Monday, April 20, 2015

A rather "soft" day at sea

Its been a long time since I have written anything but a visitor on a recent Portland pelagic was too good not to share. Wandered down with the crew as usual on Saturday afternoon with the most interesting low-light being a road-killed Grey Goshawk at Panmure - this ended up in a bag for deposit at the museum and surprisingly was not forgotten in the hotel room fridge. The forecast had deteriorated some what so we were expecting a bumpy trip but it was actually quite pleasant.

Grey Goshawk

After the usual steak and a few beers at Macs we were up early. Quite a bit of activity on the way out with a few jaegers the highlight. Just before the shelf a cookilaria type petrel escaped from view, the brief views I had indicated Gould's but could not be sure. This and a good number of Fairy Prions were hopefully a good sign. The first berley point had a good variety of common species and just as we were leaving an early Brown Skua provided brief excitement.

Kangaroo Fairy Prion
Shy Albatross
On arrival at the second berley point there was immediate excitement as a White-headed Petrel flew through - a first on a Victorian pelagic for me but it did not stick around. Soon after in the slick immediately behind the boat was another Pterodroma which threw me for a second until I realised it was a Soft-plumaged Petrel with quite a bit of pale underwing. This proved to be the star performer of the day and stuck around for at least 20 minutes - even landing in the slick to feed. I have seen these a number of times on Southern Australian pelagics but never had one behaving like this. Many photos taken by most onboard.

Soft-plumaged Petrel
After that it was all a bit anti-climactic although there continued to be plenty of birds around the back of the boat. A young black-browed was of interest with the horn colour coming through on top of the bill.

Black-browed Albatross

Wilson's Storm-Petrel

Great-winged Petrel

The trip back in was largely uneventful with a couple of jaegers again being the highlight. A thick bodied bird flew away from the boat at one stage and was probably a Pom but alas got away. As sea conditions were deteriorating and running out of time we skipped Lawrence Rocks so missed a few usual species. All in all a great day at sea and an enjoyable weekend with some very good people.

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