Tuesday, 18 June 2013


I had been told that if I did a pelagic out of Port MacDonnell in June, I'd be likely to see lots of prions.  Specifically, I am looking for a Slender-billed Prion.  In June 2012, Rog and I drove over to Port MacDonnell (which is in the extreme south-east of South Australia, just south of Mt Gambier) for this purpose, only to find that the trip was cancelled due to bad weather.  This year I hoped I'd be luckier.

I was - in a way.  The trip wasn't cancelled.  But I didn't get my prion either. 

We set off on Wednesday for a leisurely drive to Port Fairy.  It was cold and drizzly all day.  First stop was Point Addis to get the Rufous Bristlebird on my annual list, then lunch at Colac while we admired lots of Pink-eared Ducks and just one lonely Freckled Duck on the lake.

Thursday was again cold, wet and windy - not good weather for looking for Hooded Plovers, so we drove to Tower Hill and admired Australian Shelducks roosting on the cliff face, as if they were raptors.  Of course we saw Emus, but it was a bit wet for walking, and we didn't see much else.  Back in Port Fairy, I enquired at the Information Centre about the location of the Powling Street Wetlands, where a housing development is threatening Latham's Snipe habitat.  The helpful man gave me a map and also volunteered the fact that the snipe roost at Goose's Lagoon, a wildlife refuge on the road to Yambuk.  The Powling Street Wetlands are surrounded by houses (and presumably pets).  I have written to Tony Burke, Federal Minister for Environment asking why the housing development has been given approval.  It will be most interesting to see what response I receive.

Powling Street Wetlands, Port Fairy

Having seen the threatened wetlands, we decided to check out Goose Lagoon.  We found the place, but couldn't see how to access it.  We drove on the Yambuk Lake, and on the way saw a dam covered in Magpie Geese.  (At last I realized why Goose Lagoon was so called.)

Magpie Geese on dam near Yambuk

Friday was again cold, grey and windy.  We drove to Mt Gambier, stopping at Lower Glenelg National Park.  Along the way we saw a Spotted Harrier and in the park, we saw a Brush Bronzewing and a couple of Australian Spotted Crakes on the river.

On Saturday, we pottered about Port MacDonnell.  I did a pleasant walk in Germein Reserve where the yellow gums were flowering profusely and the New Holland Honeyeaters were making the most of it.  Silvereyes, Red-browed Finches and Grey Fantails were all bathing in the puddles.  I thought it was a bit cold for a bath.

At last, it was Sunday, the day I had waited for for twelve months.  It was still quite dark when we left at 6.15.  Driving from Mt Gambier to Port MacDonnell, we saw an Eastern Barn Owl.  I hoped it might be a good omen.  The boat left right on the dot of 7.  Remarkable is a large fishing boat, with just 12 passengers, so we had good views all day.  And we saw some good birds, too; we just didn't see any Slender-billed Prions.  Most people on board saw an orca and a blue shark and everyone had great sightings of a very cooperative Grey Petrel.
Grey Petrel, photo by Geoff Glare
The petrel flew around the boat and landed near the burleigh, just to make sure everyone had a good look.
Grey Petrel, photo by Anne Looney

We saw six species of albatross, including two wanderers, both giant-petrels and quite a few Grey-backed Storm-Petrels.  Some people saw a Little Shearwater, but for me it was just a tiny dot on the horizon.  We saw a few Fairy Prions, and I tried my best to turn them into Slender-billed.  There were Cape Petrels and one White-fronted Tern.  I managed twenty species for the trip (not counting the Little Shearwater).  Can you believe, they actually provided a barbeque for lunch?

Monday was again raining.  I told myself not to complain, it was, after all, winter.  However the sun did manage to put in an appearance.  In Nelson, we saw a Great Crested Grebe and at Lower Glenelg National Park I saw a Baillon's Crake in the river.  Then in Portland, at Fawthrop Lagoon, I saw a Little Egret, another new bird for the trip.

On Tuesday morning, before we drove home, I made one last attempt at getting Hooded Plovers on my list.  I was not successful, but I did see a Sooty Oystercatcher, bringing my trip total to 115 species, which, given the unfavourable conditions, I thought was okay.  It looks like I will have to try for my Slender-billed Prions again in 2014.  What a shame!  An excuse for another trip to Port MacDonnell.

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