Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.
Departed: 07:40 returned at approx. 16:30.
Sea conditions: Calm at first later SW to 1m.
Swell: 1.0m SE offshore.
Weather: Warm winter sunshine.
Temperature range: 9.0 to 21.5°C.
Barometric pressure: 1017 HPa steady.
Wind: NE to 5 knots at first backing to SW 7 to 10 knots later in the morning and becoming light and variable in the afternoon.
Sea surface temperature: 16.1 to 20.6°C. Primary chumming locations: S 34° 35’ – E 151° 17’ and S 34° 35’ – E 151° 22’.
An anticyclone located over southern New South Wales generated pleasant conditions for a pelagic excursion. The arrival of this stable air mass was preceded by a period of strong cold southerly airflow leading to an expectation that we should encounter some sub-Antarctic species. As a counterpoint, at the end of August we expect the summer-breeding species to return to NSW waters. As we passed the breakwater we knew that it would be at least a pleasant day but nobody could have predicted what we were to be treated to during the day.
Our first encounter was with a male Australian Fur-Seal just outside the harbour. Post-spawning Giant Cuttlefish (Sepia aparma) were still in evidence at the surface and a number of Black-browed Albatross were conspicuously cruising the area. A White-capped Albatross and Southern Giant-Petrel were also foraging over the inshore reefs. The first returning Wedge-tailed Shearwaters of the coming breeding season were present and both Fluttering and Hutton’s shearwaters passed us heading to the north. White-fronted Terns appeared early and seemed to be around all through the day.
As we cruised due east we encountered the first few Wedge-tailed Shearwaters of the summer. At the 70-fathom line a prominent current line indicated a water front and the surface temperature jumping by a full one degree. A large group of Short-beaked Common Dolphin was foraging in the area and amongst the albatross was a second-year GREY-HEADED ALBATROSS. Indic Yellow-nosed and Campbell Albatross were also foraging in this warmer water.
At the edge of the Continental Shelf were several Solander’s Petrels and a pristine male Gibson’s Albatross. At the 300-fathom line we were joined by a male WANDERING ALBATROSS that ultimately was captured and banded by the SOSSA team. As we headed further east we found another productive area, with an adult BULLER’S ALBATROSS, a second year SHY ALBATROSS and another second year GREY-HEADED ALBATROSS present. We continued east toward our intended location for a drift-and-berley session but most of the birds disappeared, including the Silver Gulls that had troubled us all morning. Our drift was disappointing, although we did attract a good number of Solander’s Petrels.
The cruise back to port was equally productive and, in addition, brought some major surprises. A lucky few of us saw a GREEN TURTLE briefly along the port side as we passed it. A female Gibson’s Albatross flew up the wake and came to the boat as we reached the edge of the Continental Shelf. Several stunning adult Campbell Albatross were present also along with another adult BULLER’S ALBATROSS. The sea was glassy smooth by this stage and it was wonderful to see these magnificent birds at such close range, mirrored in the blue ocean. Amazingly, the fun was not over yet because as we reached the 70-fathom line a first year BROWN BOOBY appeared from the east, which flew across our stern at full tilt and disappeared rapidly northward. Soon after, the first Brown Skua of the day appeared and made repeated passes overhead.
Close to the harbour two Humpbacked Whales and a Southern Giant-Petrel were the finishing touches to a very enjoyable day at sea.
An excellent day for viewing seabirds with nine species of albatross being recorded, including GREY-HEADED ALBATROSS, SHY ALBATROSS, BULLER’S ALBATROSS and WANDERING ALBATROSS. Bizarre winter occurrences of BROWN BOOBY and GREEN TURTLE made the day almost surreal!
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 2 (1)
971 Solander’s Petrel Pterodroma solandri 38 (35)
068 Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia 9 (3)
917 Hutton’s Shearwater P. huttoni 29 (20)
069 Wedge-tailed Shearwater P. pacificus 8 (4)
086 WANDERING ALBATROSS Diomedea exulans 1adult male
847 Gibson’s Albatross D. gibsoni 2 (1)
088 Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys 20 (5)
859 Campbell Albatross T. impavida 9 (3)
931 BULLER’S ALBATROSS T. bulleri (2) 1
091 SHY ALBATROSS T. cauta 1 second year
861 White-capped Albatross T. steadi 5 (1)
864Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross T.carteri 12 (6)
090 GREY-HEADED ALBATROSS T. chrysostoma 2 (1)
104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 10 (6)
102 BROWN BOOBY Sula leucogaster 1 first year
097 Little Black Cormorant, Phalacrocorax sulcirostris 1
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 2 (1)
980 Brown Skua Catharacta lonnbergi 3 (1)
981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 6 (6)
125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 180+ (115+)
114 White-fronted tern Sterna striata 15 (5)
115 Crested Tern S. bergii 51 (31)
In the harbour:
101 Australian Darter Anhinga melanogaster 1 male
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 5
115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 2 23 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.
Australian Fur-Seal Arctocephalus pusillus 1
Humpback Whale Megaptera novaeangliae 2 (2)
Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 135+ (135+)
GREEN TURTLE Chelonia mydas japonica 1