Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.
All photos by: P.J. Milburn.
Departed: 07:15 returned at 16:45.
Sea conditions: ESE 1.0 to 1.5m.
Swell: southeasterly to 1.5m.
Weather: overcast at first but mostly sunny offshore.
Temperature range: 23.4 to 24.6°C.
Barometric pressure: 1026Hpa.
Wind: ESE 10 to 15 kts.
Sea surface temperature: 22.8 to 24.0°C.
Primary chumming location: S 34° 31’ – E 151° 26’.
A relatively large high-pressure system was located south of us in the Tasman Sea creating a stable weather pattern with gentle southeasterly breezes. This weather pattern was not ideal for producing unusual bird sightings but the oceanic conditions were favourable, with a pool of warm water over the continental shelf bounded by cooler currents over the continental slope.
We cruised out of the harbour in near perfect conditions. Freshly plumaged Pomarine and Arctic Jeagers and an assortment of shearwater species provided plenty of entertainment on our cruise out to the continental slope. At the 80-fathom line we encountered the first Solander’s Petrels of the season returning to the Tasman Sea for the forthcoming breeding season. As we cruised over the edge of the continental shelf at the 100-fathom line seabird numbers began to increase and an unseasonably early Campbell Albatross adult appeared behind the boat. Our instincts led us further east and as we reached the 600-fathom line we observed some large Yellowfin Tuna feeding. As we watched, a large marlin struck the middle of the tuna shoal and immediately a small group of Wilson’s Storm Petrels appeared on the resultant oil slick. Significant bird activity in the area prompted us to drift and berley and soon we were joined by a White-faced Storm-Petrel.
As we reached the edge of the continental shelf on our return journey we observed further seabird activity. An adult White-capped Albatross caused us to stop but as we drifted we failed to attract any further species. Interest in bird observation was soon overturned by the appearance of a pod of Pygmy-Killer Whales.
Unseasonably early records of Campbell and White-capped Albatross were the bird watching highlights and the protracted encounter with the Pygmy Killer Whales provided an exceptional experience.
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 11 (8)
971 Solander’s Petrel P. solandri 21 (7)
068 Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia 8 (4)
069 Wedge-tailed Shearwater P. pacificus 180+ (115+)
070 Sooty Shearwater P. griseus 3 (1)
071 Short-tailed Shearwater P. tenuirostris 4 (1)
072 Flesh-footed Shearwater P. carneipes 60+ (35+)
859 Campbell Albatross Thalassarche impavida 1 adult
861 White-capped Albatross T. steadi 1 adult
063 Wilson’s Storm-Petrel Oceanites oceanicus 19 (11)
065 White-faced Storm-Petrel Pelagodroma marina 1
104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 7 (2)
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 4 (3)
128 Arctic Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus 2 (1)
945 Pomarine Jaeger S. pomarinus 25 (9)
981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus7 (6)
125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 155 (45)
115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 12 (3)
In the harbour:
097 Little Black Cormorant Phalacrocorax sulcirostris 1
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 3
115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 3
18 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.