Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Portland Seabirds

Having revised my plans for an extended ANZAC day long weekend due to family commitments and abandoned the idea of a shortened camping trip due to the weather, I decided to make the most of the cold, wet and windy conditions by travelling to Portland to check out the seabirds from Cape Nelson and Cape Bridgewater.

The lookout next to the Cape Nelson Lighthouse offers good viewing of a variety of seabirds that often come close to the cliffs. The Australasian Gannet is the most common bird seen around this coast (other than the ubiquitous Silver Gull) due to breeding colonies nearby.

Australasian Gannet, Cape Nelson

It is also common to see several species of albatross, particularly after storms.

Black-browed Albatross, Cape Nelson

There was not much else on offer during the hour I spent here this morning so, with a storm approaching

Cape Nelson

I headed back for the car to wait out the weather at Cape Bridgewater. First stop was the Petrified Forest and Blowholes lookout

Petrified Forest, Cape Bridgewater
Blowholes, Cape Bridgewater

where there was a veritable hive of avian activity with several clusters of birds fishing offshore

and a passing parade of birds flying past approx. 200-300 metres offshore--not great for photography but close enough to be able to identify species (mostly)

Black-browed Albatross, Cape Bridgewater
Black-browed Albatross, Cape Bridgewater
Black-browed Albatross, Cape Bridgewater
Shy Albatross, Cape Bridgewater
Australasian Gannet, Cape Bridgewater

I say "mostly" because there were a few species that, at this distance, were hard to identify with confidence

I could identify three species of shearwaters: Short-tailed, Fluttering and Hutton's with careful examination of underbody and underwing colouration using binoculars but at this distance and viewed mostly from above, it's difficult to tell which is which in photographs. I am fairly confident that these two were Short-tailed Shearwaters based on their dark colouration under the wings and body (seen in other photos in the same sequence)

Short-tailed Shearwater, Cape Bridgewater

Similarly, this juvenile Giant-Petrel is difficult to identify to species without closer examination of the bill colouration

Giant-Petrel, Cape Bridgewater

and even 4x magnification of the original image does not really help much, although I would lean towards Southern Giant-Petrel as the tip of the bill looks closer to greenish than dark pink of the Northern species.

However, the following bird is was a complete mystery to me

Kelp Gull (3rd year immature?), Cape Bridgewater

Thanks to all who have advised that this bird is an immature Kelp Gull - much appreciated. A few people have asked to see more. Unfortunately, the bird was a fair way out to sea and is tiny in the full frame so I don't have anything much better than what was posted here but I have put together a sequence of unedited 100% crops:

I was going to walk to the Seal Colony but the weather turned nasty again so I decided to head back to civilisation to find something for lunch. On arriving back at Bridgewater Bay, I noticed a large flock of Crested Terns on the beach

Crested Tern, Bridgewater Bay

Among them was a single White-fronted Tern (it pays to take time to look carefully through large flocks)

White-fronted Tern, Bridgewater Bay

I originally ID'd this bird as a Common Tern but after opinions from others I checked out the field guides in more detail and am now happy it's a WFT (I know, its species is not dependent on my happiness...but...I should have checked more carefully in the first place!)

Next stop Mt Richmond National Park.

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