Here's a trip report for the pelagic that got out off Portland, western Vic on
the weekend. Now that the boat based at Port Fairy has been sold and trips from
there have ceased, this was a trial of a potential vessel for more regular use.
Chris Lester remains the primary organiser for the Birds Australia VicGroup
Pelagics off western Victoria. In due course he will make a post concerning
Pelagic off Portland, Victoria, Sun 7 November 2009
Participants: Chris Lester (organiser), Rosemary Lester, Peter Crabtree, Frank
Pierce, Anne-Maree Burgoine, John Barkla, Alison Street, Rohan Clarke (report
Activity: Departed Portland harbour jetty at 0715, passing between Lawrence
Rocks and Point Danger before heading south west to the shelf. Travelling at 20
knots we reached the shelf at 0845 and the first berley point at 0900 (38 44.15
E, 141 23.69 S ~450 m). Berleyed here till 1100 before moving out into deeper
water (1000m) for a second drift and berley session. Moving around an area
known locally as the Horseshoe we berleyed at a further two locations (over
500-800m and then later over 200-300m) before heading back in at 1505. Cruised
down the eastern side of Lawrence Rocks observing the thousands of gannets and
other wildlife ashore here before running back to the harbour, arriving at
1650. This was a fast boat (top speed that I noted for the day was 24 knots)
meaning one could expect to reach the shelf in just over an hour.
Conditions/Activity: Throughout the day the sea was calm on a very gentle swell
< 1m, while the wind was < 5 knots and variable. Generally bright, well lit
conditions with little cloud. These conditions made for a very pleasant day at
sea but the lack of wind meant bird activity was probably reduced with few
species/individuals actively seeking us out - a rather low count of 18 species
of bird recorded beyond the harbour breakwater reflects this. Highlight for the
day was the SOUTHERN FULMAR that stayed with us for over an hour. Otherwise a
little quite with few birds showing interest in the berley.
Bottle-nosed Dolphins: At least 3 on the way out in inshore waters.
Common Dolphin: Common in offshore waters. A group of 10 on the way out then
two pods (30 and 80) at distance from the first berley point. In offshore
waters on the return leg we passed through a dispersed pod of feeding animals
that numbered at least several hundred individuals.
Australian Fur Seal. 1 over the shelf at the last berley point, 2 in inshore
waters as we returned and about 15 hauled out on Lawrence Rocks.
Black-browed Albatross melanophris 2 (2). Both were immatures/sub-adults at the
first berley point.
Shy Albatross cauta: 50 (15). 2 in inshore waters, 4 in offshore waters,
remainder pelagic. All adults.
Yellow-nosed Albatross: 1. A sub-adult at the first berley point was the only
one for the day.
SOUTHERN FULMAR: 1. A single bird that came in at the first berley point and
stayed for over an hour before we left it sitting on the water. At times it
tugged at the berley bag just 1 m from the back of the boat and was too close
to photograph with telephoto lenses. Photographs of this bird can be found here.
Cape Petrel: 2 (1) but different birds on plumage. Both of the nominate race
with one at the first berley point and the other at the second berley point.
Northern Giant-Petrel: 1 An immature at the first berley point followed us to
our second stop. 2 distant giant-petrels in inshore waters and 1 in offshore
waters were not identified to species.
White-chinned Petrel: 4 (4) All together at the first berley point. Just a
single at the second berley point and no further birds noted for the remainder
of the day.
Common Diving Petrel: 4 (1). All pelagic and flying past whilst we berleyed.
Excellent views of several.
Great-winged Petrel: 15 (8). 13 gouldi (many in heavy primary moult) and 2
macroptera. All pelagic.
Wilson's Storm-Petrel: 8 (5). All pelagic.
Fairy Prion: 300 (100). 80 offshore, remainder pelagic. Generally 5-10 at
berley points but occasional larger rafts up to 100.
Short-tailed Shearwater: ~3000 (1500). Mostly offshore, but scattered birds
resting on the water throughout the day. Also one of the more common pelagic
species with up to 80 at a single berley stop. (No Sooty Shearwaters were seen).
Fluttering Shearwater: 2 (1). Both in inshore waters in the am.
Black-faced Cormorant: 1 inshore in the am, a second (or the same bird) on our
return in the pm and 85 ashore at Lawrence Rocks in the pm.
Crested Tern: 6 (2). 3 inshore, 3 pelagic.
White-fronted Tern 4 (2). Fairly tatty looking individuals with traces of
immature plumage. All pelagic. Surprisingly late birds.
Kelp Gull: 4 on Lawrence Rocks in the pm.
Pacific Gull: 2 on Lawrence Rocks in the pm.
Welcome Swallow (1) and Sooty Oystercatcher (2) on Lawrence Rocks rounded out
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