• 18th December 2010 SOSSA PELAGIC TRIP, WOLLONGONG, NSW, AUSTRALIA.

    Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.

    Departed: 07:20 returned at 15:30.
    Sea conditions: choppy to 1.5 m WNW.
    Swell: negligible.
    Weather: cloudy, clearing in mid afternoon following the rain squalls associated with the passage of the front.
    Temperature range: 18.8 to 25.4C.
    Barometric pressure: 1001HPa rising slowly.
    Wind: WNW 10 kts, increasing to 17 kts by mid morning and gusting to 35 kts in the afternoon ahead of the south-westerly change.
    Sea surface temperature: 19.3 to 20.6C.
    Primary chumming location: 34 31'S : 151 18'E.

    Summary:

    A weak depression was centered over the Tasman Sea generating cool, cloudy conditions. A ridge of high pressure was building over the southern half of the continent generating westerly winds. The passage of a cold front associated with a low-pressure system south of Tasmania brought spectacular rain squalls in the afternoon.

    Birds were sparse close inshore but a third year Shy Albatross in heavy moult and a Hammerhead Shark provided some initial excitement. Fortunately, we did not have to wait for too long before we had an interesting variety of seabirds following us, including two juvenile Campbell and one third year Black-bowed Albatross. A mixed species flock of shearwaters was foraging outside Wollongong Reef and this activity attracted both Pomarine and Arctic Jeagers. The latter were last seen in pursuit of the several Silver Gulls that had ventured offshore with us but had now suddenly changed their strategy for the day and were returning to shore in haste.

    At a reliably productive deep-water reef we encountered a first year INDIC YELLOW-NOSED ALBATROSS, which was very fortunate for our albatross hungry guests from overseas because this species is rarely seen in these waters in the summer months.

    At the 100-fathom line we encountered the first Grey-faced Petrels of the day as we continued heading east with the stiffening breeze astern. A SEI WHALE was reported from the upper deck but as is usual for sightings of this species in our area it was observed only the once. At the 200-fathom line we set up a drift-and-berley session that provided good views of a Sooty Shearwater but little else

    We resigned ourselves to the fact that we were not going to attract any of the hoped for diomedea albatross and began our return leg of the trip. We decided to head slightly southward towards the 5 Island Group rather than punch straight into the sea. The approach of the cold front was ever more apparent with spectacular towering cumulonimbus and curtains of rain passing out to sea to our south. These frontal conditions often bring different seabirds with them but the flying spray restricted observation to an arc sternwards. Sometimes persistence brings reward, this time in the form of a COOK'S and a GOULD'S PETREL. Both birds were in view for about thirty seconds, crossing the wake several times but did not approach the vessel with the result that most aboard missed them. The rain prevented any further serious observation until we were close inshore among the islands.

    Birds recorded according to the latest Environment Australia Reporting Schedule:

    Species code: Species name: Numbers:

    (Note: numbers in parenthesis = highest count at any one time)

    075 Grey-faced Petrel Pterodroma (macroptera) gouldi 28 (14)
    918 COOK'S PETREL P. cookii 1
    078 GOULD'S PETREL P. leucoptera 1
    068 Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia 16 (11)
    913 Hutton's Shearwater P. huttoni 2 (1)
    069 Wedge-tailed Shearwater P. pacificus 80+ (37)
    070 Sooty Shearwater P. griseus (2) 1
    071 Short-tailed Shearwater P. tenuirostris 225+ (150+)
    072 Flesh-footed Shearwater P. carneipes 5 (2)
    088 Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys 2 (1)
    859 Campbell Albatross T. impavida 3 (2)
    091 Shy Albatross T. cauta 2 (2)
    089 INDIC YELLOW-NOSED ALBATROSS T. carteri 1
    104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 2 (1)
    106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 2 (2)
    945 Pomarine Jaeger Stercorarius pomarinus 5 (3)
    128 Arctic Jaeger S. parasiticus 7 (4)
    981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 2 (2)
    125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 4 (3)
    115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 9 (2)

    In the harbour:

    097 Little Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax sulcirostris 1
    106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 8 (8)

    13 species of procellariiformes in a total of 20 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.

    Other birds:

    none

    Mammals:

    SEI WHALE Balaenoptera borealis 1

    Reptiles:

    None

    Fish:

    Smooth Hammerhead Sphyrna zygaena 2 (1)
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