A late report on the seabird trip in mid-November.
Despite poor weather leading up to the weekend, an excellent trip:
Seabird Trip, Eaglehawk Neck (SE Tasmania) 17/11/96
Bill & Maggie Wakefield
As the boat rounded the headland to make our way out to the Hippolyte, two
adult sea eagles alighted in the upper branches of a gum tree and were
promptly joined by a sub-adult, providing good views for the overseas
members of the party. On leaving the confused swell under the nearby
cliffs, Giant Petrels began to appear, one of whose number very
considerately sat in the water only metres off our stern. Its pink tinged
tip to the lower mandible clearly visible to all. Regrettably the others of
this species did not allow us the benefit of discerning their species,
although more plentiful on this excursion than on any previous one.
After close inspection of the seal colony on the Hippolyte it was
disconcerting to see a large bull seal with a loop of thick rope cutting
into his neck, and another with a piece of its flank missing to remind us
that man is not the only predator in these parts. A solitary Ruddy
Turnstone flew from the rock at our approach and a solitary Little Penguin
dived beneath the surface only a few metres from a large number of
frolicking Fur Seals.
The southerly moving stream of Short-tailed Shearwaters were temporarily
left behind as we pushed for the edge of the Continental Shelf and for a
while there was little activity though this did not last long as first ones
and twos of Fairy Prions built into flocks of 50 and 60 then to a 100 or
more. Eventually the flocks which in most cases were sitting on the sea
broke up and birds were every where for over three hours of the trip.
Although Shy Albatross were seen from the cliffs before we set to sea only
a few approached the boat along with a total of 5 Black Browed Albatross,
all of which were immature birds. Four sightings of Wandering Albatross
were almost certainly of only two birds, one of which had the clown face.
The White-chinned Petrels followed us constantly out at The Shelf and were
joined by a Westlands Petrel only two or three metres from us as they
competed for fish scraps tossed out by our decky, known to us as Captain
Curly. The only other species to show an interest in the provender on offer
were three Great winged Petrels and the 16 or more Cape Petrels. All others
showed no more than the briefest of notice if they even accorded us that
honour as they went about their business.
In addition, 34 Wilson's Storm Petrels, 3 Great Winged Petrels, 15 Goulds
Petrels, 8 Grey Backed Storm Petrels, 4 Mottled Petrels, 2 White Headed
Petrels, 3 Fluttering Shearwaters and 4 Diving Petrel helped to entertains
us. Others which frustrated us were a party of 3 and a single tern,
probably White Fronted rather than Common or Arctic, and an unconfirmed
Pomarine Skua (poor views).
The huge dorsal fin of a male Killer Whale moving towards the Hippolyte was
later followed by three animals passing along the starboard side, and
heading in a southerly direction. An hour or so later while still out off
the edge of The Shelf a very large whale was seen on the fish scanner as
it moved at great depth beneath us. Our skipper had difficulty in
persuading the party to head back to port the day was so full.
As we returned past The Hippolyte, Black Faced Cormorants were dropping in
from a tremendous height onto the island after a day out foraging for fish.
Gathered under the northern side of the island were 17 Giant Petrels
causing further calls to halt our return to shore.
Our thanks are due to Mr and Mrs Phillip Maher of Inland Bird Tours who
organised the trip along with the patient skipper of the Pauletta, John