An impromptu Tasmanian pelagic

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Subject: An impromptu Tasmanian pelagic
From: "Paul Dodd" <>
Date: Tue, 24 Sep 2013 14:28:47 +1000
The weekend before last word started coming in from Eaglehawk Neck in
Tasmania of what was perhaps the most spectacular pelagic in southern waters
(if not all of Australia) ever! It started with rumors of several
Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses, numbers of Blue Petrel, Grey Petrel and
other goodies on the Saturday and was compounded with stories of the "holy
trinity" of albatrosses - Sooty, Light-mantled Sooty and Grey-headed -
together with countless Blue Petrels, Grey Petrels, White-headed Petrels,
Fairy, Slender-billed, Antarctic and Salvin's Prions on the Sunday.

Come Monday morning I started formulating a plan to organise a pelagic out
of Eaglehawk Neck the following weekend (last weekend). I called Rohan
Clarke on Monday morning - not one much inclined towards hyperbole, I could
still hear the excitement in his voice when I asked him about the weekend
just gone. I broached the subject of a potential pelagic the following
weekend and he told me that Daniel Mantle (currently ex-Perth) was in the
midst of organising a follow-up pelagic, so with a quick call to him I
secured spots for Ruth and I on the trip for both days. As it transpired, I
had forgotten that we had a family function on the Saturday evening back in
Melbourne, so we had to pull out of the Sunday trip - allowing a couple of
others to take our spots.

Anyway, we headed down to Tasmania on Friday night full of excitement,
enthusiasm and above all an expectation couldn't be supressed. By 6:10am on
Saturday we were in the restaurant of the Lufra Hotel having breakfast.
Within a couple of minutes Christian Haass (Nikolas's brother) had appeared
for breakfast - it's a small world, we met Christian on a Debi Shearwater
pelagic out of Monterey Bay, California last year - so imagine the surprise
on his face when he shows up at a small hotel in Tasmania and sees us again!
Before long pelagic regulars Scott Baker and Kevin Bartram were there and
shortly Dan made an appearance - without a doubt there was a discernible
"buzz" in the air as we chatted about what we might see.

By 6:45 we were all on the jetty and a short time later on board and heading
out of the harbour. So far everything seemed normal - Kelp Gulls and Silver
Gulls in the harbour, the odd Little-pied and Black-faced Cormorant too. As
we headed towards the Hippolyte Rocks there was the occasional Common
Diving-petrel, the usual Gannets putting on a show, some Crested Terns and
even a single Shy Albatross following the boat. At the Hippolytes there were
the usual number of Black-faced Cormorants, Silver and Kelp Gulls, lots of
Australian Fur Seals - even a juvenile Sea Eagle.

Once we were past the rocks and heading out to sea things changed - well,
actually they didn't change - the flocks of Sooty Albatrosses, Blue Petrels
and Salvin's Prions totally failed to materialise. The hordes of
White-headed Petrels and Grey-headed Albatrosses had gone elsewhere. The
flocks of birds that we had noticed on the horizon when we were at the rocks
turned out to be Crested Terns in a feeding frenzy and the inevitable queue
of Short-tailed Shearwaters that we crossed on the way out and back in

What a difference a day makes, as the words to the song go - or in this
case, what a difference a week makes. Weather conditions last weekend were
similar to the weekend before. The sea temperature was about the same - but
there the similarities ended. In my experience it was perhaps the quietest
pelagic I can remember ever being on - both in terms of variety and number
of individual birds. Don't get me wrong, we had a few good birds - Wandering
Albatross (gibsoni) and Southern Royal Albatross - a couple of Northern
Giant Petrels, a single Cape Petrel and a single Grey-backed Storm-petrel. I
think, however, that the highlight was Christian yelling when a
White-chinned Petrel came in - a new bird for him (hardly surprising since
he lives in Germany and hasn't been on very many, if any, Southern Ocean

For those that are interested, I have posted some images of some of the
birds that we saw to my website:

Just don't go looking for any mega-rarities!

Paul Dodd
Docklands, Victoria


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