Around Port Fairy and a Pelagic – October 2016

On a cold and very windy Saturday, 15 photographers made their way to Port Fairy for a pelagic birding trip.  On the way many stopped off at well-known birding spots around the district.

Red-capped Plover - John Van Doorn

Red-capped Plover – John Van Doorn

Despite the weather there were quite a few bush birds about at Tower Hill including Long-billed Corella, Satin Flycatcher, Grey Fantail, Silvereye, Superb Fairy-wren, Brown Thornbill, Sacred Kingfisher, Rufous Whistler, Red-browed Finch and Australian Reed-warbler.  On the water there were Australian Shelduck but very few other waterbirds as seems to be the case at other wetlands around Victoria at the moment. Close encounters with Emus offered good photo opportunities.

Rufous Whistler - Rodger Scott

Rufous Whistler – Rodger Scott

The lake at Killarney Beach was also devoid of birds with the exception of a few Black Swan, a couple of Silver Gulls and a single Purple Swamphen on a nest.  The beach itself has been in the news for all the wrong reasons as horse-trainers have begun using it to exercise thouroughbreds after a horse trained there won last year’s Melbourne Cup.  There was a protest there on the Saturday and plenty of signs alerting users to beach-nesting birds, but some of the group still saw horses on the beach. Despite this we saw Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Kelp Gull, Red-capped Plover, Hooded Plover, Pied Oystercatcher, Red-necked Stint and Ruddy Turnstone. Despite Killarney Beach being recognised as one of the best spots to see Sanderling some of us are still to add them to our lists.

Yellow-rumped Thornbill - John Van Doorn

Yellow-rumped Thornbill – John Van Doorn

On Sunday morning 15 excited photographers gathered on Moyne Wharf at 6.45 am to board the Perceive. Cool and calm along the river, but blowing hard off-shore, the boat skipper decided to call the trip off at 7.30, due to rough conditions. Various options were canvassed. Ten of us could stay another day when the weather was predicted to be calmer with the wind strength abating.  We would again don the thermals and jackets and meet for a 6.30 am start on Monday.  Five disappointed souls headed back to Melbourne.  Frantic phone calls were made to find replacements to make up the boatload for the next day.

Wilson's Storm-Petrel - Stephen Garth

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel – Stephen Garth

Sunday was spent birding at Tower Hill, Killarney, Yambuk, the ponds around the town of Port Fairy, Griffiths Island and along the Moyne River.

White-chinned Petrel - Jill Wilson

White-chinned Petrel – Jill Wilson

Monday proved warmer and calmer as we motored out of the river and headed 50 km out to the edge of the continental shelf. We soon saw our first Shy Albatross, Australasian Gannet and Short-tailed Shearwaters. Everyone was in high spirits.  After a freshly brewed cup of tea we reached our first berley stop around 9 am and were soon surrounded by seabirds.

Campbell Albatross - Jill Wilson

Campbell Albatross – Jill Wilson

Shy  Albatross and White-chinned Petrels were abundant.  There were also plenty of Short-tailed Shearwaters.  Other birds seen were Northern Giant-Petrel, Wilson’s and Grey-backed Storm-petrel. A single Cape Petrel appeared, as did several Crested Tern and Grey-faced and Great-winged Petrels.

Grey-Backed Storm-Petrel - Ian Wilson

Grey-Backed Storm-Petrel – Ian Wilson

Among the highlights for most were Wandering Albatross, Southern Royal Albatross, Campbell Albatross with their stunning yellow eyes, Black-browed and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross.

Wandering Albatross, White-chinned Petrel and Short-tailed Shearwater - Jill Wilson

Wandering Albatross, White-chinned Petrel and Short-tailed Shearwater – Jill Wilson

We had several hours to watch and photograph these stunning birds as we drifted and motored further off-shore in perfect conditions.  No-one was seasick. As we headed for the 70 km trip home we were followed much of the way by about a hundred birds, mainly Shy Albatross and White-chinned Petrels, feeding on the berley being tossed overboard.It was a magnificent sight and a fitting end to a memorable day.

Shy Albatross - Stephen Garth

Shy Albatross – Stephen Garth

Jill Wilson

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