BOCA pelagic report Eaglehawk Neck, Tas 28th Nov

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Subject: BOCA pelagic report Eaglehawk Neck, Tas 28th Nov
From: Rohan Clarke <>
Date: Mon, 29 Nov 2010 22:42:29 +1100
Hi All,
The Bird Observation and Conservation Australia (BOCA) pelagic got out off Eaglehawk Neck, Tasmania on the weekend. Despite the rather strong winds it was a good trip.


Sunday 28th Nov 2010

OBSERVERS: Geoff Bromfield, Mike Bysouth, Joe Gilmour, Sam Gilmour, Chris Lester, Rosemary Lester, Elizabeth Lloyd, Marlene Lyell, Simon Nevill, Roger Pedley, John Stirling, & Rohan Clarke (organiser and report compiler).

WEATHER: Fairly heavy cloud through much of the day with occasional short grabs of sunlight breaking through. Combined with a few patches of light drizzle in the AM and a lively sea, conditions were not the best for photography. As the trip departed just hours after a fast moving cold front passed over Tasmania it was quite cold for a late November trip. Initially a 25 knot south westerly wind, with occasional gusts to 30 knots on the way out. This eased slightly through the middle of the day to 20 knots and remained there on the return leg.

SEA: A fairly lively sea with moderate swell. At the shelf there was a 1.5 to 2.5 m swell with moderate chop (to 1 m) meaning we did pitch about a bit, especially when side-on to the sea. Inshore, and especially when in the lee of the cliffs of Tasman Peninsula, conditions were quite mild. There was relatively little spray when underway but the strong breeze combined with some slop at the shelf meant we copped a few splashes and a bit of spray during the drift and berley session.

ACTIVITY: Departed Pirates Bay Wharf at 0735 EST. Headed east out of Pirates Bay and along the coast to level with the Hippolytes before running across to ‘the rock’ with a following sea and on out to the shelf. A few birds inshore including many gannets plunge diving close in to the cliffs, a dense band of shearwaters and accompanying albatross just past the Hippolytes and a second band of shearwaters and other seabirds just inshore of the shelf edge. We crossed the shelf break (100 fathoms) at 0930 before making a single long drift and berley session for the day. With a 20+ knot wind we drifted over 10 km along the shelf edge. Our berley session ended near 42º59.08’S 148º15.01’E at 1245. Because of the conditions we didn’t travel beyond the shelf as we would normally do and consequently the maximum depth achieved for the day was just ~120 fathoms. Berley was a mix of chicken skin, tuna frames and fish oil. Again because of the rough sea, on the return leg we tracked to a point below the cliffs a few km to the west of Pirates Bay before running along the coast into the harbour. This different route paid off as we had three Humpback Whales lunge feeding at the surface close inshore. We watched this spectacle for nearly 40 mins, at times close enough to smell the breath of these magnificent animals, before the final run home. Disembarked at ~1500.

MAMMALS: Australian Fur Seals perhaps 20 on the Hippolytes (probably more as we didn’t circumnavigate it). Also 2 offshore in the am and 3 offshore in the pm.

Common Dolphin: A single pod of ~8 in relatively shallow water about 1 km outside of Pirates Bay in the AM.

(Oceanic) Bottle-nosed Dolphin: A huge pod of 80+ in the PM over 60 fathoms of water. It is very unusual to see such a large aggregation of Bottle-nosed Dolphins. Much leaping clear of the water allowed us to confirm IDs on at least 30 individuals and the rest appeared the same on size, colour and dorsal fin structure. Many albatross and shearwaters in attendance suggests they were actively feeding.

Humpback Whale: 2 distant animals in the AM close inshore to the east of Pirates Bay. These animals leapt clear of the water on one or two occasions and half clear of the water on many more occasions. In the PM close inshore to the west of Pirates Bay we encountered 3 animals that put on an incredible spectacle. Surface lunge feeding repeated in close proximity to the boat. No super-telephoto lenses required here…for most I imagine this was the highlight of the day. A couple of pics here… (first two pics in gallery)

BIRDS: 21 species beyond the entrance to Pirates Bay is low count for a Tasmanian pelagic. Highlights were large numbers of Wandering Albatross, good views of Southern Royal Albatross, Buller’s Shearwater and a very showy Long-tailed Jaeger. Gould’s Petrel would also have been a highlight but for the very brief views.

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel: 6 (3). All pelagic.

White-faced Storm-Petrel: 3 (1). All pelagic.

Wandering Albatross: 30 (12) good numbers of this species whilst at the shelf. All pelagic, except for 2 seen just inside the shelf in the AM. Almost all appeared to be gibsoni, with just one possible exulens.

SOUTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS: 1 immature pelagic. Another Royal Albatross seen very distantly was either a second immature Southern or a Northern Royal.

Black-browed Albatross: nominate race 18 – most were older immatures but also 2 adults. 2 offshore remainder pelagic.
impavida 3(2). all pelagic. Two adults and at least 1 older immature.

Shy Albatross: 100 (40). All cauta. 14 inshore, 30 offshore, remainder pelagic. All adult.

Northern Giant Petrel: 2 immature individuals and 1 young adult.

Fairy Prion: 1 offshore seen by just a couple of observers.

Short-tailed Shearwater: 10,000+ (2000). Mostly offshore as several dense bands of rapidly moving birds, but also many at the shelf and a flock of ~800 with the Humpback Whales in the PM.

Sooty Shearwater: 9 (2). 2 offshore, remainder pelagic.

Fluttering/Hutton’s Shearwater: A single unidentified bird at the shelf.

BULLER'S SHEARWATER: 8 (3). 1 inshore, 1 offshore, remainder pelagic.

White-chinned Petrel: 20 (5). 2 offshore, remainder pelagic.

Great-winged Petrel: 15 (3). All gouldi. All pelagic

GOULD'S PETREL: A single brief flyby at the shelf.

Australasian Gannet: 180 (100), 2 pelagic, remainder inshore. Also 200+ on the Hippolytes.

Black-faced Cormorant: 39 inshore, 5 offshore and 100 ashore on the Hippolytes.

LONG-TAILED JAEGER: 1 non-breeding adult at the shelf stayed with us for at least half an hour. Photos of the bird are here...

Crested Tern: 6 (3). 1 inshore, remainder at the shelf.

Kelp Gull: 7 inshore in the AM and at least 10 at the Hippolytes.

Silver Gull: 20 inshore and 150+ around the Hippolytes.

Also a ~2 m Mako Shark at the back of the boat nudging the fish oil dispenser.


Rohan Clarke


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