Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.
Photographs taken by: P.J. Milburn.
Departed: 07:20 returned at approx. 16:10.
Sea conditions: Calm.
Swell: 3.0 to 4.0m SSE offshore.
Weather: Sunny at first but overcast by mid-morning and clearing to patchy cloud later.
Temperature range: 17.1 to 21.5°C.
Barometric pressure: 1025 HPa steady.
Wind: Calm at first, SSE 5 later in the morning and becoming light and variable.
Sea surface temperature: 19.8 to 22.2°C.
Primary chumming location: S 34° 31’ – E 151° 23’.
All photos were taken on the May 2004 pelagic trip off Wollongong.
An anticyclone located over southern New South Wales generated pleasant conditions for a pelagic excursion. The May trip falls between the departure of the summer visitors and the main arrival of winter species. Rarities often occur on the May trip (Masked Booby a first for Wollongong last year) and with the warm current still running but strong southerlies during the preceding week anything seemed possible.
Three Little Penguins were readily viewed in the calm waters just outside the harbour. At the 20-fathom line 2 adult Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross joined us and a few Fluttering Shearwaters zoomed past. An adult dark morph Arctic Jaeger enjoyed harrying our trailing flock of Silver Gulls. Unfortunately, the gulls outlasted the Jaeger and followed us for the remainder of the day.
As we cruised due east we found a young male Australian Fur-seal that had rounded up a school of baitfish and attracted a flock of seabirds all on its own. We were continuously joined by Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross of all ages that followed for a while and then peeled off. Among these was a third year White-capped Albatross that appeared to have been soiled by light fuel oil. There was cetacean activity in about 85 fathoms of water and we were able to identify Risso’s Dolphin and Indo-pacific oceanic Bottle-nosed Dolphin in the same area. Among the birds following the dolphins was a dark morph Pomarine Jaeger.
The waters at the edge of the Continental Shelf were unusually quiet so we ventured further east into deeper water without stopping. At the 400-fathom line we found warmer water and immediately sighted the first Solander’s (Providence) Petrels of the day. We encountered another warm-water front at 500 fathoms and ended the morning with a drift-and-berley session. Several Campbell and an adult Black-browed Albatross were upon us before we even stopped the boat. The birds that had been following stayed with us but apart from Silver Gulls no other birds came in.
The cruise back to port was more productive than our journey east. A female Gibson’s Albatross flew up the wake and came to the boat soon after we had stopped to berley. After everyone had taken photos the SOSSA banding team netted the bird. The bird already carried an Australian band and had been banded originally by SOSSA at Wollongong, NSW on 12 July 2000. The bird was in very good condition and judging by the heavy moult was not currently engaged in breeding. Resuming our westward course, it was not long before an adult White-capped Albatross attended us at close quarters. The sea was glassy smooth and it was wonderful to see this magnificent bird at such close range mirrored in the blue ocean. Even as people reached for their cameras the White-capped was upstaged by a magnificent freshly plumaged adult BULLER’S ALBATROSS. Seabird numbers increased as we reached the edge of the Continental Slope in an uncanny contrast to our observations (or lack thereof) earlier in the day. The first Brown Skua of the winter appeared and made repeated passes overhead despite being mobbed by the horde of Silver Gulls.
One of the charter boats from Wollongong had reported a giant petrel in 40 fathoms earlier in the day and, perhaps the same bird, one appeared in mid afternoon. A couple of very determined Silver Gulls tried to repel this bird but eventually it approached the boat and was identified as a NORTHERN GIANT-PETREL. Close inshore a single Hutton’s Shearwater and a juvenile White-fronted Tern were the finishing touches to a very enjoyable day at sea.
The first winter seabirds of 2004, a NORTHERN GIANT-PETREL with six species of albatross, including Gibson’s and BULLER’S 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)
005 Little Penguin Eudyptula minor 3 (3)
937 NORTHERN GIANT-PETREL Macronectes halli 1
971 Solander’s Petrel Pterodroma solandri 5 (3
068 Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia 14 (5)
917 Hutton’s Shearwater P. huttoni 1
847 Gibson’s Albatross Diomedea gibsoni 1 adult female
088 Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys 1 adult
859 Campbell Albatross T. impavida 3 (1)
931 BULLER’S ALBATROSST. bulleri 1 adult
861 White-capped Albatross T. steadi 2 (1)
864 Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross T. carteri 26 (7)
104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 49 (31)
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 4 (2)
128 Arctic Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus 1
945 Pomarine Jaeger S. pomarinus 1
980 Brown Skua Catharacta lonnbergi 1
981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 5 (4)
125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 350+ (150+)
114 White-fronted tern Sterna striata 1
115 Crested Tern S. bergii 14 (5)
In the harbour:
096 Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 8
20 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.
Australian Fur-Seal Arctocephalus pusillus 2 (1)
Risso’s Dolphin Grampus griseus 30+ (30+)
Indo-Pacific Bottle-nosed Dolphin (Oceanic form) Tursiops aduncus 50+ (50+)