A Pacific gull leaves one of its favourite perches, The Gulch, Bicheno, Tasmania, Australia. Image: Rose Frankcombe

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November 4, 2013

Dear diary,

Dear, dear diary... Dear diary, diary, diary, diary... I'm stamping my feet, bursting to tell you how excited I am? I have such a tale to tell you, about today and all the happenings... I know, I know, I'm stumbling over my words, not making too much sense so perhaps I should take a deep breath and start from the beginning...


Well, as you know, my little diarised friend, today has been a public holiday and, as we had such a long trip yesterday, by rights this was to be a rest day wasn't it... Not so.


The morning began lazily enough. The paper had come early, so yesterday's news could be caught up with at a rare hour. And it was in this newspaper that the story of the whales appeared, and how they were breaching and sounding off the East Coast - whole pods of them, with calves... with calves... what? I can't say 'afoot' can I, so how do I describe a whale cow and calf. Perhaps I don't, because, dear diary, I know you know what I mean.


As the mammals were not far off the shore, according to the report, the question was posed: Should we go over and see if we can see them? One, even! A flip of the tail would do... Well, dear diary, that suggestion took me by surprise, and I ummed and aahed for only a few moments, but the prospect of sighting even just the fluke of a whale was too, too tempting to resist, so I said yes, why not... And this was at 11 o'clock!

The view of the southern end of The Gulch at Bicheno. Image: Rose Frankcombe

By noon we were on the road, having decided to travel via Avoca and Fingal, then down over the Elephant pass and south to Bicheno. We had a plan forming and a direction in which to steer.


At Bicheno, priority number one was lunch. A late lunch. The bakery served us well and we took our goodies around to the Gulch, an impressive little wash 'tween the wharf and Governor Island just metres away, a rocky outcrop overtaken as a bird colony by the locals (local seabirds, I mean).

The water was an absolute delight, and from our possie we were looking directly out to a choppy, deep azure bay with snowy whitecaps bubbling on the crests, or breaking on the rounded boulders with their natural orange capping. A pair of distant cormorants basked in the afternoon sun on Governor Island. Seagulls wheeled quietly above and socialised on the warm rocks nearby. Pacific gulls glided gently by, or landed to mingle with some resting seagulls. All was at peace with the world. And, dear diary, for all the scanning of the shore and horizon, the story of the whales was going to prove to be one that was just as elusive as that of the Azure King Fisher I told you about recently.

A Pacific gull flies by Governor Island, The Gulch, Bicheno, Tasmania, Australia. Image: Rose Frankcombe

Suddenly, for no apparent reason, dear diary, there was the most tremendous hullabaloo. Birds were rising and wheeling and crying and a great melee, some sort of drama was unfolding before my eyes. I had no idea what was happening. Governor Island was now awash with seagulls rising in great white flocks from the far side where they'd been out of view. Pacific gulls were reacting alarmingly. All of this little world had been thrown into chaos, or so it seemed to me, and I couldn't understand why... Surely the amiable Pacific gulls and seagulls were not in conflict... But what else could it be...


Amid all the confusion, the snow-storm of birds, the reason for the great uprising was revealed... A pair of sea eagles had zoomed in from the left flank, creating great havoc amid the usually docile inhabitants.


I grabbed for the camera, diary dear, hoping against hope that I would be quick enough to get the settings and focus in sync before the play ended. And, diary dearest, I made it, snapping like a loon at anything I could, while desperately wheeling the camera around to hone in on the predators who were causing this mayhem. No time to consider moving footage, stills would have to do... And I'm pleased to say, my dear little friend, I did manage to capture a number of images of my prey. Some are a bit fuzzy, which is a pity, but others... others... oh, diary, others are simply wonderful.

A snowstorm of birds erupted on Governor Island just over from where these birds, too, were distressed. The Gulch, Bicheno. Image: Rose Frankcombe

Now there had to be a reason for all this unfolding chaos, and the eagles had to have had an objective, which it turned out to not be one of the seabirds for lunch today but what they had moments before been feasting on - fish heads discarded in the rocks.


A pacific gull thought to protect what it considered rightfully its and made a valiant attempt at routing the eagle (by this time the second one had gone. Perhaps it was the 'chick' still expecting at its great size to be fed, so maybe it'd flown back to the eyrie to await the home-delivery order). A battle ensued. The parent eagle made a concerted attempt to over-talon the fish head, having some success - until the Pacific gull objected, brave bird - so it, the eagle, made a tactical retreat back to the northern end of the gulch. But, but dear diary, the drama was not over and a great screeching again ensued as the marauder came gliding back in on a second sortee, swooping down to gather up its prey... And this time it won! The chick'd be fed tonight...


Wow! What a time it was, nature and survival intermingled in the battle for the forage of the day, dear diary - and no doubt it will continue in the many days to come until the chick is grown and thrown - out to fend for itself, I mean...  

A Pacific gull attempts to rout a marauding sea eagle at The Gulch, Bicheno, Tasmania, Australia. Image: Rose Frankcombe

Coming back to the scratchy plan for the day, dear diary, a brief jaunt further south, following the line of water, with one eye keenly fixed on the choppy surface for that lottery win, a sighting of a spout, the arc-line of a breaching creature, or the ubiquitous disappearing of that unmistakable tail into the depths - wouldn't that be a prize, little diary... Sadly, the ticket had to be ripped up, as there was nothing of that nature to be seen as far as the horizon. It's a question of luck. It's either in, or it's out... However, after the kabuki at Governor Island, what was there to be upset about. It'd been an impulsive choice to make this journey knowing it'd either pay off or not. But in a sense it did, with the eagles putting on such a raw display especially for my camera - what say you, diary? Agreed...


Passing Great Oyster Bay and on to Swansea, there were further opportunities to practice what new skills I may have with the camera and its functions. Then a walk was in order, again back at Waterloo Point, a place discovered in the winter months. Maybe the sea lion would be basking today...  He wasn't. The tide was out and his rock was vacant...

Overlooking Great Oyster Bay to the Hazards at Coles Bay, East Coast Tasmania, Australia. Image: Rose Frankcombe

A fire had broken out some distance away, seemingly amid the houses on the far side of the bay. It proved to be outside the housing perimeter and under control when we later passed by, dear diary, but it looked very dramatic from the perspective of Waterloo Point.

The sky was clear when initiating the Waterloo Point walk. Not so clear upon return. Swansea, Tasmania, Australia. Image: Rose Frankcombe

Passing the shoreline radiata pines, a call caught my attention. Stopping the car and winding down the window, it was a creaky body turning back slightly and raising the lens to capture the image of the creature, dear diary, which I managed to do. Yellow-tail black cockatoos are also a delight to see, and I have no idea why this one was alone and calling. There'd been three there initially and now there was only one. Was he, too, a well-grown chick calling out for home-delivery, I wonder...

A lone yellow-tail black cockatoo, esplanade near Waterloo Point, Swansea, Tasmania, Australia. Image: Rose Frankcombe

More beaches, more waves, more images and the day was closing, diary dearest. The chosen route home was a long one, and fuel for the humans and fuel for the car was a priority, both of which were satisfied. Thank goodness for those servos where you only need a card and do all the pumping yourself. And thank goodness for the Prosser riverside cafe at Orford who were open and fed us deliciously... Maybe that's not good grammar, dear diary, but I'm sure you know what I mean...


Finally cruising past Buckland, turning right heading towards Levendale and on to Parattah, then Oatlands before hitting the Midland Highway and northwards home.


Having decided on this epic at 11.00 a.m, and having set off at noon - it wasn't until 11.00 p.m. when we finally did walk back in the door at home. It'd been a fantastic, productive day, even if the objective hadn't been secured... And yesterday, dear diary, was outdone by today, as 560k's were added to the clock by the time the day closed.

So, dear diary, I'll shut your pages and you rest well until next time we meet, when I return with more tales of the inland to the coast, mountain to sea for you to digest and enjoy...

The exposed rocks with the out-tide, Waterloo Point, Swansea, Tasmania, Australia. Image: Rose Frankcombe
A burrow on the embankment, Waterloo Point, Swansea, Tasmania, Australia. Image: Rose Frankcombe
A juvenile Pacific gull flies home to its roost at Swansea, Tasmania, Australia. Image: Rose Frankcombe
A small cove south of Swansea, Tasmania, Australia. Image: Rose Frankcombe
Turbulent waters below the crop of valerian growing wild on the ridge south of Swansea, Tasmania, Australia. Image: Rose Frankcombe

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