• 24th FEBRUARY, 2007 SOSSA PELAGIC TRIP, WOLLONGONG, NSW, AUSTRALIA.

    Report prepared by L.E. Smith
    Photographs: Flesh-footed shearwater (B. Whylie), Long-tailed jaeger (B. Whylie), Pomarine Jaeger (D. Stojanovic)


    Departed: 07:15 returned at approx. 16:00 .
    Sea conditions: 1.0m- Rising to 2.00m E- to NE.
    Swell: negligible.
    Weather: patchy cloud in the morning but overcast later.
    Temperature range: 19.00 to 27C.
    Barometric pressure: 1016 HPa.
    Wind: NE to 10 knots at first, rising 15-20 knots in the afternoon before predicted Southerly change.
    Sea surface temperature: 19.3 to 20.3C.
    Primary chumming location: S 34 22' - E 151 11'.

    Summary:

    In the absence of any strong currents the sea conditions were comfortable and, under the patchy cloud, the moderating breeze produced a rather comfortable day.

    Given the conditions of the past few days, with a high pressure cell of the coast directing a mainly north easterly winds I was anticipating mainly tropical species for the day.

    As we headed out of the harbor, the almost flat sea allowed brief glimpses of a few Little Penguins foraging just offshore.

    We proceeded out to the Wollongong Reef 15kms offshore, birds in general were few and far between. Only the occasional Australasian Gannet and Fluttering Shearwater being observed. The Silver Gulls were in very low numbers. A distant Streaked Shearwater passing over our wake was the only thing of interest. As we past the reef, the water had a distinct greenish black look to it and appeared lifeless.

    Once past Wollongong Reef we were joined by a few Wedge-tailed, Short-tailed and the first of the Flesh-footed Shearwaters. These followed in our wake and were soon joined by a single Pomarine Jaeger.

    Heading into the wind on a North-easterly course, several more Pomarine Jaegers, a single juvenile Long-tailed Jaeger and a few more Flesh-footed and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters joined the following seabird throng.

    A small pod 3-5 animals, believed to be Bottle-nosed Dolphins. (We lost them in the rising swell) before positive identification could made.

    As we reached deeper water the wind strength increased to approximately 15knots and the direction had shifted more toward the north as we cruised beyond the edge of the continental shelf.

    At the 100-fathom line we turned more to the east and continued into deeper water, leaving the dirty water behind we were soon joined by a lone Sooty Tern and a few more Shearwaters Crested Terns and Pomarine Jaegers including one outstanding adult in fresh plumage. There were now two Long-tailed Jaegers following in our wake, though they remained quite distant.

    We were soon joined by a large, all dark skua with an extensive white wing bar extending well into the secondaries. As the bird came closer thought it was a Dark-phased South Polar Skua in heavy (post breeding?) moult! The white in the secondaries, was indeed the white bases of the secondary feathers, clearly visible due to the molting underwing coverts.

    This bird stayed with us for almost an hour as we headed back in, giving all on board excellent views. Later studies of photogrpahs proved this bird to b a Pomarine Jaeger.

    On crossing the shelf break on our return we were joined by a small pod of Common Dolphins which rode in our bow wave before disappearing as quickly as they had appeared.

    When once more in inshore waters a number of gulls and Jaegers including three Artic Jaegers joined us including an all dark phase bird, the latter were great fun to watch as they harassed the gulls and Crested terns.

    Highlights:

    Wondering if we'd seen a South Polar Skua.

    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)


    068 Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia 5 (3)
    069 Wedge-tailed Shearwater P. pacificus 150 (50)
    070 Sooty Shearwater P. griseus 1 (1)
    071 Short-tailed Shearwater P. tenuirostris 10 (3)
    072 Flesh-footed Shearwater P. carneipes 20 (7)
    853 Streaked Shearwater Calonectris leucomelas 1
    104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 5 (2)
    106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 5 (3)
    128 Arctic Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus 6 (3)
    945 Pomarine Jaeger S. pomarinus 20 (7)
    981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 2 (2)
    125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 50 (19)
    115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 16 (3)
    269 Sooty Tern 1 (1)

    In the harbour:

    096 Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2 (2)
    097 Little Black Cormorant P. sulcirostris 1
    100 Little Pied Cormorant P. melanoleucos 1
    106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 16 (10)

    15 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.

    Other birds:

    Australian Kestrel

    Mammals:

    Bottle-nosed Dolphin 3-5
    Short beaked Common Dolphin 10-12
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