Sunday, 5 May 2013


On the way back to Melbourne from our trip to Port Stephens and Barrington Tops National Park, I planned two stops:  Wollongong for a pelagic, then a couple of relaxing days birding at Gipsy Point.  Both these spots feature in my top 100 Australian birding sites.

This was the third pelagic I'd booked in 2013, but the first to actually go.  The weather was perfect.  I was delighted that the boat was only half full, so I had excellent, unblocked views all day.  We did not see a lot of species (I recorded 17) but we certainly saw a lot of albatrosses.  At one point there were over 50 surrounding the boat.  They were mainly Black-browed and Shy, but there were also Campbell's, Yellow-nosed and Buller's.

Banding a Yellow-nosed Albatross

Wollongong pelagics are run by SOSSA - the Southern Ocean Seabird Study Association.  On this trip they banded shearwaters (Flesh-footed and Wedge-tailed) and Yellow-nosed Albatrosses.  We saw both Pomarine and Arctic Jaegers, the latter identified by its aggressive behaviour.  The only petrel we saw was a Providence (that the New South Welshmen insist on calling 'Solander's') and the only Storm-Petrel was a Wilson's.  I think everyone on board would agree that it was a very pleasant day at sea - not something you can often say about a pelagic.

And then it was off to Gipsy Point in far east Gippsland.  The best bird I saw on the way was a Brahminy Kite.  I've never seen one so far south before.

At Gipsy Point we stay in the (modestly named) Luxury Lakeside Apartments.  The name may not be humble, but neither is the accommodation.  This is one of my very favourite places.  They feed the birds each evening and afternoon.  Galahs, King-Parrots and Little and Red Wattlebirds screech overhead.  Eastern Whipbirds play on the lawn, quite unafraid of people.  A Buff-banded Rail was on the lawn right out in the open when we arrived.  Sometimes there are frogmouths roosting in the eucalypts, and sometimes White-headed Pigeons.  There are always Bell Miners and Red-browed Finches, kangaroos and swamp rats.  I always take some blue treasures as offerings for the Satin Bowerbird.  He accepts my gifts, I like to think gratefully.

We always drive into Mallacoota to see what we can see at Captain Stevenson's Point (on this occasion, there were teal, terns, godwits, oystercatchers and Eastern Curlews).  I do as many walks as I can.  I was delighted to see that a new coastal walk has been constructed for me to add to my list.  I usually do Double Creek (looking for Wonga Pigeons and lyrebirds); Heathland (hoping for Ground Parrots, which I have never seen here); and Casuarina Walk for bush birds.  In Mallacoota, we saw a pair of Glossy Black-Cockatoos sitting on the electricity wires.  They did not hang around for a photo, but we were happy to have seen them.  We had thought that April may have been too late, and they may have left on their northern migration.  Sadly I could not find any Hooded Plovers on Betka Beach, usually a reliable sighting.

We often drive to Shipwreck Creek to look for Southern Emu-wren, Ground Parrots and Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters.  I've heard the parrots here, but not seen them.  I figure if I keep on going, one day I'll luck onto them.  I see emu-wren more often than not, and I don't think I've ever dipped on the TC honeyeaters - until this trip.  On this occasion, I did not see any of my target species.  I did see a lyrebird (they featured in this holiday - I saw lots!) and a Bassian Thrush, but that was all that was noteworthy.

Outside of school holidays, there are not many better birding spots than Gipsy Point and Mallacoota.

Little Black Cormorants at Mallacoota

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