Thursday, November 14, 2013

A quiet day in the office

Last Friday we got the word that the Portland pelagic was on - two months in a row - almost unheard of! So following the usual Saturday morning swimming lessons I headed over to Preston for a lift down with Scott and Peter. There had been southerly winds in the days leading up so there was some expectation that something good would turn up. Had the usual steak and a couple of beers at Mac's and early to bed.

Up bright and early and down to board the Southern Pride with Dodgy and Nev running the show. The signs were good - almost the first bird seen was an Arctic Jaeger above the harbour before we had even cast off. In the harbour itself were many Short-tailed Shearwaters resting on the water awaiting their fate - part of the huge wreck that is occurring up and down the South East coast this year. Heading out to Lawrence Rocks and beyond we passed plenty more Short-tails which were looking a bit more healthy as well as a couple of Fluttering.

Probably the bird of the day went begging about half an hour short of the shelf when a distant large skua/jaeger type was seen briefly settling on the water. We stopped and burleyed but could not pull it in. Out on the shelf we had a good day but with nothing spectacular - 5 species of albatross, good numbers of White-chinned Petrels and 3 Storm-petrels in close were of interest. Reasonable numbers of Fairy Prions gave something to pick through as did a couple fo Sooty Shearwaters passing through. Much like the last few Portland pelagics I have done really. A few Common Dolphins were the only mammals of the trip

Back in the harbour a Pied Cormorant was of interest - quite an uncommon bird in the Portland District. There were also further Short-tails on the beach and waiting to die in the shallows. Its quite sad knowing there is really nothing that can be done for them.... wrecks are a part of life for this species and hopefully this year is just part of the cycle and not something more sinister.

It did allow for some nice portrait shots on grass which you don't get every day with this species.

We toodled off to the gannet colony at Point Danger afterwards to look for the Cape Gannet but were unsuccessful - gannet numbers were well down on the previous visit. A Rufous Bristlebird nearby put on a bit of a show and a Northern Giant-petrel flying past was of interest.

It was near here where I got the bird of the day - an endangered Mellbloms Spider Orchid, TICK! This was down to as low as 30 plants a few years ago and has made a small recovery. However the site was largely overgrown and right next to the smelter! Could certainly do with some maintenance and probably not from Alcoa! In the end we only found one flower a bit past its best. I did spend some time getting much better photos of the more common Greencombs Spider Orchid type but didn't realise this until we got home... doh!

Mellbloms Spider Orchid

Large? Greencomb Spider Orchid

Then started the long trip home which went rather quickly as the conversation ranged from birds to birds and some more birds :-)

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