Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.
Photos: Bullers albatross (P. Milburn); Antipodean albatross (P. Milburn); Tristan albatross (P. Milburn); Common dolphin (short-beaked; P. Milburn).
Departed: 07:15 returned at approx. 16:30
Sea conditions: calm to 0.5m NNW later.
Swell: SE less than 0.5m.
Weather: Warm winter sunshine without a cloud in the sky.
Temperature range: 9.1 to 17.8 įC.
Barometric pressure: 1021 HPa steady.
Wind: calm to NW 5 knots in the morning rising to NNW 7 to 10 knots later.
Sea surface temperature: 16.7 to 19.8įC.
Primary chumming location: S 34į 31í Ė E 151į 20í.
An anticyclone was moving into the Tasman Sea with another moving east over the West Australian coast. A series of low-pressure systems were located to the south of the continent. This typical mid-winter pattern had been generating predominantly westerly airflows that had flattened the swell. The light winds and winter sunshine combined to produce a beautiful day on the ocean that was matched with a succession of spectacular seabirds.
The Giant Cuttlefish (Sepia aparma) were dying after spawning and rising to the surface so we elected to run north over the inshore reefs to look for the Giant-Petrels and Albatross that were sure to be feeding on them. Almost immediately outside the harbour, we encountered a juvenile Southern Giant-Petrel feasting on a Cuttlefish. It had a small entourage of Silver Gulls around it, watching, as if in admiration of the two giants. A little beyond here was a Little Penguin fishing, easy to see in the glassy calm water. There must have been a few fish around because there were also Australasian Gannets, Fluttering Shearwaters and Crested Terns in the vicinity. Black-browed Albatross were the most prominent species, 27 adults being counted as we cruised north several nautical miles offshore. Three more Southern Giant-Petrels were found on the water before we spotted our prize, a magnificent male WANDERING ALBATROSS. After watching this bird for several minutes we began our cruise seawards.
We soon encountered the first Indic Yellow-nosed and Campbell Albatross of the day, both adults, and a second white male WANDERING ALBATROSS.
The numbers of Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross increased steadily as we cruised into deeper water and the occasional Brown Skua appeared as if from nowhere to investigate us. We sighted a mixed feeding flock in the distance at the 75-fathom line. Australasian Gannets and Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross were closely following the activity of a group of Short-beaked Common Dolphins.
Wide of the continental shelf we encountered a marked water front so we hove to and berleyed in the current line. Five minutes later, two Gibsonís Albatross appeared from the south and, as birds flew in from all directions, an adult BULLERí ABLATROSS appeared alongside and alighted at the stern. Almost immediately, an ANTIPODEAN ALBATROSS was feeding alongside the BULLERíS ALBATROSS or, more correctly, it was the other way around. Amazingly, there were six species of albatross behind our vessel during this drift-and-berley session and we recorded our only Solanderís Petrels, FAIRY PRION and White-fronted Tern for the day. One of the two Gibsonís Albatross, a female, carried a red Darvic band on the right leg and the number was recorded. Some cetacean activity in the distance caused us to proceed northwards to investigate. We found a group of Common Dolphins of the small type that we occasionally see in the winter months, which are quite distinct from those normally encountered at Wollongong.
Setting our course back to Wollongong Harbour we felt that we had enjoyed a good day at sea already but we were yet to enjoy good views of SHY and White-capped Albatross and a NORTHERN GIANT-PETREL.
The modest influx of Prions and Cape Petrels appears to have abated already and Pterodroma numbers continue to be very low this winter.
Among sightings of an amazing total of 9 species of albatross in calm conditions on a glorious mid winter day it is difficult to pick a highlight! It was a matter of personal preference.
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
929Southern Giant-Petrel Macronectes giganteus 4 (2)
937NORTHERN GIANT-PETREL M. halli 1
971 Solanderís Petrel Pterodroma solandri 2 (1)
083 FAIRY PRION Pachyptila turtur 1
068 Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia 46 (25)
086 WANDERING ALBATROSS Diomedea exulans 2 (1) adult males
846 ANTIPODEAN ALBATROSS D. antipodensis 1 male
847 Gibsonís Albatross D. gibsoni 2 (2)
088 Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys 37 (12)
859 Campbell Albatross T. impavida 2 (1)
931 BULLERíS ALBATROSS T. bulleri 1 adult
861 SHY ALBATROSS T. cauta 1 first year
861 White-capped Albatross T. steadi 1 adult
864Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross T.carteri 112 (45)
104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 84+ (75+)
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 4 (2)
980 Brown Skua Catharacta lonnbergi 6 (4)
981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 13 (11)
125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 520+ (350+)
114 White-fronted tern Sterna striata 1
115 Crested Tern S. bergii 55 (29)
In the harbour:
193 Striated Heron Ardeola striatus macrorhynchus 1
100 Little Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax melanoleucos 2 (20)
097 Little Black Cormorant P. sulcirostris 3 (2)
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 8 (5)
22 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.
226 White-bellied Sea-Eagle Haliaeetus leucocaster 1 adult
Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 30+ (30+)
Common Dolphin (Small Winter) Delphinus delphis 75+ (75+)