• 29th to 31st March 2007 SOSSA Inaugural 100 Nautical Mile Pelagic

    Report prepared by: Lindsay E. Smith

    Records by: L.Smith, T.Palliser, N.Waugh B.Whylie
    Location: 110 NM N/E of Ulladulla
    Wind: 30 - 35 Knots SSE
    Sea conditions: 3.5 - 4 meres SE

    An Inaugural Exploration of Discovery
    Beyond the Continental Shelf

    Departed Ulludulla Harbour 2130hrs.

    Once clear of the harbour we set a course E/NE and motored 10-12 knots all night. The sea conditions running to 3- 3.5meters and a strong wind coming in from the SW at approximately 25 to 30 knots. The MV Banks handled the conditions well and our plan was to drift south during daylight hours to give maximum exposure to the birds under varying conditions.

    Members of the expedition were excited by the prospect of what birds we might expect to see in the morning. Some were sitting in the Mess and enjoying cappuccino’s and chocolates. Getting acquainted with their new shipmates and catching up with old hands.

    One by one they drifted off to their bunks. The steady rhythmic hum of the engines, lulling them off to a broken sleep? Awakening now and then in anticipation of what was in store in the days ahead, or was it the boat riding over the crest of wave and pitching into the next, that kept them awake?

    Others were out on deck sheltering from the wind, taking in the scene and enjoying the salt air and occasional spray and taste of the briny water on our faces, but not for long.

    Well before daybreak several were up and about. Some were sitting in comfort in the Mess enjoying hot coffee and peering out at a wild sea. Great-winged petrels and Shearwaters were in abundance as they flashed past the windows obviously in their element making great use of the wind and arching high into the air. Over what could only described as a spectacular wind blown seascape.

    From 0700-0900 breakfast was served and what a breakfast it was, with cereals and fresh fruit, eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms, beans and lashings of hot toast and butter all washed down with fresh espresso coffee or fresh fruit juice.

    By 0700hrs Friday we were well beyond the continental shelf in true pelagic waters. At 1300hrs we were 110 nautical miles east of Kiama. Conditions were uncomfortable, but the birds were great! As I ventured out on the lee side I saw Darryl and Terrill chumming for the birds from amidship, the keen birdos / photographers were gathered at the stern in the shelter of the cabin. David Mitford, Nathan Waugh and others were up on the Observation Deck sheltering from the wind and sea spray as the ship cut through the now rising sea.

    Kermadec petrel! A shout went out. This was a new bird for some on board and was a sign of what was to come. As the day progressed more petrels were observed mainly Great-winged and Providence petrels, these were soon joined by Shearwaters and Albatrosses.

    The first of the Gould’s petrels put in an appearance, flying across our wake bringing excited calls across the boat and a broad smile to the face of Mike Double.

    Due to sea conditions were had to alter our course and motor across the swell in order to make the trip as comfortable as possible and provide suitable conditions for the photographers to get some excellent images of the birds we encountered. Including a magnificent Red-tailed Tropicbird which came in from the north and flew directly less than 20metres above our heads. At a distance of a few hundred meters the bird turned and flew back over the boat again. It is amazing just how glistening white these birds appear at sea.

    Day Two: 0700hrs

    The prevailing southerly wind has brought a whole suit of albatrosses including Northern Royal albatross Wandering and Gibson’s albatrosses (Tasmanian) Shy albatross, Campbell Island albatross, Black-browed albatross (nominate) and Indian yellow-nosed albatross.

    We were still well beyond the continental shelf at a similar position, though a little further south than we were yesterday at the same time see course map below.

    The presence of three great albatross species side by side allowed a great opportunity to see the differences between, Northern Royal albatross, Wandering and Gibson’s albatrosses. This, along with the opportunity to view seven species of albatrosses together was a great bonus for those who were new to albatrosses and presented some with a few more species for their life list.

    A Masked Booby and two immature Australasian Gannets also attended the melee. The Masked Booby is a very rare species for NSW and always a welcome addition to the list.

    The change in course also allowed almost favourable conditions for the banding team, Darryl McKay, Terrill Nordstrom and Damien Farine managed to capture and band several Wedge-tailed shearwaters from the growing mixed flock of birds following in our wake. Then came two adult Dark phased Pomarine Jaegers in full breeding condition and they looked spectacular.

    Almost as a final surprise sighting a White-bellied Sea-Eagle plummeted in to the following flock of birds and emerged struggling with a Flesh-footed shearwater. The eagle managed to stay aloft just above the waves as it struggled to shore.

    In all a successful excursion with two further trips planned for the future. June and October 2007 see website for details http://www.sossa-international.org. Book early to avoid disappointment.

    What others had to say

    Graham Morgan

    Ahoy, Wooden Ships, Iron Men and Janice. Incredible knowledge base on board. So much so that I felt I was learning by osmosis. Some new birds for me. Good food and a fabulous (overworked) crew. Seven species of Albatross, priceless!

    Wonderful fellowship. Look forward to going again. Hoping for calmer seas.

    PS: Should lose the rear mounted tender.

    I'm not sure that the SOSSA members on the trip realised what a repository of knowledge they are. Small ships and rough weather are great levelers. As I said, all good fellowship. I heard you discussing the tender with the skipper just put my three penny worth in. I'm sure it will be a common suggestion. Otherwise it represents an excellent platform for viewing and photography.

    Graham Barwell

    I can't add anything to this list except to note that the Wilson 's Storm-Petrel was seen on the first day as well, and was attracted to the boat's lights that evening and appeared to be feeding.

    Would the Masked Booby record be the furthest south in SE Aust. waters? I'm aware of a report of a sub-adult of Wollongong in May 2003, but SOSSA may have other records from this far south.

    Tony Palliser

    Guys, Just a quick note to say thanks for organizing the trip – a great boat particularly when you take into account the heavy weather and most importantly I got some great photos – although I missed the Kermadec shots damn it. But that is a good excuse to go out again. Please put my name down for the OCTOBER trip.

    Chris Brandis

    Pushing the boundaries with organised trips outside the "normal" voyage areas increases our knowledge of the sea around us and the birds utilising the area. Many of these areas are never visited by a group of experienced birders and this trip off Ulladulla may have shed some light on to the usual habitat of the Kermadec Petrel. Although conditions were not ideal we managed to submit 3 unusual reports to NSW ORAC for Masked Booby, Northern Royal Albatross and Kermadec Petrel, substantiated with photographs, the power of the digital camera.

    David Mitford

    The trip certainly lived up to all my expectations ornithologically. The weather made things a little tough but that added to the experience. The food was excellent, the staff, were attentive and I would definitely book again!

    Passengers On Board

    Back Row: L-R, Captain Carl Loves, Tony Blunden UK , Mike Double, Tony Palliser,
    Brook Whylie, Nathan Waugh, Damien Farine, Terrill Nordstrom
    Middle Row: Graham Barwell, Janice Jenkin-Smith, Graham Morgan, Lindsay Smith, Jim O’Shea
    Sitting Down Front: Chris Brandis, Jason Goodwin UK , David Mitford, Darryl McKay

    Species number
    Great-winged Petrel, Pterodroma macoptera
    Providence Petrel, Pterodroma solandri
    Kermadec Petrel, Pterodroma neglecta
    Gould’s Petrel, Pterodroma leucoptera
    Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Puffinus pacificus
    Flesh-footed Shearwater, Puffinus carneipes
    Sooty Shearwater, Puffinus griseus
    Short-tailed Shearwater, Puffinus tenuirostris
    Fluttering Shearwater, Puffinus gavial
    Wandering Albatross, Diomedea exulans
    Gibson’s Albatross, Diomedea gibsoni
    Northern Royal Albatross, Diomedea sanfordi
    Black-browed Albatross, Thalassarche melanophrys
    Campbell Albatross, Thalassarche impavida
    Shy Albatross, Thalassarche cauta
    Indian yellow-nosed Albatross, Thalassarche bassi
    Wilson ’s Storm-Petrel, Oceanites oceanicus
    Australasian Gannet, Morus serrator
    Masked Booby, Sula dactylatra
    Australian Pelican, Pelicanus conspicillatus
    Red-tailed Tropicbird Phaeton rubricauda
    Pomarine Jaeger, Stercorarius pomarinus
    Silver Gull, Larus novaehollandiae
    Crested Tern, Sterna bergii
    Grey Ternlet, Procelsterna cerulea

    Map and Bathymetry (Damien Farine)
    Wandering Albatross and wild seas (Jason Goodwin)
    Wandering Albatross and wild seas (Tony Palliser)
    Campbell Albatross (Jason Goodwin)
    Northern Royal Albatross (Jason Goodwin)
    Plenty Of Space (Lindsay Smith)

    L-R Adam, Peter (captain) Jason (chef) (Janice Jenkin- Smith)

    Coordinates - Chris Brandis

    7 am: 34 57 151 54
    9 am: 34 45 152 11
    10 am: 34 43 152 18
    11 am: 34 39 152 27
    1 pm: 34 38 152 31
    2 pm: 34 39 152 29
    3 pm: 34 41 152 26
    7 am: 35 06 151 44
    12 am: 35 14 151 04
    1 pm: 35 15 150 58
    3 pm: 35 16 150 50
    4 pm: 35 18 150 43
    5 pm: 35 21 150 32

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