Saturday, June 22, 2019

Hope and Soft-plumaged Petrel Joy

A friend of mine recently wrote, “Everyone needs an escape route.” There is a lot of wisdom in that sentence. Without an escape route and without the awareness of the possibility of hope, there is not much point in living. “Hope” is the spark that runs the internal engine that makes me alive, extinguish it for too long and I will be done for. I will not sit and play cards. I would rather not be here. The birds map my routes and I have my Troopi. Just knowing she is sitting there waiting patiently comforts my soul. She is power, freedom and hope with dual diesel tanks and all-terrain tyres.

There is a tattoo on my arm of a compass and a quote from the Scottish novelist, John Buchan. He wrote it about fishing, but it applies perfectly to birding. It is… “the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” Indeed.

So when I go off to wherever in search of a new bird or two, hope is the engine that drives me. My love of birds is built on that hope. They take me where I might not go otherwise. I may end up in the desert, or the Great Southern Ocean, or the Nullarbor, or rainforests, or a sewage treatment plant, wherever they lead me I will find beauty and wonder, and yes indeed hope.

My regular birding buddies, Robert and James and I had a phenomenal trip out of Eaglehawk Neck on 1 and 2 June (that blog entry is Here). There was also an excellent trip for others on 8 June. Robert arranged with Karen Dick to do a mid-week double header on Tuesday the 18th and Wednesday the 19th June. We were excited. Hopes for maybe a Grey-headed Albatross or any number of other possible targets fuelled my internal hope-engine. The weather however, had other ideas.

Tuesday the winds blew hard from the north and it was pretty rough. The Paulette is a stable boat and I always felt safe on her. The patches were also doing their job, as they do for me. I may feel like crap, but I do not get seasick even in the liveliest of seas. Well worth it for me. Sadly two of the participants ended up “lying on the deck sick.”

The high point of the morning for me was finally getting wonderful views of a Soft-plumaged Petrel! It is a bird I had missed seeing on the 2nd of June although a few others on the boat had gotten distant views. This time I saw it very well and James got a cracking good shot of it! Here it is…
Soft-plumaged Petrel Joy (excellent shot James)
And here is shot by my new friend Ashley Thomson. He is an excellent photographer and I love this photo. It captures well the mood of the seas on those days... very Winslow Homer-like.

We began our trip back to the jetty early at 11:30am since one of the seasick birders was really quite sick. For me it was actually a rather enjoyable rocking and rolling ride back into the lee of the coastline where the seas were a bit less. Here are a few (very few) photos of mine from the day. I swear there was supposed to be a Soft-plumaged Petrel in one of them, but it must have hidden behind a wave. I do love seeing a Wandering Albatross with a shoreline behind. I love Wandering Albatrosses.

Heading out earlier... "Red sky at morning..." and it was right.        
In the lee of the coast and heading for the harbour.
We were at the little cafe Havinabite Tucker Spot before 3pm. I love that place and wanted to add a stubby-holder from there to my little collection of birding stubby-holders. They don’t sell them anymore, but the lady remembered me asking about them and had found an old one and gave it to me. That was certainly very nice of her and it will join my other birding memory stubby holders.

The view from Havinabite. Yes, it is that beautiful.
Some of my birding stubby-holders
The weather forecast got worse. Wednesday morning began with gale force winds. We had some hope that the front might move through quickly and we gave it a go. We chugged out through 4 metre swells toward the Hippolytes. However with 6 to 8 metre swells beyond the rocks, the Paulette turned back for the harbour (only the third time for her in ten years of pelagics). We again met at Havinabite for a nibble and a visit, then the group went their separate ways. I mainly napped for the afternoon. Those patches knock the stuffings out of me, but as I said, they are worth it.

All in all, I enjoyed myself. I got a Lifer and it was great seeing some dear old friends and once again, making some new friends as well. Such is birding. And a huge thank you to Karen Dick for handling the arrangements! You are a gem.

And another note on hope: I try and avoid “don’t get your hopes up” thinking. Getting your hopes up is a wonderful thing (not to be confused with having expectations. That could be a whole other blog entry). And if those hopes do not come to fruition? I have still had the period of time where they were alive creating that joy in my chest. And that is a good thing. Get your hopes up. Live. 

Lastly, here are a few more photos from the trip. James took the photo of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot right outside our room at Lufra (there were several). And then there is another lovely rainbow over Eaglehawk Neck and a silly pic from our travels back to Melbourne. We do have us a good time!

So there we are... tired and of course a bit crazy, but happy. We will again be back to Tassie as well as other places. Following that hope as we do. I am just glad I have these friends to share it with me.

I write therefore I am. I share therefore it's real. I love y'all.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Silver Silver C

If all goes well, this coming Monday I will board an airplane in Melbourne and in just over an hour I will be in Tasmania. This morning I saw an amazing, beautiful little creature who recently made that flight with her own wings. She is a wild Orange-bellied Parrot and her official name is Silver Silver C. She arrived just recently from Tassie. Amazing, that is an overused, but extremely appropriate word in her case. Amazing. She is a young bird and this is her first time flying from Tassie to Victoria. She was hanging out with six of the released flock.

In June 2012 I was fortunate enough to see 3 OBPs at the Borrow Pit in the WTP. It was one of the most moving events in my early (or later for that matter) birding life. I recently had Neophema chrysogaster tattooed on my ‘bird arm’ to commemorate these wonderful parrots. Zac traced one of the photos that I took in 2012 and I love the design. It belongs there.

This is just a short blog entry for Silver Silver C. I write therefore I am. I share therefore it's real. I love y'all.

You can see the C on her right band.


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Southern Fulmars and Great Shearwater Joy ~ Tassie

My first view of the Southern Fulmar just as our day was beginning...
It had been an odd few weeks for me with a chest cold and the return of my migraines. But I got out on the Port Fairy trip on 19 May, which was lovely, but produced nothing unusual and no lifers for me. Then the 26 May Port Macdonnell pelagic cancelled (as had their 13 May trip). They have yet to get out this year.

However as luck would have it, Richard Webber put together a Saturday and Sunday out of Eaglehawk Neck for 1 and 2 June. I contacted Robert and James and we got on it! Flights were booked and reservations were made for my favourite room at Lufra. In the meantime my migraines were showing up daily, but I was determined and we left Melbourne Friday arvo flying down to Hobart. Thank you Jill Cornelious for being our airport chauffeur!

As the plane was landing, a little flock of Tasmanian Native-hens ran along a ditch by the landing strip. James got his first Tassie Lifer whilst still on the plane!

We made a quick stop at the Woolies in Sorell. That is one of those groceries, like in Alice Springs, Port Augusta, Katherine, Broome or wherever across the country that feels like a neighbourhood grocery to me. Such is travel and familiarity. I love that feeling of connection. One year ago this very day (thank you Facebook memory posts) I wrote this quote...

“The more my heart is spread out across this amazing country, the more heart I have. It is not like my heart gets divided up into smaller and smaller pieces between all of these many places. It is like I have more and more heart. For every piece I leave in another spot, that piece is added to, not taken from, my heart.” Yes, love and sharing are like that. I really love that quote and I included in the beginning of my book. When I write something I like, I do not consider that it is me being particularly brilliant. It is that I have been fortunate enough for the words to happen. My job is to catch them as they flow through and guide them into the text. I think these were a particularly good catch.

We headed on down to Eaglehawk Neck and checked into our room. It was rainy and sunny and rainbows abounded. It is such a beautiful area that the rainbows just seem to fit. That evening James and Robert went out to have a look for a Morepork and found one! Now Robert had a lifer to start his weekend too. Sweet.

Saturday morning I awoke before 5am and began coffeeing hard. The seasickness patch makes me feel crap, BUT most importantly, it prevents seasickness for me. So feeling crap is a small price to pay for that security. By 7am, we were on the boat and heading out to sea with some old friends and some new friends.

About an hour later we had our first Southern Fulmar! Joy abounded. We had not even reached the Hippolytes and we had one of our main targets for the trip!

I was in a boat chugging out into the Tasman Sea off the rugged, gorgeous coast of Tasmania, again. Above all the things that I owe birds is that they lead me to so many breathtaking, beautiful, wonderful places that I would not experience otherwise. Birding, it’s so much more than just ticking off birds.

James and me (photo Robert Shore)

We headed into the offshore waters and began to burley. Over the next few hours I added three more new birds to my life list. Along with the Southern Fulmar (there were three more of them offshore) we had both Blue and Grey Petrels. We had the U.S. Civil War set of petrels! The Blue and the Grey, just wow. But the heart stopper for me was a massive, yet elegant giant that glided in on long dark wings, literally with a smile on its bill… Sooty Albatross! Whoa Black Betty bam-a-lam! I had longed to behold this beauty and now I had. It did not disappoint. It made passes at the boat and at one time was joined by another Sooty. Glory.
Grey Petrel above, Blue Petrel below... the Civil War set (photo Robert Shore)
Blue Petrel (photo Robert Shore)

Grey Petrel (photo Robert Shore)    

I love this bird. I really do.
We rode back in close to the coast hoping to see a Humpback Whale that had been reported earlier by a fishing boat, but it was not around. However, we did have some glorious views of the shore.

The next day began similarly- feeling crap from the patch, coffeeing hard, and chugging out of the harbour at 7am in great anticipation of another successful pelagic day. 

We headed more to the north and once out into offshore waters we began to burley. We had Southern Fulmars again (four total through the day). At about 9:35am James spotted a Great Shearwater coming by the boat. In moments everyone was on it. This was one of the most hoped for birds, a visiting rarity that had been seen on the previous Eaglehawk trip on 19 May (although it was thought this was not the same individual). I mainly got photos of it flying away from me, the first two here are Robert’s.

And a few more bird photos...
White-headed Petrel 

It rained and the wind kicked up, but the Paulette is a very comfortable boat and we continued to bird. Time moved on and all too soon we were on the way back in. As we got closer inshore, we began to see the “Button-quail of the Sea” the Common Diving Petrel. It had been my pelagic bogey bird until an Eaglehawk Neck trip last January. Now I was seeing them on either side of the boat including one little ‘raft’ of about a ten with their heads poking up out of the water like turtles. Then they flushed and flew low across the water before diving into it as they do. I even managed a photo of one. They are very special little birds. 

As we had done the day before, after the trip many of us went to the Havinabite Tucker Spot café just down the road. Karen Dick, the unofficial Godmother of Eaglehawk Neck Pelagics, orders great piles of chips as the boat docks so that they are hot and ready just after we arrive. Thank you Karen! I also usually eat my dinner there too since I like to eat early and I enjoy their burgers.

The next morning we took our time going to the airport (our flight wasn’t until 3pm). James picked up several lifers as it was his first trip to Tassie. It was a rainy, sunny day with rainbows. We returned our hire care at 12:30 and hung out at the airport waiting for our flight. We took a Lifer Selfie with the airport Tasmanian Devil statue.


Huge thanks to Jillian Cornelious for being our airport chauffeur again. It certainly made things easier for us. Also huge thanks to Richard Webber for organising the weekend and Peter Vaughn for his expert spotting and all the others for their enjoyable company and birding expertise. It was a good group out there. Seriously, not a bad apple in the barrel.

I write therefore I am. I share therefore it’s real. I love y’all.