Started the day with an early morning walk around Fawthrop Lagoon for some birding. The walking track is a flat, 2-kilometre loop, along which we were lucky enough to spot a koala, as well as some interesting birds like Swamp Harrier and a juvenile Pallid Cuckoo.
Next we headed to Cape Nelson lighthouse. From the clifftop we scanned the ocean, hoping to spot a Blue Whale. We had no luck with the cetaceans but did spot lots of gannets diving for fish and surfing the waves.
A few kilometres back up the road from the lighthouse we stopped at an inconspicuous car park to do the Sea Cliff Nature Walk. This track is a 3-kilometre loop, and judging by the vegetation on the track, not many people do this walk. We chose it as it cuts through areas of sallee trees and heath shrubs, and were hoping to spot a few birds. As it turned out the bird activity was fairly low, but we did get another sighting which made up for that.
Since arriving in Portland we had been telling tales of Peacock Spiders to our friends and had offered to find one for them if possible. It was a bit of a stretch being late in the season and because we weren't too familiar with the local species, but that didn't stop us from giving it a go. As we walked along the track we checked each jumping spider we came across, until Lil Sis struck gold with a male Maratus tasmanicus. As always, it was very exciting to see one of these beautiful little arachnids.
The trail emerged atop a spectacular cliff. The scenery around Portland is sensational and the isolation of this place made it all the more special. It was one of those places you could stay forever, but eventually we had to continue along the trail and complete the rest of the walk.
Back in town we grabbed some fish and chips for lunch, which we ate sitting by the port surrounded by plenty of seagulls.
Our next destination was the Point Danger gannet colony. As a keen birder, obviously Australia's only mainland gannet colony was a must visit for me. We were lucky enough to arrive at the colony while a local volunteer was giving talks, which meant we got to approach quite close to the birds.
As well as the resident Australasian Gannets, a couple of vagrant Cape Gannets are also at the colony. I'd brought my spotting scope along to help me find them, but as it turned out we were so close to the birds, my binoculars were sufficient to search for the subtle differences between the two species. After less than minute of scanning I got lucky and spotted a Cape Gannet at the back of the group, distinguished by its longer gular (throat) stripe and paler head. The attending volunteer confirmed the sighting and was quite impressed that I'd picked it so quickly. Because he deemed me to be a 'serious birder' we got to spend some quality time with the birds which was a real treat.
There were plenty of chicks present, some still downy, others moulting so that their white feathers were beginning to show. These birds are full of character and it was a privilege to be able to see a breeding colony so close.
Behind this colony out at sea, are Lawrence Rocks. This is where the main population of gannets nest. The rocks are painted white with birds, 6000 pairs call Lawrence Rocks home.
As we left the colony we also happened upon a little Lowlands Copperhead snake and it's always exciting to come across wild reptiles.
To fill in the rest of the afternoon we headed to Mt Clay State Park. From Sawpit Picnic Area we did a walk through the woodland, spotting lovely birds such as Gang-gang Cockatoo and Blue-winged Parrots. The trail was a loop which took us through the tall eucalypts and bracken fern, until we reached a lookout which gave us ocean views beyond the farmland. Just another fantastic sight Portland has to offer.