Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.
Photographs: Long-finned pilot whale (B. Whylie), Long-finned pilot whale (B. Whylie), Long-finned pilot whale (P.J. Milburn).
Departed: 07:15 returned at 16:30
Sea conditions: slight and variable throughout the day.
Swell: Confused, 1.0 to 1.5m S running against 1.5 to 2.0m NE.
Weather: Mostly sunny with occasional thunderstorms.
Temperature range: 21.6 to 25.8 °C.
Barometric pressure: 1000 at first falling to 996 HPa.
Wind: S 10 knots at first but easing to 3 to 5 knots, backing to ENE 5 to 8 knots by mid morning. A change in the afternoon brought 30 knots SW winds abating to 20 knots later.
Sea surface temperature: 22.0 to 22.8°C.
Primary chumming locations: S 34° 29’ – E 151° 18’ and S 34° 30’ – E 151° 23’.
A complex low-pressure system was moving east into the Tasman Sea over southeast Australia . Overnight southerlies brought rain squalls and early morning thunderstorms that quickly cleared to a mostly fine day and very comfortable sea conditions.
The day started quietly but frustratingly. Several miles past the breakwater a LITTLE SHEARWATER flashed across the bow, being missed by almost all on board, and a fur seal disappeared without being identified. Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Pomarine Jaegers accompanied us to the edge of the continental shelf. Several Short-Tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters were observed also but the first real excitement of the day was an adult SOOTY TERN in 70 fathoms of water.
Several more were SOOTY TERNS had been recorded by the time we reached the continental slope. A first year White-capped Albatross, which stayed in view for most of the day, flew in from the south. We continued east until we found the first Great-winged Petrels of the day and a juvenile Gibson’s Albatross appeared, also from the south. We set up a drift-and-berley session at the 200-fathom line but, apart from the only Fluttering Shearwaters of the day passing by, we did not attract any birds beyond the set of species already present.
Continuing east into deeper waters, we encountered a group of ‘blackfish’ at the 300-fathom line, which after some fantastic views were identified as LONG-FINNED PILOT WHALES. Several BLACK PETRELS were attending the whales so we started another a drift-and-berley session. The numbers of Great-winged Petrels and Gibson’s Albatross increased rapidly as they saw our drifting vessel and closed to investigate. Yet more SOOTY TERNS circled us but decided that it was not worth closer investigation.
A huge herd of dolphins appeared between the land and us so we took this as the cue to begin our trip back to port. Oceanic Bottle-nosed Dolphins surrounded us providing great entertainment for about 15 minutes. A brief stop at the edge of the continental shelf produced a further 3 BLACK PETRELS that appeared with a group of passing dolphins among a crowd of Great-winged Petrels immediately at our stern. Shortly after resuming our journey back to port, an adult BROWN BOOBY flew past us. The remainder of the day was uneventful. It is interesting to note that we recorded more BLACK PETRELS than Flesh-footed Shearwaters and that we did not observe an Arctic Jaeger all day.
On a wonderful summer day, the presence of SOOTY TERNS throughout the day set the tone. Drifting with the pod of LONG-FINNED PILOT WHALES and their attendant BLACK PETRELS was one of those unforgettable experiences that reward persistent pelagic enthusiasts. The views of both species were fantastic and it was difficult to drive away from them. As is often the case large numbers of dolphins were also in the area and more BLACK PETRELS were found with a large pod of Oceanic Bottle-nosed Dolphins. An adult BROWN BOOBY capped the excitement for the day.
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 150+ (85)
917 BLACK PETREL Procellaria parkinsoni 6 (3)
067 LITTLE SHEARWATER Puffinus assimilis 1
068 Fluttering Shearwater P. gavia 2 (2)
069 Wedge-tailed Shearwater P. pacificus 250+ (75+)
071 Short-tailed Shearwater P. tenuirostris 4 (2)
072 Flesh-footed Shearwater P. carneipes 4 (1)
847 Gibson’s Albatross Diomedea gibsoni 11 (6)
861 White-capped Albatross Thalassarche steadi 1
104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 1
102 BROWN BOOBY Sula leucogaster 1
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 2 (2)
945 Pomarine Jaeger Stercorarius pomarinus 27 (10)
981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 4 (4)
125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 50+ (35+)
115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 7 (2)
120 SOOTY TERN S. fuscata 11 (3)
In the harbour:
096 Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 5 (3)
17 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.
Long-finned Pilot Whale Globicephala melaena 15+ (15+)
Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 550+ (500+)
Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 25 (20+)