Christmas Day birding

To: "" <>
Subject: Christmas Day birding
From: Ian May <>
Date: Mon, 27 Dec 2010 09:20:46 +1100
g'Day all

We pulled anchor at 0300, Christmas morning for the apprehensive south run across the often rough stretch of water known as Banks Strait. This was the best time of day to try and beat the relentless winds of the past week or two on our quest searching the southern Furneaux Group for breeding White-fronted Terns.

The wind was calm as we departed Cape Barren Island and soon we were passing through the narrows between Forsyth and Passage Islands with a 3 knot current on our stern. It was dark and misty entering Banks Strait at about 0430 for the two hour steam across to Cape Naturaliste. As we passed east of Swan Island the sea was glassy but unsettled as first light appeared and it was a little startling to observe sea whirlpools everywhere caused by the strong spring tidal currents racing through the strait but these eddies had little effect on S.V. Vulcan as she sailed south through them at about 9 knots

As daylight emerged a fresh NW wind sprang from the western mist and it was apparent we were amongst clouds of Short-tailed Shearwaters, a myriad of them spiraling glissading swooping and soaring around the boat, all of them flying east and as far as we see to the north and south of us. In any direction there were thousands of them and this is how it remained for the next hour until we approached black reef when suddenly the activity was north and behind us as we approached the Tasmanian coast. By now the sun had risen and with it a NW wind which had now settled to a pleasant 20 knots off the starboard quarter.

Suddenly from just under the bow, we flushed a raft of Diving Petrel (30+), they scattered to the east towards the rising sun. I looked around for more as I grabbed my stowed camera but after 5 minutes no more were seen so I stowed the camera again. But it wasn't long after and we flushed another flock of 50+ diving petrels so, quickly grabbing the camera and just as Murphy decreed, I was now looking at a screen message saying insufficient battery. Then another flock of Diving Petrels and then another. It is more usual for Diving petrels to occur in smaller scattered groups and this is the first time I have seen larger compact flocks of them. Large breeding colonies are not far from here.

Anyway we were approaching the hazardous seas between Cape Naturaliste and Eddystone Point so it was probably best not to allow too many distractions. As we passed George Rocks there were two larger colonies of Crested Terns most still sitting.

At 11 00 we entered the St Helens Barway near high tide and were tied up at the wharf by midday, then a crash out sleep waking in time for Pat to prepare a magnificent later xmas dinner sharing some of what could have been some of Tony Russell's turkey.

Merry Christmas and happy new year to you all.

Pat and Ian May

St Helens Tasmania


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