to 1000's on Lady Julia Percy Island.
BIRDS: 22 species beyond the river mouth indicated average diversity. Birding
highlights were a Slender-billed Prion and an unseasonal (though not
unprecedented) Buller's Albatross. Generally though, in the exceptionally calm
conditions, bird numbers were low and it took some time to attract birds to the
boat at each stop.
Little Penguin: 1 offshore and 2 inshore on the return leg.
Great-winged Petrel: 80 (30) all nominate race, all pelagic.
Cape Petrel 3 (2) all pelagic.
Fairy Prion: 800 (100) most over 60-70 fathoms. Beyond the shelf we attracted a
maximum of 10.
SLENDER-BILLED PRION: 1 at the last berley point in pelagic waters.
Southern Giant-Petrel: 4 immature individuals just off Griffith Island on the
return leg. 1 immature and 1 adult off Lady Julia Percy Island. Several other
immature Giant-Petrels not identified to species level was seen distantly in
inshore waters both on the way out and back in.
Northern Giant-Petrel: 1 immature just off Griffith Island on the return leg.
Wandering Albatross: 3 individuals (based on size and plumage) in pelagic
waters. At least one appeared to be gibsoni, while a particularly large
individual was probably exulens.
nom. race 30 (10), 10 pelagic, 13 offshore, 7 inshore. Largest number together
were seen in offshore waters on the way out. No impavida were seen.
Shy Albatross all cauta: 300 (150). 15 inshore, 220 offshore, remainder pelagic.
Yellow-nosed Albatross: 25 (5). 6 pelagic, 5 inshore remainder offshore.
BULLERS ALBATROSS: 1 adult in offshore waters with a large aggregation of Shy
Albatross feeding on fish being balled up by seals and dolphins. Unusual for
Sooty Shearwater: 2 together in offshore waters.
Fluttering Shearwater: 3 in inshore waters in the am.
Hutton's Shearwater: 1 in offshore waters in the pm (though five other
'fluttons' in the same area may have been the same species).
Australasian Gannet: 500 (100), 50 inshore, 2 pelagic, remainder offshore.
Southern Skua: 1 pelagic.
Pacific Gull: 1 first year bird in inshore waters in the afternoon. (a couple
of adults around the breakwater also).
Kelp Gull: 8 on Lady Julia Percy Island.
Silver Gull: 12 on Lady Julia Percy Island.
Crested Tern: 40 (10) mostly in inshore waters in the am though 5 pelagic.
Black-faced Cormorant: 1 on Lady Julia Percy Island.
On Lady Julia Percy Island, Common Starling (2), White-fronted Chat (3),
Skylark (1), Welcome Swallow (10+), Sooty Oystercatcher (3), Nankeen Kestrel
(1) and Swamp Harrier (1) rounded out the list.
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