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Indian Ocean and Australia 2005-2006
For details of trip to West Australia August / Sept 2012 see this link

Sunset over Bali View from King Bay, Dampier
Sunset over Bali Evening over King Bay, Dampier


The vessel departed Singapore 26 November 2005 and sailed for Dampier, NW Australia after which we spent most of the time on the Pluto field (S 19° 55',  E 115° 12') which is some 100 nautical miles NW of Dampier.

En route to Australia we passed east of Bali where a flock of 50 Red-necked Phalarope and a few Bulwers Petrel were observed. Otherwise just a Pomarine Skua and a couple of Bridled Tern.  

Alongside at the offshore base at King Bay Supply Base near Dampier there was no opportunity to go birding but a White-bellied Sea Eagle, at least 60  Little Correllas, Australian Darter, Yellow-Throated Miners and a number of other species were observed here.

Most of the bird pictures below were taken using binoculars as telephoto lens.

Yellow-throated Miner Australian Pelicans, Dampier
Yellow-throated Miner, very common at King Bay Supply Base Australian Pelicans, Dampier

Australian Darter White Bellied Sea Eagle
Australian Darter, King Bay Supply Base White-bellied Sea Eagle, King Bay Supply Base

Out at the Pluto field there were generally few birds most days, just the occasional shearwaters, most of which were dark phase Wedge-tailed Shearwater. After darkness Wilsons Petrel were observed in small numbers at night during early December, no doubt attracted by the vessel's lights. On 12 December two Crested Terns were seen in addition to the usual Wedge-tailed Shearwaters.

Wedge-tailed Shearwater (dark morph) Wedge-tailed Shearwater (dark morph)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater (dark morph). Photo: F. Gaupås Wedge-tailed Shearwater (dark morph). Photo: F. Gaupås

 Mahi Mahi or Dolphin Fish - a beautiful fish that this picture does not do justice to.

On 15 December a minimum of 50 Wedge-tailed Shearwater were observed following a school of fish. At least two other species of shearwater were noted but were too far off to be positively identified.

The table below lists the species noted between early December 2005 and mid January 2005.

Shearwater sp A very small black and white shearwater was probably Little Shearwater
Shearwater sp A shearwater with clear white underparts and same size as Wedge-tailed seen occasioanlly in small numbers
Wedge-tailed Shearwater Puffinus pacificus Common inshore especially around dusk. At times numerous offshore in conjunction with schools of fish
Wilsons Petrel Oceanites oceanicus 1-2 seen nightly on Pluto field during early December. A petrel that may have been this species also noted during the night of 08 January.
Australian Darter
One seen at King Bay Supply Base 14.01.06, may even be breeding as it disappeared into some rocks
Australian Pelican
One seen soaring over King Bay Supply Base 14.01.06. Two seen on a crewchange out of Dampier.
Heron sp One night-heron like species noted at King Bay Supply Base
Eastern Reef Egret Egretta sacra One noted at King Bay Supply Base 15.01.06
White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster One-two noted at King Bay Supply Base in Dampier
Falcon spp. A small falcon, probably Nankeen Kestrel at King Bay Supply Base
Silver Gull Larus novaehollandiae Common at King Bay Supply Base and inshore.
Bridled Tern Sterna anaethetus Regular inshore, with up to 30 noted at one time
Brown Noddy Anous stolidus One seen feeding with Bridled Tern not far offshore
Little Tern Sterna albifrons 1-2 seen at King Bay Supply Base during early December
Tern spp.
At least 20 terns in various plumages at King Bay Supply Base 14.01.06
Crested Tern Sterna bergii One at KBSB and occasional one-twos seen on the Pluto field throughout the project
Little Corella 60+ at King Bay Supply Base
Galah Cacatua roseicapilla Seen at Karratha airport - very common
Singing Honeyeater Common at King Bay Supply Base and Karratha airport
Yellow-throated Miner Common at King Bay Supply Base and Karratha airport
Crested Dove A few seen at King Bay Supply Base, common around Karratha airport
Grey Butcher Bird One making some amazing noises outside Karratha airport
Magpie Lark Grallina cyanoleuca A pair seen at King Bay Supply Base, also at Karratha airport

However, just offshore from Dampier, (S 20° 21',  E 116° 36'), it was a different story, here there were plenty of Bridled Tern and Wedge-tailed Shearwater - the latter particularly noticeable around evening. Other species noted out at the anchorage included Silver Gulls, a Crested Tern, a Brown Noddy and a small, black and white shearwater (probably Little Shearwater).

Turtle, Hamilton Bay, West Australia Squid
Flatback Turtle, Photo: Niels Løkke Squid sp, December 2005

Flying fish were very common and seen constantly. At night, and especially during high winds these fish flew at some considerable height over the surface. During windy weather, such as we experienced whilst avoiding tropical cyclone "Clare", these amazing fish were especially prone to landing on the deck. At other times they crashed into the side of the vessel and fell back into the sea where they were eaten by the waiting Bronze Whaler Sharks.

Flying fish Flying Fish

The sea seemed to be teeming with life with plenty of other wildlife to see, inclduing sea-snakes (further in towards land), Bronze Whaler Sharks, Squid, Hammerhead Shark, Turtles and all kinds of fish.

Strange fish #1

Two fish that I don't know the name of....

Strange fish #2

feeding frenzy Flying fish
Tuna, Wedge-tailed Shearwater and Bridled Terns
Photo: Frode Gaupås
Another species of flying fish, found on deck

Getting to the worksite invloved taking a helicopter from Karratha airport out to the vessel and the airport was thus the only other place visited ashore other than King Bay Supply Base. The following photographs were taken using binoculars as a telephoto lens and are of "record shot" quality.

Searching for birds around the coast of Australia requires a particular type of vessel that can handle inclement weather and rough seas. Many bird-watchers and explorers turn to long-distance cruising boats, like Nordhavn Yachts for sale, that are built to withstand this type of sea. The rich wildlife around Australia provides for some excellent bird watching opportunities.

Kangaroo near Dampier LNG plant Grey Butcherbird
Kangaroo near Dampier LNG Plant Grey Butcherbird, Karratha Airport

Brown Falcon
Brown Falcon, near King Bay
Photo: Sigve Halvorsen

Galah - very common around Karratha airport Crested Dove, another common species in the area
Galah, very common and very noisy Crested Dove, numerous at King Bay Supply Base and Karratha

Other wildlife was also abundant around the airport at Karratha....

Lizard at Karratha airport A very well known Australian plant that I don't know the name of
Long-nosed Water Dragons Lophognathus longirostris like this were all over the place Desert Pea Swainsona formosa

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