Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.
Departed: 07:15 returned at 16:30.
Sea conditions: calm at first then NNE to 0.5m.
Swell: SE to 1.0 to 1.5m.
Weather: Warm and sunny with clear skies all day.
Temperature range: 14.2 to 27.3°C.
Barometric pressure: 1010 HPa falling.
Wind: calm at first then variable northerly breezes and NNE 5 to 8 knots in the afternoon.
Sea surface temperature: 17.3 to 19.3°C.
Primary chumming locations: 34° 26’S : 151° 18’E and 34° 24’S : 151° 22’E.
A weak high-pressure system in the Tasman Sea created mild and stable conditions for the duration of the trip, with a gentle north northeasterly breeze developing in the afternoon.
Once again, Giant Cuttlefish (Sepia aparma) were evident on the surface outside the harbour. The water was 2.5°C warmer inshore than on the previous morning but, paradoxically, there were more albatross and even a NORTHERN GIANT-PETREL feeding on them. An Australian Fur-Seal and a Little Penguin were also recorded close inshore. While we were enjoying views of rafts of albatross, including a female WANDERING ALBATROSS, a lucky glance from the foredeck fell upon a surfacing KOGIA (PYGMY SPERM WHALE). It did not make a ripple on the glassy ocean surface and despite attracting a small group of Silver Gulls was not seen by most on board before it sank gently back out of view without further observation.
Beyond Wollongong Reef, there were further sightings of Little Penguin and Australian Fur-Seals and groups of hundreds of Fluttering Shearwaters. Smaller numbers of Hutton’s and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Australian Gannets were also foraging in this area. In deeper water we encountered more albatross and we had recorded Black-browed, WANDERING, Campbell, Indic Yellow-nosed, Shy and White-capped before we reached the edge of the continental shelf. Additionally, we had enjoyed good views of both NORTHERN and SOUTHERN GIANT-PETREL. Some amongst our party, who were visiting from the northern hemisphere, were already pretty excited by events thus far.
At the 100-fathom line an adult BULLER’S ALBATROSS closed in on us and began to feed eagerly at our stern. We stopped to set up a drift-and-berley session in hope of attracting some storm-petrels as we had done on the previous day’s trip. We failed in that endeavour but this was all but forgotten when an ANTARCTIC MINKE WHALE surfaced virtually alongside. Happily, everyone aboard saw this magnificent animal.
We continued eastward and set up a second drift-and-berley session near a trawler that had stopped to haul its net. This also went perfectly to plan and we attracted a large mixed flock of seabirds. Highlights here were NORTHERN GIANT-PETREL, NEW ZEALAND CAPE and Solander’s Petrels, WANDERING, ANTIPODEAN, Gibson’s and Shy ALBATROSS and a BROWN SKUA. A large pod of oceanic Bottle-nosed Dolphins were an impressive sight as they hurtled past our drifting vessel.
Our cruise back to Wollongong featured sightings of at least 2 more BULLER’S ALBATROSS and lots more shearwaters.
A pleasant winter day with bird sightings dominated by albatross sightings; 9 species in all that included WANDERING, ANTIPODEAN and BULLER’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 7 (2)
929 SOUTHERN GIANT-PETREL Macronectes giganteus 1
937 NORTHERN GIANT-PETREL M. halli 3 (1)
080 New Zealand Cape Petrel Daption capense australe 3 (3)
971 Solander’s Petrel Pterodroma solandri 10 (6)
068 Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia 2300+ (1000+)
913 Hutton’s Shearwater P. huttoni 380+ (350+)
069 Wedge-tailed Shearwater P. pacificus 27 (13)
086 WANDERING ALBATROSS Diomedea exulans 4 (3)
846 ANTIPODEAN ALBATROSS D. antipodensis 1
847 Gibson’s Albatross D. gibsoni 9 (8)
088 Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys 16 (8)
859 Campbell Albatross T. impavida 6 (3)
931 BULLER’S ALBATROSS T. bulleri 3 (2)
091 Shy Albatross T. cauta 2 (1)
861 White-capped Albatross T. steadi 3 (2)
089 Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross T. carteri 11 (4)
104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 4 (2)
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 1
980 Brown Skua Catharacta lonnbergi 1
125 Silver Gull Larus novaehollandiae 88 (55)
114 White-fronted Tern Sterna striata 4 (3)
115 Crested Tern S. bergii 19 (11)
In the harbour:
100 Little Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax melanoleucos 1
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 7 (7)
16 species of procellariiformes in a total of 23 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.
ANTARCTIC MINKE WHALE Balaenoptera bonaerensis 1
PYGMY SPERM WHALE Kogia breviceps 1
Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 50+ (50+)
Australian Fur Seal Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus 5 (3)