BirdLife Australia pelagic trip off Eaglehawk Neck, Tas 17 Feb 2013

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Subject: BirdLife Australia pelagic trip off Eaglehawk Neck, Tas 17 Feb 2013
From: Rohan Clarke <>
Date: Sun, 24 Feb 2013 18:00:01 +1100
Hi All,

The BirdLife Australia pelagic got out off Eaglehawk Neck, SE Tasmania last weekend. The trip was an outstanding success (see below). The next scheduled trips are for July 27th and 28th and September 14th and 15th 2013. All trips are at present fully booked but contact me if you wish to be on the waitlist for any.

Rohan Clarke

Sunday 17th Feb 2013

OBSERVERS: Paul Dodd, Ruth Woodrow, John Tongue, Shirley Tongue, Peter Tongue, Kimberley Tongue, Peter Menkhorst, Els Wakefield, Johny Loy, Jeanie Churchward, Ian Churchward & Rohan Clarke (organiser and report compiler).

WEATHER: Clear cloudless sky throughout the day. Warm thanks to a northerly airstream that had persisted for 24+ hrs. Initially a 10-15 knot northerly wind, increasing to 25 knots by midday and gusting to 30 as we started heading in. Fortunately, as conditions worsened we were well placed to return with a following sea. Unfortunately with the strong northerly wind the boat was always held at the southern end of any berley trail meaning we were mostly looking directly into the sun through the middle of the day - combined with the bumps of a 1-2 m sea it was tough for photography.

SEA: A fairly lively sea with small swell. The boat seemed to handle this well and when underway the trip wasn’t too rough. There was some intermittent spray and a few did get damp highlighting the value of wet weather gear on these trips. A small 0.5 m swell building to 1 m beyond the shelf. Moderate chop (to 2 m) meant we did rock and roll at times when stationary. No one seasick.

ACTIVITY: Departed Pirates Bay Wharf at 0715. Headed directly to the shelf break on a more northerly route than usual owing to the forecast of strong northerly winds (we wanted to get beyond the shelf well to the north so that we'd have a following sea on the return leg as conditions deteriorated). For this reason we skipped the Hippolytes entirely (and the low numbers of gannets, gulls, terns and cormorants recorded for the day reflects this). Relatively quite inshore, good numbers of birds on over the 50 to 70 fathom zone, especially Short-tailed Shearwaters. Crossed the shelf break (100 fathoms) at 0900 before making our first stop at 42º54.78’S 148º19.70’E over 245 fathoms of water. Here we berleyed with chicken skin, fish frames and tuna oil. A second stop was made at 42º54.22’S 148º21.19’E over 400 fathoms of water and then a final stop was made back just inside the shelf break at 42º52.95’S 148º18.28’E over 75 fathoms. Headed back in at 1320 to dock at about 1515.

MAMMALS and other critters:
Australian Fur Seals. 1 inshore in the AM and 1 pelagic at the second berley point.
Also an Ocean Sunfish at the second berley point

BIRDS: 25 species beyond the point at Pirates Bay is a good count for a Tasmanian pelagic. Highlights were the exceptional numbers of small petrels, notably Cook’s, Gould’s and Mottled Petrels. In the northerly wind the birds were streaming in from the north and west and proceeding in a southerly and easterly direction away from the boat. Except for the Albatross few birds seemed to come in against the wind.

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel: 13 (4) 2 offshore in PM, remainder pelagic.

Grey-backed Storm-Petrel: 5 (2). All pelagic.

White-faced Storm-Petrel: 40 (20). 5 offshore in PM, remainder pelagic.

Wandering Albatross: 4 on plumage. All pelagic. All appeared to be gibsoni. 1 older immature remainder adult-like.

Black-browed Albatross: 2 presumed nominate race, 1 an older immature and the other a juvenile. Both pelagic.

Shy Albatross: 30 (6). All cauta. 2 inshore, 10 offshore, remainder pelagic. 1 juv offshore, 2 imm pelagic, remainder adult.

Yellow-nosed Albatross: 1 adult pelagic.

Buller’s Albatross: 60 (15). 8 pelagic, 14 inshore, 11 offshore in AM but up to 25 offshore in the PM. The dominant albatross species in offshore waters. All adult

Short-tailed Shearwater: ~50,000 (10,000). 600 offshore in the AM but then a broad and often continuous band in pelagic waters, this band shifted into offshore waters around midday so that we passed back through it on the return leg. Quite a spectacle!

Sooty Shearwater: 4 (2). 1 inshore, 2 offshore and 1 pelagic - undoubtedly more were overlooked amongst the masses of Short-tailed Shearwaters.

Fluttering Shearwater: 16 (6). 3 inshore in the AM, 12 offshore in the AM and another in the PM.

Huttons Shearwater: 1 (backed by a record photo) offshore in the PM.

White-chinned Petrel: 55 (20). 3 offshore in AM, 5 offshore in PM, remainder pelagic.

Great-winged Petrel: 10(4). All NZ gouldi. Most pelagic but 1 in offshore waters in the PM.

White-headed Petrel: 5 (2). Most pelagic at berley points but the fifth individual was in offshore waters in the PM. One individual had a curiously uniform grey head suggestive of Soft-plumaged Petrel when viewed from below.

COOK’S PETREL: 3 different individuals (all photographed) as flybys at the first berley point and as we moved to the second point. Although it passed through fairly quickly the first bird provided excellent views as it was picked up at distance then proceeded to fly right into the back of the boat before continuing on. The other two birds were less accommodating. These are the third summer records we've had off Eaglehawk Neck since 2010.

GOULD’S PETREL: 30 (4). A steady stream of flybys at each of the three berley stops and an additional individual in offshore waters in the PM. A few made 2-5 passes through the berley trail. A few photos here:

Soft-plumaged Petrel: 1 very distant as we stopped at the first berley point. Normally a species that is placed in capital letters, the bird was so distant that, at best, views were 'rubbish'.

MOTTLED PETREL: 18 (2). Mostly pelagic at berley points but two in offshore waters in the PM. As is typical of this species only a couple made multiple passes through the berley trail with most just 'whipping by'. A few photos here:

Little Penguin: 1 inshore in the AM.

Australasian Gannet: 8 (3). 6 inshore in the AM, 2 inshore in the PM.

Black-faced Cormorant: 3 (2). 1 inshore in the AM, 2 inshore in the PM.

Crested Tern: 5 (3). 3 inshore in the AM, 2 inshore in the PM.

Kelp Gull: 9 inshore in the AM.

Silver Gull: 13 inshore in the AM.

Rohan Clarke

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