Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.
Photographs: Campbell Albatross (M. Double), Sperm Whale (M. Double).
Departed: 07:15 returned at 16:30 EST.
Sea conditions: calm.
Swell: to 0.5m SE.
Weather: bright sunshine all day.
Temperature range: 16.0 to 23.4°C.
Barometric pressure: 1030 HPa steady.
Wind: SSE to 5 knots.
Sea surface temperature: 22.5 to 23.0°C.
Primary chumming location: S 34° 26’ – E 151° 26’.
A strong high-pressure system was located east of New South Wales in the Tasman Sea and a weaker high-pressure system was located south of western Victoria . In combination, this pattern generated a continuation of the balmy autumn weather that has been a feature of April 2005. Pelagic excursions from New South Wales earlier in the month had encountered an exciting variety of pelagic seabirds so our expectations were high as we left port. We soon realised that the birds were not hungry and with the calm conditions not in the mood to follow us.
Our day started slowly with Australasian Gannets, mostly first and second year birds, being the predominant species. We gradually collected a small number of attendant shearwaters and were greeted at the edge of the continental shelf by an adult Campbell Albatross.
Soon after recording our first Solander’s (Providence) Petrel of the winter season in150 fathoms of water, two Silvereyes made several unsuccessful attempts to land on the boat. The brief appearance of a Sooty Shearwater kindled some brief optimism but somehow we all knew the ocean was having a day of rest.
We elected to continue into deeper water and, eventually, we encountered several more Solander’s (Providence) Petrels and a few Great-winged Petrels, most of which were resting on the surface of the glassy ocean. We began a drift-and-berley session but the lack of wind to carry the fish scent and lack of drift to even create an oil trail did not inspire much confidence in the outcome. In a twist of fate almost exclusive to pelagic bird watching, a LITTLE TERN flew over the vessel. While familiar to all on board, this was the first observation of this species on a Wollongong Pelagic Trip and also rather late in the season for this species to be in these climes.
We were about to start our return cruise when a lone Sperm Whale surfaced close to our bow. The animal was larger then those we normally see in large groups and my surmise is that it was a male. Even this animal seemed in a lazy mood in no hurry to go anywhere else or dive. We passed a Wilson ’s Storm-Petrel on our way back to the continental shelf and were intercepted by a small group of Kelp Gulls as we neared port.
On a day when diversity was low and the seabirds in a lazy mood the highlights were the first LITTLE TERN recorded on a Wollongong Pelagic Trip and relaxed views of a Sperm Whale.
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)
073 Great-winged Petrel Pterodroma macroptera gouldi 8 (8)
971 Solander’s Petrel P. solandri 14 (13)
069 Wedge-tailed Shearwater P. pacificus 125+ (45+)
070 Sooty Shearwater P. griseus 2 (1)
071 Short-tailed Shearwater P. tenuirostris 7 (2)
072 Flesh-footed Shearwater P. carneipes 11 (5)
859 Campbell Albatross Thalassarche impavida 1 adult
063 Wilson ’s Storm-Petrel Oceanites oceanicus 1
104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 25 (5)
981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 6 (6)
125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 120+ (105)
115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 75+ (35+)
117 LITTLE TERN S. albifrons 1
In the harbour:
193 Striated Heron Ardeola striatus macrorhynchus 1
096 Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 8 (8)
125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 75+ (75+)
115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 1
13 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.
207 Sooty Oystercatcher Haematopus fuliginosus 2
574 Silvereye Zosterops lateralis familiaris 2
Sperm Whale Physeter macrocephalus 1