Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.
Departed: 07:20 returned at 16:30 EST.
Sea conditions: calm at first to 0.5m WNW later.
Swell: to 1.0m SE.
Weather: overcast with a high ceiling in the morning clearing to partly cloudy with hazy sunshine in the afternoon. Temperature range: 20.1 to 23.6°C.
Barometric pressure: 1022 HPa steady.
Wind: NNW to 5 knots at first increasing to WNW 10 knots by mid morning.
Sea surface temperature: 22.3 to 23.1°C.
Primary chumming location: S 34° 26’ – E 151° 27’.
A high-pressure system was located east of the New South Wales in the Tasman Sea generating a gentle northerly air stream with some moisture. Following a quiet pelagic trip two days prior we were hoping that the consistent breezes would generate more seabird activity and the change of wind direction might also help. However, the birds were even less hungry to the point that they were reluctant to take to the wing even as our vessel approached.
The local gull population seemed eager to follow us at first and we even attracted a White Ibis overhead, which gave us a quick look over. As on our Saturday trip, Australasian Gannets, mostly first and second year birds, dominated early and, promisingly, a small gathering of shearwaters began to follow us. The first few Solander’s (Providence) Petrels were sighted well before the edge of the continental shelf, which is usually an indication that good numbers are in the general vicinity. A small group of Short-beaked Common Dolphins rode our bow wave before peeling off to resume their pursuit of prey.
Once over the continental slope we sighted a trawler and as we approached we could see a flock of seabirds following. As is our habit we decide to attempt to drag these birds behind us into deeper water to attract more seabirds. Today however somebody else had written the script; our flock of eager followers saw the trawler, abandoned us and followed it south, leaving us without a bird in sight! From here the day became very slow. As we headed east just about every bird we saw was either a Great-winged or Solander’s Petrel and these appeared to scoff at our attempt to attract them to the boat with a drfit-and-berley session.
Even in the deeper water there were no birds, no cetaceans nor fish to look at. This was toward the low end of pelagic birding experience but at least it was calm and warm! Perhaps things would improve during the cruise home.
As we neared the continental shelf once more we spotted a raft of birds on the water. A large number of Flesh-footed Shearwaters and Petrels were resting on the surface and some were holding squid in the bills. These were fully loaded birds that were not intent on doing anything but digestion! A lone Wilson’s Storm-Petrel was searching for scraps in the vicinity.
As we neared the harbour even the Silver Gulls could not be bothered with us at first and the only birds that would follow us were small group of Kelp Gulls. Eventually, a few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters joined in and some more willing Silver Gulls appeared. A pale morph Pomarine Jaeger in full breeding plumage zoomed through the flock and knocked a Silver Gull into the water but I was the only one to notice.
Well, at least it had been a lovely warm afternoon…
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 15 (10)
971 Solander’s Petrel P. solandri 75+ (50+)
069 Wedge-tailed Shearwater Puffinus pacificus 245+ (125+)
071 Short-tailed Shearwater P. tenuirostris 7 (2)
072 Flesh-footed Shearwater P. carneipes 123 (75)
063 Wilson’s Storm-Petrel Oceanites oceanicus 1
104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 23 (15)
945 Pomarine Jaeger Stercorarius pomarinus 1
981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 11 (8)
125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 165+ (75+)
115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 15 (5)
In the harbour:
096 Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 2 (2)
981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 1
115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 1
11 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.
179 Sacred Ibis Threskiornis spinicollis 1
207 Sooty Oystercatcher Haematopus fuliginosus 2 (2)
930 Australian Raven Corvus coronoides 1
Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 6 (6)