On 20th November I joined a pelagic boat trip for a day's birding off the coast of the Tasman peninsula.
Unfortunately the weather was too good, with little or no wind to carry the smell of the fish bait to any seabirds in the area, and both the number and diversity of species seen was pretty low. Despite this, it wasn't a complete waste of time, and a few decent birds made an appearance.
With a wingspan of over 3m, Royal Albatrosses are a spectacular bird and it is always a privilage to watch them soar effortlessly over the waves.
The degree of white on the upperwing increases with age.
A couple of Northern Giant Petrels also made an appearance when we were out in the pelagic waters. As their name suggests, they are giants among the petrels and have a wingspan only slightly shorter than a Shy Albatross.
Numbers of "Shy-type" Albatrosses seen were low, with only a maximum of about 10-20 being seen at any one time while we were out at the continental shelf.
[Note: Shy and White-capped Albatrosses are virtually identical and identification to species out at sea, away from their breeding grounds, is unsafe. Hence the "Shy-type" moniker.]
There was a large movement of Short-tailed Shearwaters offshore during the day, with several thousand being seen.
A few good sightings of a variety of cetaceans helped make up for a lack of diversity in the birdlife and, while we were out in the pelagic waters, we were followed around for a while by a small pod of the oceanic form of Common Bottlenose Dolphins.
Shortly after the dolphins left us, a group of about 7 Long-finned Pilot Whales joined us briefly.
The highlight of the day didn't occur until we were almost back to shore, when we came across a Humpback Whale and her calf.
The calf was in a playful mood and spent at least half an hour repeatedly breaching, while the mother joined in by waving her enormous flippers in the air and occasionally tail-slapping.
The coastal scenery along the Tasman peninsula is quite spectacular.
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