Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.
Photos: Wandering albatross (P.J. Milburn); Cape petrel (B. Whylie); Brown skua (B. Whylie).
Departed: 07:30 returned at approx. 15:15 .
Sea conditions: SSE 1.0 to 1.5m at first but rising to 1.5 to 2.0m S by mid-morning.
Swell: SE 1.5 to 2.0m inshore and up to 4.0m offshore.
Weather: Heavily overcast with rain periods nearly all morning but patchy sunshine in the afternoon.
Temperature range: 13.1 to 17.3 °C.
Barometric pressure: 1024 HPa rising.
Wind: SSE 5 to 10 knots at first, increasing to S 15 to 20 knots by mid the morning; 20 to knots ahead of the rain squalls.
Sea surface temperature: 17.1 to 19.7°C.
Primary chumming location: S 34° 39’ – E 151° 09’.
A large anticyclone was centered over Tasmania and a complex but weak low-pressure system in the Tasman Sea had combined to produce a strong southeasterly airflow for two days prior to the trip. We were expecting these conditions to ease but a weak front moved north through during the day generating uncomfortable conditions.
As we left the harbour we could see albatrosses soaring out to sea and immediately inshore were a Little Penguin and several Crested Terns. A mob of gulls had no sooner joined us than a Brown Skua dropped out of the sky and sent them into a panic. Five minutes later, we were amidst the albatross and among the Black-browed, were an adult Campbell , two Gibson’s, an adult Indic-yellow-nosed and two WANDERING ALBATROSS. While we were enjoying these, a male Peregrine Falcon flew overhead towards the Five Islands . Several Fluttering Shearwaters were cruising inside Wollongong Reef along with a Hutton’s Shearwater.
A little wider, we encountered the main body of Fluttering Shearwaters, several Humpback Whales, a NORTHERN GIANT-PETREL and the first FAIRY PRION of the day. The wind strengthened ahead of heavy, rain-filled black clouds to our south. The trip out to the edge of the continental shelf was slow and hard going in the uncomfortable sea and intermittent rain. All in all things were pretty wet but an interesting cohort of birds followed us, a newly fledged SHY ALBATROSS and two nominate race Great-wing Petrels appearing briefly in their midst.
We were able to set up a drift briefly at the 150-fathom line and attracted a White-headed Albatross and the first Cape Petrel (NZ race) of the winter season. Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross were few and far between until this point, where upon they appeared in droves with many juveniles among them. An unusual Skua appeared, which at times looked as though it might be an Antarctic Skua and at others a pale bodied Brown Skua.
Early on our return cruise, a solitary Solander’s Petrel was sighted as we crossed back onto the continental shelf. There was plenty of entertainment during our cruise back to port. Early on, a pod of Short-beaked Common Dolphin followed us for about five minutes and a third year SHY ALBATROSS appeared. Closer inshore we found several more Humpback Whales and White-fronted Tern and Australian Pelican were added to the list of species observed for the day.
Conditions were tough in the morning and for most of the day the light was very poor but there were plenty of birds to look at and some added excitement from close encounters with cetaceans. Some sunshine in the afternoon, easing wind and close up views of 7 species of albatross left pleasant memories. It is early days yet but the number of FAIRY PRIONS observed may herald the return of this species as a winter visitor in Wollongong waters, after an absence of several years. The unusual Catharacta Skua created a subject for ongoing debate.
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)
005 Little Penguin Eudyptula minor 1
937NORTHERN GIANT-PETREL Macronectes halli 2 (2)
080 Cape Petrel Daption capense australe 1
075 Great-winged Petrel Pterodroma m. macroptera 2 (2)
971 Solander’s Petrel P. solandri 1
083 FAIRY PRION Pachyptila turtur 35+ (5)
068 Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia 325+ (300+)
917 Hutton’s Shearwater P. huttoni 2 (1)
086 WANDERING ALBATROSS Diomedea exulans 3 (3)
847 Gibson’s Albatross D. gibsoni 3 (2)
088 Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys 35+ (21)
859 Campbell Albatross T. impavida 12 (7)
861 SHY ALBATROSS T. cauta 2 (1)
861 White-capped Albatross T. steadi 1
864 Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross T.carteri 80+ (75+)
063 Wilson ’s Storm-Petrel Oceanites oceanicus 1
104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 33 (25)
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 2 (2)
980 Brown Skua Catharacta lonnbergi 4 (2)
981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 6 (4)
125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 325+ (250+)
114 White-fronted tern Sterna striata 1
115 Crested Tern S. bergii 7 (3)
In the harbour:
193 Striated Heron Ardeola striatus macrorhynchus 1
100 Little Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax melanoleucos 1
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 5 (5)
125 Silver Gull Larus novaehollandiae 5 (55)
23 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.
237 Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus 1
Humpback Whale Megaptera novaeangliae 6 (2)
Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 20+ (20+)