Last week, I spent 5 days with my family in Apollo Bay. I didn’t do much birding as the focus was helping my nephew have an awesome trip. Turns out I’m very good at behaving like a 7 year old.
We had originally planned to do another trip out to see the seal colony, but soon noticed that the same company offered family fishing tours. Awesome! Sethy had tried fishing from the marina a couple of times without much luck, although we got to see large stingrays up close several times.
The weather had been a bit temperamental and we weren’t sure it was going to hold out. I tried to get some beautiful photos of the fog over the hills but it was pretty choppy. Little did I know this was an ominous sign of things to come.
Quickly, I noticed that there were seabirds! Damn, I should have brought the camera. I also noticed that it was more choppy then I had thought it would be.
Long story short, these photos aren’t the best for a reason. I was seasick and was barely able to move. There may have been other birds but…. yeah.
These were identified as a fluttering shearwater, despite the poor quality of the photos. YAY! Finally, a seabird. A couple of friends, some who have done WAY more birding then me, hadn’t seen these yet.
From what I’ve read, it isn’t that uncommon in Australia. They primarily breed in New Zealand, which is easy to pick up from all of the NZ websites discussing them. Apparently “in autumn and early winter some birds, especially juveniles, migrate to Australian waters.”
Do migrated birds stay here over the summer? I’ll do some more researching, especially as I start to go on pelagics.
Short tailed shearwater
The other shearwater we saw on the day was the short tailed, one of the most commonly seen. Finally! They have a breeding colony in Port Fairy and have fascinating behaviour.
I would love to go to Griffiths island and document the breeding cycle. I’ll do some more research.
We didn’t have much luck catching fish on the day due to my sea sickness, but Seth wasn’t disappointed. He saw his first albatross! We saw two individuals, an adult and a juvenile
I had trouble identifying these guys at first, largely due to my inexperience with any seabird. Then, a friend pointed this out:
“The frowning monobrow is something you will only find in the Shy complex (Shy, White-capped, Salvin’s and Chatham).”
Initially, I didn’t know what was meant by a “frowning monobrow.” But, after looking at my Slater field guide, I saw the distinct patterns of black around the eye. The book didn’t mention this.
I had trouble ID’ing this and was told:
Yes, adult Shy Albatross. The base of the bill looks yellow enough to make it an adult Shy Albatross (Th. (c.) cauta). The only ID contender is a White-capped Albatross (Th. (c.) steadi), which should have a greyer base to the bill. Underwing pattern identical in both taxa. In SA and VIC Shy is the more likely (as Shy breeds in TAS; White-capped on Auckland Islands, NZ)
(I don’t yet know the etiquette for quoting someone in a Facebook identification group – this is more for my own records.)
I think, like any seabirds, I will probably struggle for a while until I see enough for patterns to make sense. I’m hoping going on proper pelagics will make this easier.
The below two are an immature. I feel less stupid for struggling with it now. Sethy was so stoked to see his first albatross!
I wasn’t too sure that this bird would be able to be ID’ed, but I definitely didn’t expect it to be a jaeger. It was describe as being one during its primary moult. No wonder I struggled! It was able to be identified due to its “pin-shaped inner rectrices, small head and slender bill.”
I am never going to be as smart as some of the other birders!
It was actually a really good trip, I wish I’d taken medication so I could have enjoyed it properly. Half the boat was seasick but the crew themselves were pretty awesome with my nephew. I’d probably do it again just to look for seabirds but I wouldn’t make a specific trip just to Apollo Bay to do it.
It has gotten me very much intrigued, however.