Wednesday, 6 March 2019


I probably should not bother writing a blog about my aborted twentieth attempt to see a White-necked Petrel.  There's not much to say.  The boat did not go.  I did not see the bird.

My Graves Disease had returned with a vengeance.   I had no energy at all.  Walking was difficult; stairs almost impossible.   I had booked to fly to Sydney to do the February pelagic out of Kiama, supposedly my best chance of seeing a White-necked Petrel.  I asked the doctor if it would be okay to go.  He asked me how long I'd be away, and when I said 'one night' he agreed I could go.

The month out of Kiama (or previously Wollongong) with most sightings of White-necked Petrels is February.  Of my twenty attempts, five previous attempts have been in February (2008, 2011, 2016, 2017 [cancelled] and 2018).  I've also been told that April out of Port Stephens is good for White-necked Petrels.  I have attempted to do this trip on four occasions (2012, 2013 [cancelled], 2014 [cancelled] and 2016).
White-necked Petrel by Paul Wallbridge, a bird I've tried to see 20 times

So, in February 2019, I flew to Sydney and managed very cleverly to get on the right train, then to change trains at Woolli Creek to Kiama.  Well done, I thought.  With difficulty, I walked to the motel.  I stayed in my room until it was time to leave in the morning.

I had arranged to be picked up and driven to the jetty, so there was no walking on Saturday.  My lift arrived, (thank you, Graham!) and, with great expectations, we drove to the wharf.  A small crowd of people stood by the boat.  Immediately we learnt that the trip had been cancelled.  Weather was too bad.  Seas were too rough.

Several Victorians who had made the trip as I had, just for the elusive White-necked Petrel, stood, trying to grasp the fact that their interstate journey had been in vain.  After a little miserable discussion, we dispersed.  I felt cheated.  

Brook drove me to the airport and I arranged an early flight home, feeling the world was against me.

If I took a minute to stop feeling sorry for myself, I would thank Graham and Brook for their invaluable assistance.  What would I do without the help of these wonderful friends?  Alas, they cannot make the bird materialise.

Am I never going to see this bird?


I celebrated Australia Day 2019 with my nineteenth attempt to see a White-necked Petrel.  These birds are supposedly seen in January, February and March in New South Wales and southern Queensland waters.  That's what the books say, but I cannot confirm this from my own experience.  I have never seen a White-necked Petrel.

On Friday, I flew from Melbourne to Sydney and took the train to Kiama where I stayed overnight.  Altogether, the trip cost around $2,000.  This is becoming an expensive bird.

For me, the White-necked Petrel really is a bogey bird.  People use this term loosely.  I often hear birders referring to a bird they happen to have dipped on once or twice as a 'bogey bird.'  I reckon a bogey bird is a bird that all your friends have seen, but you have not, despite trying very hard several times.  And, in my book, travelling interstate on nineteen occasions to see a White-necked Petrel and failing every time certainly qualifies.

Apart from the lack of White-necked Petrels, our day at sea last Saturday was pretty good.  It was sunny, but not too hot and we had a boatful of happy people.  We saw hundreds of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and almost as many Grey-faced Petrels.  A magnificent Mottled Petrel caused much celebration and was a lifer for many people on board.  I was happy for them of course, but their success seemed to underline my failure.
Mottled Petrel by Brook Whylie

The Mottled Petrel was undoubtedly the Bird of the Day.  We had fleeting views of both Wilson's and White-faced Storm Petrels and a couple of Sooty Terns.  We saw one or two Pomarine Skuas and had great views of a couple of Long-tailed Jaegers. There were a few Flesh-footed Shearwaters and just a couple of Short-tailed.  Some people saw Sooty Shearwaters but I did not.  Nor did I see any Hutton's or Fluttering Shearwaters.  I had hoped for a Streaked Shearwater, but it was not to be.  We did see a Gould's Petrel, and I was pleased it was not a lifer, because the view was not satisfactory.

We saw one Shy Albatross, one Australasian Gannet, a Greater Crested Tern and some Silver Gulls, giving me a total birdlist for the day of 13 species.

It was a very nice Mottled Petrel, to be sure.  But it was not worth $2,000.  And it was not worth travelling all that way.

Now I look forward to doing it all again in February!