Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.
Departed: 07:15 returned at 16:20.
Sea conditions: calm at first then NW to 0.5m.
Weather: clear skies at first with cloud developing from the north later.
Temperature range: 9.9 to 18.6°C.
Barometric pressure: 1015 HPa falling.
Wind: calm at first then changeable westerly breezes becoming NW at 5 to 8 knots.
Sea surface temperature: 16.5 to 18.5°C.
Primary chumming locations: 34° 31’S : 151° 12’E and 34° 32’S : 151° 18’E.
A weak high-pressure ridge was developing over southeastern Australia in the wake of a fast moving cold front that had passed through the region overnight. A deep depression located well to the south of Tasmania was too distant to affect local conditions. Accordingly, we left port in calm conditions under a clear blue sky.
Post-spawning Giant Cuttlefish (Sepia aparma) were evident on the surface outside the harbour and we were eager to see what might be feeding on these carcasses. The calm conditions were almost surreal with land birds such as Galahs and Welcome Swallows featuring early on. Conditions were ideal for observing marine mammals and, following reports of orcas in the area during the week, the hopes of those interested in creatures other than birds were also raised. Two Little Penguins seemed embarrassed by how obvious their presence was and remained on the surface as we passed. Birds were scarce however and only 2 Black-browed Albatross were observed over the inshore reefs.
A juvenile Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross and a smattering of Fluttering and Hutton’s Shearwaters held the stage until we were well offshore and finally, our harbinger of spring, the first Wedge-tailed Shearwater of the 2009 breeding season was observed at the 60-fathom line. White-fronted Terns began to tag along with us until we had at least 9 birds following astern and eventually perched on the boat.
A WHITE-FACED STORM-PETREL and a Solander’s Petrel heralded our arrival at the edge of the continental shelf. Since the former species has become very scare in Wollongong waters in recent years we hauled up and set up a drift-and-berley session. The storm-petrel remained in view for several minutes and, gradually, we accumulated a small flock of albatross. After some deliberation a small grey headed cauta type albatross was identified as a first year SALVIN’S ALBATROSS.
Unusually, as we left our berley trail, more albatross appeared suggesting that perhaps these birds had been holding their distance in the calm conditions. Irrespective of the cause we were very pleased to receive the arrival of a male and female Gibson’s Albatross, 2 first year White-capped Albatross and a 4th year BULLER’S ALBATROSS. We elected to head eastward to the 600-fathom line and, as we prepared to stop for a second drift-and-berley session, a New Zealand Cape Petrel appeared over our wake.
A ‘leopard morph’ Diomedea attracted attention as it circled the boat, being larger than the Gibson’s Albatross. The SOSSA banding team captured the bird easily as it charged toward the boat, showing considerable aggression towards the other albatross present. Morphometric data confirmed its identity as a female TRISTAN ALBATROSS. By contrast, two female WANDERING ALBATROSS showed little inclination toward a close approach.
Several more WHITE-FACED STORM-PETREL were observed as we approached the edge of the continental shelf on the return leg of the cruise. Several Campbell Albatross and a Brown Skua were additions to the species tally along with a Little Pied Cormorant just outside the breakwater.
Despite the perfect conditions no marine mammals or fish were observed on this trip. In contrast there were plenty of albatross in view all day, many following us right back to the harbour entrance.
A very pleasant winter day that was dominated by albatross sightings; 10 species in all that included WANDERING, TRISTAN, BULLER’S and SALVIN’S ALBATROSS.
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)
005 Little Penguin Eudyptula minor 2 (2)
080 New Zealand Cape Petrel Daption capense australe 1
971 Solander’s Petrel Pterodroma solandri 5 (3)
068 Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia 585+ (500+)
913 Hutton’s Shearwater P. huttoni 36 (25)
069 Wedge-tailed Shearwater P. pacificus 8 (4)
086 WANDERING ALBATROSS Diomedea exulans 2 (2)
845 TRISTAN ALBATROSS D. dabbenena 1 female
847 Gibson’s Albatross D. gibsoni 11 (8)
088 Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys 8 (3)
859 Campbell Albatross T. impavida 4 (4)
931 BULLER’S ALBATROSS T. bulleri 1
091 Shy Albatross T. cauta 1 (1)
861 White-capped Albatross T. steadi 2 (2)
862 SALVIN’S ALBATROSS T. salvini 1
089 Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross T. carteri 35 (15)
065 WHITE-FACED STORM-PETREL Pelagodroma marina dulciae 4 (1)
104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 10 (5)
100 Little Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax melanoleucos 1
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 3 (2)
980 Brown Skua Catharacta lonnbergi 1
125 Silver Gull Larus novaehollandiae 75+ (35+)
114 White-fronted Tern Sterna striata 5 (1)
115 Crested Tern S. bergii 35 (15)
In the harbour:
100 Little Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax melanoleucos 2 (2)
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 7 (7)
16 species of procellariiformes in a total of 24 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.
131 Sooty Oystercatcher Haematopus fuliginosus 4 (2)
273 Galah Cacatua roseicapilla 11 (11)
357 Welcome Swallow Hirundo neoxena 4 (4)