Friday, March 29, 2013

Hillarys Pelagic Trip Report - 24 March 2013

Participants: Alan Collins (Organiser), John Graff (Organiser), Sue Abbotts, Robin Ashford, Martin Cake, Cheryl Davis, Rose Ferrell, Stewart Ford, Michael Hancock, Mark Henryon, Nigel Jackett, Darryl Jones, Val La May, John McMullan, Rob Morris, Clive Nealon, Margot Oorebeek, Annette Park, Robyn Pickering, Louis Purdy, Peter Taylor, Ray Turnbull, Peter White

Conditions: Winds were forecast to be south-easterly at 12-15knts during the morning shifting to an 18knt southerly in the afternoon, with seas 2m and swell of 1.5-2m. Conditions on the day were roughly as forecast. Sea temperatures were in the range of 22-23 degrees.

This was the first pelagic off Hillarys run in March, and the earliest in the year a trip has been run off Hillarys so it was interesting to see what was about. There was no repeat of the high Streaked Shearwater numbers from last year’s April trip and these seem to have been a cyclone-related occurrence. Overall though it was a reasonable trip, with 7 true seabirds recorded, along with a variety of jaegers and terns. Unfortunately, no unusual species were seen and the majority of species did not spend much time (if any) close to the boat.

Flesh-footed Shearwater, the everpresent at all stops on the trip.

Pirates Parade: The Autumn Jaeger Migration at Woodman Point

Many birders are familiar with the annual migration of waders between the Arctic tundra and Australia, but some may not realize a similar migration takes place just offshore this time of year – that of jaegers head north towards their far northern summer breeding grounds. An excellent place to witness this spectacle is at Woodman Point south of Fremantle, where the long sandy spit jutting around 1.5kms into Cockburn Sound provides a perfect platform for jaeger-watching. 
A patient seawatch here during the migration (which builds through March to peak around mid-late April) will usually reveal a steady procession of jaegers flying northwards, as well as some hanging around to feed by kleptoparasitic attacks on gulls (chasing them until they regurgitate food). Woodman Point is a perfect site to witness these spectacular aerial chases, sitting directly next to a seagull ‘highway’ between Carnac Island and a local rubbish tip – for the jaegers, a somewhat different diet to their summer fare of lemmings and voles! 
Two intermediate-morph Arctic Jaegers Stercorarius parasiticus close in on a Silver Gull at Woodman Point.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Franklin’s Gull at Cervantes

Breaking a bit of a dry spell for vagrant gulls in the south-west (well, twitchable ones at least), a co-operative Franklin’s Gull has been present in the Cervantes town beach area for at least 6-8 weeks. It has mostly been seen in and around a small park outside the caravan park entrance (end of Aragon St), or on the adjacent beach, in the company of Silver Gulls.

Vagrant Franklin’s Gull Leucophaeus pipixcan on the beach at Cervantes

Photos clearly show all the hallmarks of Franklin’s Gull: slightly smaller than Silver Gull, with darker grey upperparts; more compact body in flight; short tail with diagnostic grey centre (unique among adult gulls); well-developed black half-hood; prominent thick white eye crescents; black bill with red tip, and black legs.