• 29th July, 2007 SOSSA PELAGIC TRIP, WOLLONGONG, NSW, AUSTRALIA.

    Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.

    Photographs: Common dolphin (Dejan Stojanovic); Gibsons Albatross (Dejan Stojanovic); Shy Albatross (Dejan Stojanovic)
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    Departed: 07:20 returned at 16:24 .
    Sea conditions: calm at first to 1.0 to 1.5m SSW by late morning.
    Swell: slight inshore to SSW 1.0 to 2.0m offshore.
    Weather: Perfect winter sunshine all day but with some high patchy cloud in the afternoon.
    Temperature range: 11.9 to 16.6įC.
    Barometric pressure: 1019 HPa rising.
    Wind: SSW 3 to 5 knots at first increasing to SSW 10 to 15 knots later.
    Sea surface temperature: 16.9 to 18.8įC.
    Primary chumming location: S 34į 34í Ė E 151į 12í.

    Summary:

    A weak high-pressure ridge over southeastern Australia and a low-pressure system in the Tasman Sea combined to generate a south-southwesterly air stream and clear skies. After several days of offshore winds we hoped that the southerly shift in the wind would bring an influx of winter seabirds with it.

    Outside the breakwall, several species of albatross were searching for the floating remains of post-spawning Giant Cuttlefish (Sepia aparma) in spite of the fact that the ocean was glassy calm. The most gentle of southwesterly breezes brought a distinct chill with it. We were caught completely by surprise when a first year GREY-HEADED ALBATROSS slid under our bow and down the port side, mirrored beautifully by the water, less than 30 metres away. Unfortunately, it held its course and that was the last we saw of it. Full credit is due to those who managed to obtain a photograph. We dared wonder if perhaps this was an indication that we would have another great day of albatross watching. The first Brown Skua of the day appeared before we had even cleared Wollongong Reef; Australasian Gannets and Fluttering Shearwaters were patrolling these waters also and among the Crested Terns was a White-fronted Tern.

    In typical fashion Black-browed outnumbered Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross over the inshore reefs but as we headed eastward we soon encountered larger numbers of the latter, along with several SHY ALBATROSS and additional Brown Skuas. At the 65-fathom line, we encountered the first small groups of Fairy Prions and also several Short-beaked Common Dolphins.

    Our arrival at the edge of the continental shelf was heralded in spectacular style when an adult BULLERíS ALBATROSS homed in on us. We stopped to enjoy close up views of this bird, stunning in the winter sunshine, where upon albatross appeared from all directions. Several Diomedea albatross joined the throng and it was easy to pick the large WANDERING from the smaller Gibsonís Albatross. A NORTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS flew across our stern but could not be relocated and, shortly afterwards, an adult male ANTIPODEAN ALBATROSS threw itself into the mix to add to the confusion. We continued the drift-and-berley session and our sharp-eyed skipper soon picked out the NORTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS as it rejoined the albatross flock foraging at our stern. White-capped and SHY ALBATROSS were present in unusually high numbers and a quick census revealed that we had no fewer than 10 species of albatross feeding under our stern!

    All good things must come to an end and did as we headed further east in search of the first petrels for the day. As we reached the edge of the warm current we encountered both NORTHERN and SOUTHERN GIANT-PETREL and several Solanderís Petrels. However, the opposition of the, by now, stiff southerly breeze and the brisk northerly current made conditions very uncomfortable so, in a discretionary move, we headed back toward calmer water. Obligingly, the birds came with us and on the return trip we added Great-winged Petrel to the species list.

    Highlights:

    This was a gem of a day, providing views of no fewer than 11 species of albatross, including stunning adult BULLERíS and NORTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS, a first year GREY-HEADED ALBATROSS just outside the harbour, the first adult male ANTIPODEAN ALBATROSS for many years and an unusually high number of SHY ALBATROSS. In total, 17 species of Procellariiformes were identified during the day.

    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)

    929SOUTHERN GIANT-PETREL Macronectes giganteus 5 (2)
    937NORTHERN GIANT-PETREL M. halli 2 (1)
    075 Great-winged Petrel Pterodroma (m.) macroptera 1
    971 Solanderís Petrel P. solandri 5 (2)
    083 Fairy Prion Pachyptila turtur 60+ (35+)
    068 Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia 85+ (35+)
    086 WANDERING ALBATROSS Diomedea exulans 5 (3)
    846 ANTIPODEAN ALBATROSS D. antipodensis 1 adult male
    847 Gibsonís Albatross D. gibsoni 8 (5)
    973 NORTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS D. sanfordi 1
    088 Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys 31 (15)
    859 Campbell Albatross T. impavida 5 (2)
    931 BULLERíS ALBATROSS T. bulleri 1 adult
    861 SHY ALBATROSS T. cauta 8 (4)
    861 White-capped Albatross T. steadi 5 (3)
    864 Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross T.carteri 87 (35)
    090 Grey-headed Albatross T. chrysostoma 1 first year
    104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 12 (3)
    099 Pied Cormorant 1 Phalacrocorax varius 1
    106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 1
    981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 3 (2)
    125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 750+ (550+)
    114 White-fronted Tern Sterna striata 7 (5)
    115 Crested Tern S. bergii 16 (6)

    In the harbour:

    097 Little Black Cormorant Phalacrocorax sulcirostris 1
    099 Pied Cormorant P. varius 1
    100 Little Pied Cormorant P. melanoleucos 2 (2)
    101 Australian Darter Anhinga melanogaster 1
    106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 9 (9)
    115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 1

    A total of 24 species of seabird were identified outside the breakwater.

    Other birds observed at sea:

    193 Striated Heron Ardeola striatus macrorhynchus 1

    Mammals:


    Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 6 (4)

    Reptiles:

    None

    Fish:

    None
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