• 26th January 2008 SOSSA PELAGIC TRIP, WOLLONGONG, NSW, AUSTRALIA.

    Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.

    Photographs: Bullers shearwater (B. Whylie), White-necked petrel (B. Whylie), Antipodean albatross (B. Whylie).

    Departed: 07:20 returned at 15:55.
    Sea conditions: calm at first then to 0.5 m later.
    Swell: east southeasterly 1.5 to 2.5 m decreasing to 1.0 to 1.5 m during the day.
    Weather: bright sunshine with scattered cloud during the late morning.
    Temperature range: 22.4 to 29.8°C.
    Barometric pressure: 1014 HPa.
    Wind: SSE 5 to 8 kts in the morning veering to 8 to 10 kts in the afternoon.
    Sea surface temperature: 23.1 to 24.8°C.
    Primary chumming location: S 34° 27’ – E 151° 15’.

    Summary:

    High-pressure systems were located in the Tasman Sea and the Great Australian Bight creating a stable weather pattern with gentle mostly easterly breezes. A warm water core was located offshore that brought a stream of blue pelagic water rippling past the continental shelf. The portents were very promising indeed as we cruised out of the harbour in near perfect conditions.

    Pomarine Jaegers and Crested Terns were patrolling the inshore waters and we had good views of a Smooth Hammerhead Shark as we cruised past. An assortment of small fish was in abundance so it was not a surprise to find an assortment of shearwater species also, which included a BULLER’S SHEARWATER. Marine life was plentiful until we cleared the outermost reef system; the highlights being a playful group of Short-beaked Common Dolphins, another BULLER’S SHEARWATER, a male ANTIPODEAN ALBATROSS and a LONG-TAILED JAEGER.

    At the 80-fathom line we encountered the first cookalaria petrel of the day, which flew across our stern too distantly to be identified with certainty. Shortly afterwards those on the upper deck were able to identify a LITTLE SHEARWATER that also crossed our wake.

    As we cruised over the edge of the continental shelf at the 100-fathom line everybody was fully alert and we were rewarded with great views of one of several WHITE-NECKED PETRELS. We were surrounded by procellariiformes at this point and several Grey-faced Petrels approached our stern closely. Then another cookalaria was spotted ahead of us and this bird obligingly approached our vessel several times allowing its identity to be ascertained. We stopped to drift and berley and although the BLACK-WINGED PETREL remained in view for several minutes it did not approach us again. However, a SOLANDER’S PETREL joined the group foraging alongside the boat to the delight of our participants from overseas because this species is extremely unusual in these waters in late January. Eventually, presumably due to the low wind speed, the birds lost interest in us and alighted on the flat ocean.

    We elected to continue cruising to the northeast but it appeared that the major excitement of the day was behind us. Another cookalaria petrel, which flew across our stern too distantly to be identified with certainty, engendered a distinct feeling of déjà vu.

    Eventually we had to set course for the harbour and leave this productive patch of blue water. We stopped briefly outside a reef at 60-fathoms depth and attracted a spectacular crowd of jaegers that included 8 LONG-TAILED JAEGERS. We had to wait until we were almost back at Wollongong for the one and only Arctic Jaeger of the day.

    Highlights:

    I wish everyone on board could have been a party to the sighting of all of the species recorded but it was one of those frustrating days when that wish could not be realised. Collective highlights were: 4 species of pterodroma petrel, including WHITE-NECKED and BLACK-WINGED PETREL and 8 species of shearwaters including LITTLE and BULLER’S SHEARWATER.

    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 22 (16)
    971 SOLANDER’S PETREL P. solandri 1
    774 WHITE-NECKED PETREL P. cervicalis 3 (3)
    955 BLACK-WINGED PETREL P. nigripennis 1
    067 LITTLE SHEARWATER Puffinus a. assimilis 1
    068 Fluttering Shearwater P. gavia 6 (1)
    913 Hutton’s Shearwater P. huttoni 2 (1)
    069 Wedge-tailed Shearwater P. pacificus 550+ (350+)
    070 Sooty Shearwater P. griseus 1
    071 Short-tailed Shearwater P. tenuirostris 11 (7)
    072 Flesh-footed Shearwater P. carneipes 28 (10)
    975 BULLER’S SHEARWATER P. bulleri 2 (1)
    846 ANTIPODEAN ALBATROSS Diomedea antipodensis 1
    096 Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
    100 Little Pied Cormorant, P. melanoleucos 1
    104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 4 (1)
    106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 5 (5)
    128 Arctic Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus 1
    933 LONG-TAILED JAEGER S. longicauda 11 (8)
    945 Pomarine Jaeger S. pomarinus 25 (16)
    981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 4 (3)
    125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 21 (15)
    115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 4 (2)

    In the harbour:

    096 Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
    100 Little Pied Cormorant, P. melanoleucos 1
    106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 1

    13 species of procellariiformes in a total of 23 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.

    Other birds:

    131 Sooty Oystercatcher Haematopus fuliginosus 1

    Mammals:

    Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 35+ (35+)

    Reptiles:

    None

    Fish:

    Smooth Hammerhead Sphyrna zygaena 1
    Blue Mackerel Scomber australasicus 100+

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