Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.
Photos: Indian yellow-nosed albatross (P. Milburn); White-fronted tern (P. Milburn).
Departed: 07:20 returned at approx. 16:10
Sea conditions: calm to 0.5m west in the morning, NW to 1m on the return leg.
Swell: SE less than 0.5m.
Weather: Warm winter sunshine with only patchy cloud in the afternoon.
Temperature range: 8.9 to 17.1°C.
Barometric pressure: 1012 HPa falling.
Wind: 12 to 15 knots westerly in the morning rising to NNW 7 to 10 knots later.
Sea surface temperature: 16.7 to 19.6°C.
Primary chumming location: S 34° 28’ – E 151° 20’.
An anticyclone was located in the Tasman Sea generating predominantly offshore winds that had flattened the ocean. Bright light and comfortable conditions provided a great opportunity to enjoy the local mid winter seabirds.
Post-spawning Giant Cuttlefish (Sepia aparma) were evident on the surface outside the harbour and a Southern Giant-Petrel was breaking fast on one of them. Black-browed Albatross were conspicuously cruising the area so we elected to run north over the inshore reefs to look for the Giant-Petrels and Albatross. Almost immediately, we encountered another juvenile Southern Giant-Petrel bearing a white Darvic band of Argentinean origin, the second of the season. We stopped in the hope of obtaining views good enough to read the band number. In a strange turn of events an adult White-bellied Sea-Eagle turned up and put our following seabird entourage into a nervous mood. Several more Giant-Petrels of both species were observed but no Diomedea albatross were sighted over the reefs.
Changing our course to the east, we soon were among Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross Fluttering Shearwaters and Crested Terns with a few Brown Skuas and Giant-Petrels interspersed. Our arrival at the edge of the continental shelf was apparent from the presence of Solander’s Petrels in numbers that were the highest recorded in Wollongong waters for their 2005 breeding season.
Wide of the continental shelf we encountered relatively few seabirds so we continued east until we reached a water depth of 400 fathoms. Shortly after beginning a drift-and–berley session, two female Gibson’s Albatross appeared from the south. It remained fairly quiet however, a small group of Fairy Prion foraged near to our vessel briefly and a distant WHITE-HEADED PETREL was observed from the upper deck. Unusually, we attracted more White-fronted than Crested Terns during this drift.
The cruise back to Wollongong Harbour continued in a similar quiet vein. Australian Gannets had moved into the area since our outward leg and several Brown Skuas trailed along behind us. As we reached the outer reefs a banded Brown Skua appeared and followed us closely. With a little time in hand, we elected to stop and attempt to capture this bird. Several Black-browed Albatross homed in on us, as did hundreds of Silver Gulls when as if out of nowhere two black-and-white Diomedea albatross entered the fray. Both of these birds had the distinct appearance of female Wandering Albatross but were no bigger than Gibson’s Albatross. Despite the hordes of gulls, we were able to capture both of these birds and have confirmed their identity as being male TRISTAN ALBATROSS subsequently.
We rounded the day off with a selection of coastal species, including inshore Bottle-nosed Dolphins.
On a quiet day overall, it was good to see higher numbers of pterodroma petrels than of late but, without any doubt, the outstanding feature of the day being the two TRISTAN ALBATROSS.
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)
929Southern Giant-Petrel Macronectes giganteus 6 (2)
937NORTHERN GIANT-PETREL M. halli 1
077 WHITE-HEADED PETREL Pterodroma lessoni 1
971 Solander’s Petrel P. solandri 30 (15)
083 FAIRY PRION Pachyptila turtur 6 (6)
068 Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia 8 (6)
845 TRISTAN ALBATROSS Diomedea dabeneena 2 (2) adult males
847 Gibson’s Albatross Diomedea gibsoni 2 (2) adult females
088 Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys 31 (10)
859 Campbell Albatross T. impavida 2 (1)
864 Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross T.carteri 46 (11)
104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 7 (4)
096 Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2 (2)
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 3 (3)
980 Brown Skua Catharacta lonnbergi 7 (3)
981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 4 (3)
125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 585+ (200+)
114 White-fronted tern Sterna striata 8 (6)
115 Crested Tern S. bergii 32 (13)
In the harbour:
100 Little Black Cormorant Phalacrocorax sulcirostris 5 (3)
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 8 (5)
19 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.
226 White-bellied Sea-Eagle Haliaeetus leucocaster 1 adult
Inshore Bottle-nosed Dolphin Tursiops aduncus 6+ (6+)