Birding the Eastern Bass Strait

To: <>
Subject: Birding the Eastern Bass Strait
From: "Simon Mustoe" <>
Date: Tue, 1 Jan 2002 18:33:27 +1100
Birding aussies,

I am afraid I am a newcomer not only to birding-aus but also the entire
Australian birding scene. I apologise for being slow off the mark with these
reports which come at the conclusion of work on board a vessel in the Bass
Strait south of Lakes Entrance. I have also been more than a little cautious
with identification and therefore some of the more commonly expected species
may be conspicuously absent from the list considering I spent four weeks at
sea. It was also not the intention of the trip to spend the time sea-birding
and therefore other species of greater general interest will have been

The sightings concern general seabird and three migrant passerine species
during two periods, the first being the last week of October - second week
of November and the second being the second and third week of December.
Seabird species diversity was generally disappointing but perhaps as
expected given that I was mainly working in shallow water (<100m deep). Shy
Albatross were relatively abundant compared to Black-browed Albatross and
there was the occasional lone Northern Giant Petrel. The highlight was
encountering seabirds amassed around a putrid floating whale carcass which
harboured 3-400 Wilson's Storm Petrels, Northern Giant Petrel, many
Short-tailed Shearwaters and a single Cape Petrel. Cape Petrel was also seen
on two other occasions during strong weather elsewhere in the Strait. Closer
inspection of the carcass also provided extremely close views of a Great
White Shark!!

Other seabird hotspots were around Wilsons Promontory and Flinders Island.
Areas of productivity near Flinders and about 100Nm south of Lakes Entrance
yielded relatively large numbers of Prions (mainly Fairy Prion and perhaps
one other species which it is currently beyond my experience to assume a
species for) and White-faced Storm Petrels. Waters around Wilson's
Promontory were viewed during exceptionally calm weather; Common Diving
Petrels being a welcome addition to the trip list.

Short-tailed Shearwaters were by far the most abundant seabird flocking in
rafts numbering 10s of 1000s near Snapper oilrig in early November but
becoming less centralised in their distribution towards December with the
largest numbers coinciding with Antarctic weather fronts. Fluttering
Shearwaters became more common towards December particularly nearer the
Lakes Entrance coastline where they and S-t Shearwaters were feeding on
massing shoals of ?Mackerel. Here too, Pomarine Skuas and occasional Arctic
and Great Skuas were aggressively feeding.

Other birds encountered during the trip include Common Tern, White-fronted
Tern, Crested Tern and all the Cormorants.

Migrant passerines included Satin Flycatcher - one male seen well for
several minutes and a number of females flying around the boat; Flame
Robin - one male described as having a bright red breast (not seen by
myself) and one female (seen in the second week of December); and a single
Sacred Kingfisher.


Simon Mustoe.

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