Point Danger, Victoria - Cape Gannet update and further detail

To: <>
Subject: Point Danger, Victoria - Cape Gannet update and further detail
From: "Paul Dodd" <>
Date: Mon, 7 Oct 2013 13:17:30 +1100
I've just heard from Jen Spry. She successfully located the Cape Gannet
today at lunchtime. She tried first thing this morning, without luck -
apparently most of the birds were feeding at sea. Once again, the bird was
on the eastern edge of the colony - the leftmost bird, on this occasion.


Paul Dodd

Docklands, Victoria


From: Paul Dodd  
Sent: Monday, 7 October 2013 11:11 AM
Subject: Point Danger, Victoria - Cape Gannet update and further detail


Hi all,


I thought I'd post an update on the Cape Gannet and site detail, for those
that are interested.


After Sunday's Portland pelagic, we took most participants back to the
gannet colony to see if we could find the Cape Gannet. Unfortunately, even
with 9 or 10 pairs of eyes and my scope, we could not relocate the bird.
Allowing for daylight savings time, we were probably at the colony about
three-quarters of an hour earlier than the previous day and remained for
about 40 minutes or more looking. We left Jen Spry at the colony, and I
believe that she is going back today to have another look.


Point Danger is Australia's only mainland gannet colony, so when conditions
are right, it offers unparalleled views of these birds. The colony is
double-fenced to prevent access to the nesting birds by both people and
foxes. Previously they had employed two dogs of the Maremma breed (used in
Italy to protect sheep from predators) - but as we found out, this program
had not been entirely successful at Point Danger and was now discontinued.
The main outer fence is about 2m high and has a padlocked gate. This fence
is perhaps 75m from the colony. The inner fence - which is now electrified -
is about 25m from the birds. A viewing platform has been built which offers
scope views of the colony - this platform is about 125m from the birds.


Access to the colony is from the Madeira Packet Road, which is a longish
loop road to the south of Portland, Victoria, very close to the aluminium
smelter. Access to the colony is by a gravel road and is marked "Point
Danger" (and several other nearby sites). Currently the road is severely
potholed with several deep ruts running across the road. It is possible to
access this road by 2WD. This road ends up at a paved circular road with car
parking and a lookout. From this area a gated track leads to the old rifle
range and the gannet colony. This track is clearly marked "Gannets". In my
opinion, this track is currently impassable to 2WD vehicles and a 4WD with
reasonable clearance would be required. The track is very deeply potholed
and rutted with murky water covering much of it - such that it is impossible
to tell the depth. The base of the track is solid rock, with a thin layer of
sand and leaf litter/soil on top - getting bogged is not the issue, but
getting a wheel stuck in one of the potholes (or damaging the underside of a
2WD car) would be possible. On Saturday we walked the track first, and Ruth
subsequently went back to collect the car. On Sunday we had our vehicle plus
two Subarus - all made it successfully. There is one particularly deep hole
- so it pays to follow the wheel tracks of other vehicles.


When we arrived on Saturday, we met one of the rangers/wardens/caretakers of
the site. He told us that vandals or thieves had been there the previous
evening and had used bolt cutters to remove the padlock and had stolen all
the webcams and security monitoring equipment that had been installed. He
was there to survey the damage and he told us he would be coming back to
replace the padlock. Anyway, after seeing our cameras, lenses and scope, he
realised that we were serious birders and allowed us access to the fenced of
section. This allowed us to get to the electrified fence, about 25m from the
gannets. Sure enough, when we returned on Sunday, the padlock had been
replaced with a very serious-looking unit, and no further access other than
to the viewing platform, or what could be seen from the gate and fence were


On Saturday we arrived at the colony around 5pm (AEST - so 6pm
daylight-savings time) and were basically there for an hour. We scanned the
colony completely with binoculars and scope a couple of times, seeing
nothing but Australasian Gannets. The number of birds on Point Danger
appears well down from the last time that Ruth and I were there. I would
estimate that there were around 200-300 birds, and I am sure that the last
time we were there (a couple of years ago), there would have been closer to
1000 birds. Ruth and I settled in to photograph the birds - there were
numerous pairs in courting displays, some birds already on nests and some
birds flying in with (and fighting over) nesting material. The wind was
strong which made photography challenging, but provided amazing
opportunities to see the gannets wind-hovering! I was concentrating on the
western side of the colony and Ruth was concentrating on the eastern side.
Ruth suddenly called out, "There's a bird with a longer throat stripe!" So
without really thinking about it, I snapped of a few shots. Then Tim Bawden
and I checked it with binoculars - long gular stripe - check! Pale iris -
check! All-black tail - check! To be honest, I am not sure that I could
differentiate this bird from the Australasian Gannets by any difference in
the golden colouring on the head and nape of neck, and - with all the calls
from the colony, there is no possibility of differentiating this bird by
voice (despite what some of the documentation and field guides say!)


After about 20 minutes of photographing the bird - the first ten minutes of
which it was grooming itself and rarely showing any of the pertinent
features, we then had about ten minutes of it displaying in spectacular
fashion. A truly wonderful sight! Ruth and I took about 500 photos each, I'm
not sure how many Tim took. As we were still driving back from Portland last
night, I haven't had the opportunity to process or publish any images yet,
but I will try to do so this evening and tomorrow. For those interested, the
bird was on the eastern edge of the colony, the "third from the left" at the
time we were viewing.


Paul Dodd

Docklands, Victoria



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