Here is the final report for how the Port Fairy Pelagics went for 2003 (as
this was when I started organising them, taking over from Mike Carter, who
had organised them out of Port Fairy and Portland for many prior years).
For details of future Portland trips, go to the BirdLife Australia web
site at the bottom of the relevant Birdlife Victoria page at
For reports of past BA-Vic and BirdLife Victoria trips from Portland and
Port Fairy, search the Birding-Aus archives for the trip reports at
PELAGIC BIRDING IN 2003 FROM PORT FAIRY, VICTORIA
By Chris Lester
VICTORIAN PELAGIC BIRDING IN 2003
Trips in 2003 – a bumper year. 2003 was exceptional because an unusually
high number of trips (a total of nine) got out. As well, there was some
terrific bird-watching as several noteworthy pelagic birds turned up. I
have included details of the December 2002 trip, as otherwise it would be
unreported and was an excellent trip worthy of mention. It was also quite
unusual for when they went. For the 2002 / 2003 summer, all three trips
(which includes December 2002) got out. All three autumn trips also went.
It was winter that was strangely subdued, as only the August trip was
held. Spring was better than normal with two trips and the December 2003
trip got out as well. Considering that the September trip was not
cancelled due to weather (the boat driver was ill and a replacement could
not be found), it was certainly a bumper year.
The common pelagic bird species
The birds usually seen year round in good numbers were very much in
evidence on most trips. These were Little Penguin, Great-winged Petrel,
Short-tailed and Fluttering Shearwaters, Shy, Black-browed and Yellow-nosed
Albatrosses, Australasian Gannet, Black-faced Cormorant, Silver, Pacific
and Kelp Gulls and Crested Tern. As might be expected, Common
Diving-Petrel, Fairy Prion, Sooty Shearwater, Wandering Albatross and
Wilson’s and Grey-backed Storm-Petrels were recorded on many trips but in
lower or variable numbers. One exceptional omission was that we didn’t see
a Black-browed Albatross on the October trip. This is the first time in
over 100 trips that this species was not recorded.
2003 seasonal variation
The regular summer additions in 2003 were White-chinned Petrel,
Flesh-footed Shearwater and White-faced Storm-Petrel. The autumn regulars
that turned up were Flesh-footed Shearwater, White-faced Storm-Petrel and
Arctic and Pomarine Jaegers. In May, there was an early Cape Petrel.
In winter, we saw Southern and Northern Giant-Petrels, Cape Petrel and
Great Skua. Regular spring birds that turned up were Cape and
White-chinned Petrels, Hutton’s Shearwater and White-faced Storm-Petrel.
Pomarine and Arctic Jaegers were notable by their absence.
It was a very good year for rare seabirds. The 2003 highlights were:
January - Soft-plumaged Petrel, Buller’s and Little Shearwaters and Royal
(northern race) Albatross.
February - White-headed and Gould’s Petrels and Long-tailed Jaeger. An
unseasonal Northern Giant-Petrel.
March - Buller’s Albatross and Great Skua (and an unidentified
April - Buller’s and Sooty Albatrosses and Long-tailed Jaeger.
May - Soft-plumaged Petrel and Sooty Albatross.
August - Slender-billed Prion.
October - Nothing exceptional.
November - Black-bellied Storm-Petrel and Arctic Tern.
December - White-headed Petrel, Wandering (races gibsoni and antipodensis),
Royal (both southern and northern races) and Buller’s Albatrosses.
Unseasonal Southern and Northern Giant-Petrels and Great Skua.
December 2002 was also an exceptional trip with White-headed, Cook’s (our
first ever) and Gould’s Petrels, Shy (race salvini) and Wandering (race
gibsoni) Albatrosses and Long-tailed Jaeger. As well, an unusual petrel
flew past that was possibly a Barau’s Petrel but this could not be
The non-birding highlights from Port Fairy included two exceptional
cetaceans – 2 Blue Whales in April and 5 Sei Whales in November.
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