Great Shearwaters / Kermadec Petrel off St Helens, Tasmania

To: Birding-aus <>
Subject: Great Shearwaters / Kermadec Petrel off St Helens, Tasmania
From: John Leonard <>
Date: Tue, 12 Apr 2011 14:57:03 +1000
I hope these Great Shearwaters are still around in a month's time for
the May Sydney Pelagic.

However, these birds should be in the North Atlantic by now and have
taken a wrong turn, I hope they get enough food this winter. I was
concerned that the Sydney bird last week was feeding near the boat for
a long time (means it's hungry).

John Leonard

On 12 April 2011 12:11, Ian May <> wrote:
> g'Day all
> On Sunday afternoon (10/03/2011) with Pat May, Liz Znidersic and Geoff
> Lodge, we undertook a short trip off shore from St Helens searching for
> Great Shearwater.  I had seen one last week about 5 Nm off St Helens Point
> and in light of other reports from all around the country we were all keen
> to search for more, hoping perhaps to find a "hot spot" where a few might be
> hanging around.
> We departed at about 13.30 in the "Vulcan", sailing for about 5 Nm south
> east of St Helens Point.   Then turning south west and heading inshore
> eventually to circumnavigate Maraude (St Helens) Island then back out to sea
> again East for about 6 Nm.   Then we crisscrossed northwards passing close
> to Merricks Reef and St Helens Point and entering the Barway entrance to
> George Bay just before dark at about 1800 hrs and arriving home in the dark
> at about 1900.
> Although the afternoon trip commenced in light winds and calm seas, soon the
> wind was strengthening as a complex low pressure front approached.  An
> intense low pressure system was forecast and we could see spectacular cloud
> banks approaching from the south and simultaneously from the west across the
> mountain ranges.  From about 15.30 hrs, the wind sprung to the south east
> and was soon exceeding 25 knots and strengthening.  This marked the end of a
> week of mild and calm weather in NE Tasmania but within the hour, the
> southeasterly gale was building and the sea state deteriorating quickly.
> As the front approached, pelagic bird numbers increased remarkably.  From
> the presence of only a hundred or two Short-tailed Shearwater, a couple of
> dozen mixed Albatross Spp and a few Gannets and Gulls, the atmosphere became
> suddenly alive with thousands of pelagic seabirds.   Coming towards us from
> the south and first appearing as fast moving specs on the eastern horizon,
> soaring and then swooping out of nowhere flying rapidly downwind before the
> front and soon surrounding us in every direction.  I have often heard how
> seabirds can move before a low pressure front but this was a sight to see.
> From about 16.00 hrs to 17.40 hrs we sighted and photographed 4 separate
> Great Shearwaters, all solitary and flying rapidly down wind about between
> 4-6 Nm off shore.
> At 1710 hrs, as we approached Merrik Reef about two Nm off shore, a
> medium/large pale phase petrel swooped low past us and then soared high.
> Initially I thought it was another Great Shearwater. Both Liz and I followed
> it, firing our Canons supported by a brief moment of afternoon sunlight.
>  After reviewing the out of focus results, and because of its large size
> (20% greater than Short-tailed Shearwater) my initial leaning was towards
> Atlantic Petrel but after sharing the pics for an opinion and comments with
> experienced colleagues the id was clinched; a pale morph Kermadec Petrel.
>  Liz and I wish to thank Geoffrey Jones (See
> and Bill Wakefield for helping
> to confirm the identity of this bird.
> Not long after at about 17.40 hrs, we approached St Helens Point, another
> Great Shearwater soared past us no more than 300 metres off shore.  This one
> could have been scoped off land from St Helens Point.  What a fantastic
> afternoon we had and only a few hours at sea.   Then the rain started and it
> has not stopped since.
> Regards
> Ian May
> St Helens, Tasmania 7216
> Mob:  0428337956
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John Leonard

I want to be with the 99,999 other things.

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