• 24th August 2008, SOSSA PELAGIC TRIP, WOLLONGONG, NSW, AUSTRALIA.

    Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.

    Departed: 07:30 returned at 15:30.
    Sea conditions: SW 1.0 to 2.0m.
    Swell: SE to 3.0 to 4.0m.
    Weather: Clear and sunny all day.
    Temperature range: 7.1 to 17.0įC.
    Barometric pressure: 1028 HPa rising.
    Wind: south westerly less than 5 knots at first increasing to 10 to 15 knots by mid morning.
    Sea surface temperature: 15.4 to 17.0įC.
    Primary chumming location: 34į 37íS : 151į 11íE.

    Summary:

    A large anticyclone was moving out of the Great Australian Bight into western Victoria. A low-pressure system had developed off the north east coast of NSW previous day, creating gale force winds, but now was moving eastwards into the Tasman Sea. The weather was very chilly but otherwise pleasant. The sea had not settled down after the wild weather but at least it was safe to leave the harbour, in contrast to the previous day.

    Black-browed and Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross greeted us as we cleared the breakwater and soon a SOUTHERN GIANT-PETREL appeared over the top of a large swell. Crested and White-fronted Terns were fishing close inshore and a Brown Skua was looking for an opportunity to create havoc. Small numbers of Fluttering Shearwaters and Australasian Gannets were present also. Several Australian Pelicans and the first WEDGE-TAILED SHEARWATER for the spring season were also foraging over the inshore reefs.

    Progressing southeastward into the large swell we added in quick succession; Campbell, SHY, White-capped, Gibsonís and WANDERING ALBATROSS to our tally for the day. There were a lot of albatross about so it was not too much of a surprise when 2 adult BULLERíS ALBATROSS appeared over the wake soon after we crossed the 70-fathom line. This continued the recent spate of records of this normally infrequently observed species. A first-year GREY-HEADED ALBATROSS at the 75-fathom line was the first for the winter however. Close views of a juvenile NORTHERN GIANT-PETREL added to the excitement as we continued towards deeper a water. A New Zealand Fur-Seal was basking on the surface and Fairy Prions began to appear around us. Another adult BULLERíS ALBATROSS joined us at 90 fathoms and this bird stayed with us for quite a long time.

    Although uncomfortable for some, we set up a drift-and-berley session just beyond the 100-fathom line and the difficult conditions were soon forgotten as new species arrived thick and fast. A WHITE-FACED STORM-PETREL of the New Zealand race maoriana appeared at the bow, only the second sighting of this subspecies for the Wollongong Pelagic trips, but in perplexing fashion it completely ignored the berley trail. In contrast the Fairy Prions were circling the vessel affording excellent views. The first pterodroma petrel of the day zoomed in from the south and was easily identified as a Great-winged Petrel. Shortly thereafter a Solanderís Petrel appeared providing an opportunity to compare the species side-by-side. An adult female NORTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS flew in and joined the Gibsonís, Black-browed, Campbell, Shy, White-capped and Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross immediately at our stern. The first NEW ZEALAND CAPE PETREL for the 2008 season arrived and began to forage with the Fairy Prions. Several ANTARCTIC PRIONS were a great thrill since this species had not been seen in these waters since 2002! The first Grey-faced Petrel of the spring swung into view providing many on board with their first opportunity to observe Great-winged and Grey-faced Petrels together. All agreed that the differences are obvious and it remains difficult to understand why they are usually considered to be the same species! Single NORTHERN and SOUTHERN GIANT-PETRELS completed the cast of this wonderful seabird spectacle.

    Time dictated that we set a course for the harbour so reluctantly we began cruising west. On the way we recruited the first, rather worn looking, SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATER of the spring at the 80-fathom line. The SOSSA banding team captured a female TRISTAN ALBATROSS amongst several other species and a first year SALVINíS ALBATROSS followed us back to port to complete an amazing day of albatross viewing.

    Unusually, there were no Kelp Gulls to be seen but instead a juvenile White-bellied Sea-Eagle appeared while we were still miles offshore. It picked out the Short-tailed shearwater as a potential afternoon snack and chased it into the distance in a southeasterly direction. Several minutes later an adult White-bellied Sea-Eagle appeared overhead. Perhaps the Kelp Gulls were keeping a low profile for good reason!

    Highlights:

    Amongst an amazing 12 species of albatross recorded with up to seven species in view at any one time, highlights were TRISTAN, NORTHERN ROYAL, BULLERíS, SALVINíS and GREY-HEADED ALBATROSS. The second record of the New Zealand race of WHITE-FACED STORM-PETREL, maoriana, for the Wollongong Pelagic Boat Trips and the first records of ANTARCTIC PRION for 6 years were also notable events,

    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)

    929 SOUTHERN GIANT-PETREL Macronectes giganteus 3 (1)
    937 NORTHERN GIANT-PETREL M. halli 1
    080 New Zealand Cape Petrel Daption capense australe 1
    083 Fairy Prion Pachyptila turtur 38 (20)
    084 ANTARCTIC PRION P. desolata 3 (3)
    075 Great-winged Petrel Pterodroma (macroptera) macroptera 3 (2)
    075 Grey-faced Petrel P. (macroptera) gouldi 1
    971 Solanderís Petrel P. solandri 1
    068 Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia 19 (8)
    069 Wedge-tailed Shearwater P. pacificus 4 (3)
    071 Short-tailed Shearwater P. tenuirostris 1
    086 WANDERING ALBATROSS Diomedea exulans 2 (2)
    845 TRISTAN ALBATROSS D. dabbenena 1
    847 Gibsonís Albatross D. gibsoni 21 (12)
    973 NORTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS D. sanfordi 1
    088 Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys 58 (30)
    859 Campbell Albatross T. impavida 24 (9)
    931 BULLERíS ALBATROSS T. bulleri 3 (2)
    091 SHY ALBATROSS T. cauta 15 (8)
    861 White-capped Albatross T. steadi 7 (2)
    862 SALVINíS ALBATROSS T. salvini 1
    089 Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross T. carteri 24 (5)
    090 GREY-HEADED ALBATROSS T. chrysostoma 1
    065 WHITE-FACED STORM-PETREL Pelagodroma marina maoriana 1
    104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 34 (24)
    106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 5 (2)
    980 Brown Skua Catharacta lonnbergi 6 (3)
    125 Silver Gull Larus novaehollandiae 57 (34)
    114 White-fronted Tern Sterna striata 21 (8)
    115 Crested Tern S. bergii 36 (12)

    In the harbour:

    106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 26 (26)

    23 species of procellariiformes in a total of 29 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.

    Other birds:

    226 White-bellied Sea-Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster 2 (1)

    Mammals:

    New Zealand Fur Seal Arctocephalus forsteri 1
    Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 2 (2)

    Reptiles:

    None

    Fish:

    None
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