Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.
Photos: Fairy prion (B. Whylie); Southern giant-petrel (P.J. Milburn)
Departed: 07:20 returned at approx. 15:45 .
Sea conditions: SSE to 1.0m at first, rising to 1.5 S by mid-morning.
Swell: ESE to 2.0m offshore.
Weather: Mostly overcast with heavy rain periods nearly all day but late patchy sunshine in the afternoon.
Temperature range: 13.4 to 18.5 °C.
Barometric pressure: 1028 HPa.
Wind: SSE 5 knots at first, increasing to S 10 to 15 knots by mid the morning.
Sea surface temperature: 17.5 to 20.4°C.
Primary chumming location: S 34° 32’ – E 151° 15’.
A large anticyclone had moved to the east of Tasmania and a low-pressure system was centered to the west if the Great Australian Bight. This produced a gentle south southeasterly airflow providing a comfortable day and an expectation for plenty of sub-Antarctic seabirds.
As we left the harbour we could see albatross soaring out to sea but immediately inshore were Little Penguins and a small group of terns, including White-fronted Tern. Soon we were among Black-browed, Campbell, Gibson’s, and Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross. The diversity of seabirds was exciting and we had added Brown Skua, New Zealand Cape Petrel and Southern Giant Petrel to the day list by the time we had cleared Wollongong Reef. The later carried a US band that suggested it originated from the Antarctic Peninsula.
As we cruised east, we encountered more Brown Skuas, a White-capped Albatross, the first FAIRY PRION of the day and a first year WANDERING ALBATROSS on our way to the edge of the continental shelf.
Just inside the 200-fathom line, we ran into some good water with surprising numbers of FAIRY PRIONS in evidence and the first pterodromae of the day so we set up a drift-and–berley session. This turned out to be great fun. In reasonably comfortable conditions, we had great views of all the species mentioned previously and, in addition, attracted nominate race Great-winged and Solander’s Petrel, an out of season Slender-billed Shearwater, an adult SHY ALBATROSS, 3 Brown Skuas (including the unusual pale individual recorded the previous day), 3 Northern Giant-Petrels and a small flock of Wilson’s Storm-Petrels. Cape Petrel numbers seemed to increase every time we looked down the berley trail. The number of FAIRY PRIONS suggested that this species is making a resurgence into NSW waters.
Our cruise back to port was relatively uneventful bird wise but altogether thoroughly enjoyable. The weather turned on a great show with a waterspout to our north and multiple vivid rainbows against the slate grey clouds, which provided a dramatic canvas behind the swarm of following seabirds. Close inshore we found two Humpback Whales that breached several times providing great thrills and an Australian Pelican to round off the list of species observed for the day. Interestingly, the aberrant first winter Kelp Gull observed in May joined us a few miles offshore and followed us back to the breakwall. Pterodroma numbers remained unusually low for the season.
The birds observed were very similar to the previous day ‘s trip but conditions were much more comfortable. Once again we observed of 7 species of albatross and the highest number of both FAIRY PRION and Cape Petrel for several years were recorded. The unusual Catharacta Skua reappeared and continued to draw attention to itself.
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 3 (3)
929Southern Giant-Petrel Macronectes giganteus 1
937NORTHERN GIANT-PETREL M. halli 3 (3)
080 Cape Petrel Daption capense australe 27 (25)
075 Great-winged Petrel Pterodroma m. macroptera 2 (2)
971 Solander’s Petrel P. solandri 2 (1)
083 FAIRY PRION Pachyptila turtur 130+ (125+)
068 Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia 6 (3)
917 Hutton’s Shearwater P. huttoni 1
071 Short-tailed Shearwater P. tenuirostris 1
086 WANDERING ALBATROSS Diomedea exulans 1
847 Gibson’s Albatross D. gibsoni 2 (1)
088 Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys 60+ (40+)
859 Campbell Albatross T. impavida 15 (9)
861 SHY ALBATROSS T. cauta 1
861 White-capped Albatross T. steadi 1
864Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross T.carteri 94 (55)
063 Wilson’s Storm-Petrel Oceanites oceanicus 16 (14)
104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 10 (5)
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 1
980 Brown Skua Catharacta lonnbergi 6 (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 16 (7)
In the harbour:
096 Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
097 Little Black Cormorant P.sulcirostris 1
100 Little Pied Cormorant P. melanoleucos 1
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 5 (5)
25 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.
Other birds identified outside the breakwater:
Humpback Whale Megaptera novaeangliae 2 (2)