Yesterday on the beach that stretches from Marengo to Apollo Bay I stood in the one spot for an hour and a half approaching sunset. There was a brisk easterly blowing and there was more cloud than sun as the air cooled. All these photos (with the exception of the shot of the mature Pacific gulls) were taken from that one spot. I simply had to turn, point the camera up or down, and zoom and focus as the birds came, went and sometimes stayed around me. Their tolerance of me seemed to increase as time wore on.
With the exception of the photo of a juvenile Pacific gull, and the shot of an adult hooded plover, the birds photographed yesterday evening are either crested terns or silver gulls (juvenile or adult).
There was a neat postscript to my time spent photographing these birds. As I took this final silhouette shot, in the distance I saw something airborne that was very small and by its motion and appearance, not a bird. I trained the 600mm telephoto lens on it, and confirmed it was a hang glider at about 2,000 feet above ground level just north of the town. Shortly afterwards my iPhone announced that a good friend and 9 or 10 of his good friends had just successfully flown their hang gliders (one did the trip in a paraglider!) from Bells Beach to Apollo Bay. We all caught up and dined on fish and chips at Spiro’s in town, with the conversation and atmosphere alive and loud as the pilots slowly came down from the concentration and exhilaration of this gutsy coast run. I flew my hang glider with four of this crew on different occasions in days long gone at places such as Bright (in the mountains) and Birchip (towing up from the flatlands). I have never attempted the Bells to Apollo Bay coastal run.
For one of their number (Gary) it was the first time he had successfully completed this coastal run – he was in the air for about 6 hours. It was his arrival I saw with my zoom lens – he was the last of the group to land. My friend Hughbert took around 4:45 for the flight. It was his tenth trip. The journey is about 82kms straight line. But the difficulty not the distance is the thing with this flight. Every pilot would’ve flown a longer distance than 82kms with all the turning and flying backwards and forwards in tight spots to get lift to make it to the next point. There are places en route where if lift is not found, a water landing is all that is on offer.
Most remarkably, the one pilot who was did not join us at Spiro’s was Rohan and he had a very sound excuse. Upon arriving overhead Apollo Bay (passing Wild Dog Creek is treated as making it) he turned around and flew back to Jan Juc (the next beach east of Bells Beach i.e. beyond Bells). This is the first time any pilot has performed this remarkable return flight. Normally the wind strongly favours making headway to the south west from Bells Beach, which is why the return trip has never been even tried to my knowledge. But the trip down was hard going for all given the wind direction and strength which meant that it offered the possibility of the return trip. What a legend Rohan is (and was, even before this additional feat in his illustrious hang gliding career). Most of the happy crew are shown below before packing up at Apollo Bay and heading to the fish and chip shop. There is great depth of experience and a wealth of incredible flying stories able to be told first hand by this crew.
The seabirds weren’t the only ones revelling in the joy of silent flight as the daylight faded at Apollo Bay yesterday.