September 1996 - Cape Naturaliste & Cape Leeuwin

I have just spent five days around the south west capes of WA.  It happened to coincide with a period of very strong winds.

I left Perth on Saturday 14th and went to Dunsborough where I stayed with Ross Payton for two nights.  The large number of seabirds seen from his front window helped to compensate for the West Coast Eagles bombing out.  Off and on for about 7 hours we saw :

Yellow-nosed Albatross 55+
Shy Albatross 3
Australasian Gannet 25+
Great-winged Petrel 30+
White-chinned Petrel 13
Cape Petrel 1
Great Skua 2
(Southern?) Giant-Petrel 2
Little Shearwater 1
(Soft-plumaged?) Petrel 1
(species?) Dolphins 3

On Sunday, the wind had swung around slightly to the west which greatly reduced the numbers, especially in the afternoon.  However, we spent some time late in the afternoon at Bunker Bay in the lee of Cape Naturaliste.  Altogether we saw :

Yellow-nosed Albatross 6+
Shy Albatross 1
Australasian Gannet 25+
Great-winged Petrel 30+
White-chinned Petrel 2
Cape Petrel 3
(White-headed?) Petrel 1
Little Shearwater 2+
Hutton's Shearwater 60+

On Monday, there was nothing from the front window.  I left mid morning to travel to Augusta.  I spent a short time at Bunker Bay where I saw some more Yellow-nosed Albatross, Great-winged Petrels and Hutton's Shearwaters.  I called in at the mouth of the Margaret River where I saw a Terek Sandpiper on the beach.  At Augusta I found a Hooded Plover. I went to Cape Leeuwin, but the gates to the lighthouse closed shortly after 4pm, so I didn't get a chance to look from the Cape.  The wind was really blowing!!!!!!!! (plus a few more maybe :-)

On Tuesday, the gale was still going plus frequent showers.  I was a wimp and stayed indoors.  I ventured out mid afternoon for a short while, finding a few Rock Parrots feeding on the grass of a cleared block.  I spent about 30 minutes at the cape, but even in the lee of the lighthouse it was very difficult to keep the scope still.  I got very rough sightings of a couple of albatross (Yellow-nosed?) and a few possible Great-winged Petrels.

On Wednesday, I spent about 3 hours at the Cape standing in the lee of the lighthouse.  A few more Rock Parrots around the houses was a good sighting.  The wind was still over 30 knots, but there was some respite in the shelter of the lighthouse.

Yellow-nosed Albatross 30+
Shy Albatross 3
White-headed Petrel 8 (all within a 10 to 15 minute period - and a lifer)
(same size as Great-winged Petrel, all dark above except for white head, dark under wing and white body)
Great-winged Petrel ~20
Flesh-footed Shearwater ~40 (not always easy to tell these two apart as most were a long way out - I decided that most of the birds in pseudo flocks of up to 10 with apparent brown rather than black under wing were probably Flesh-footed Shearwaters and the all dark mostly individual birds were Great-winged Petrels, especially if I could see the 'bent' wing).
Little Shearwater 2+ (small, all dark above, all white below)

After 4pm, I went to Hamelin Bay north of Augusta where I found a pair of Hooded Plover and 4 Red Knot on the beach.

On Thursday, I headed back to Perth. I stopped at Sugarloaf Rock near Cape Naturaliste and found 5 Red-tailed Tropicbirds that had probably just returned to breed.  There was almost nothing at Bunker Bay, and what there was were a long way out to sea.  I also walked around close to Cape Naturaliste itself as the wind had dropped to only 20 knots! In 30 minutes I saw a Black-browed Albatross and a (Southern?) Giant-Petrel.

Ross Payton always welcome visitors, so if you happen to be down that way then call to see if he is at home.  His phone number is 08 9755 3263.

Overall it was a good trip.  I hope to head down that way a couple of times a year.  Ross says that Cape Naturaliste can be good any time of the year depending on the weather.  If only someone could arrange for a glassed enclosure to be built at Cape Leeuwin so that you can keep out of the wind and rain it would also be very good.

Copyright Frank O'Connor 1997-2002 Visits Last Modified 31st January 2002