Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.
Departed: 07:20 returned at 16:00 EST
Sea conditions: Calm at first but NNE to 1.5 to 2.0m by mid afternoon.
Swell: to 1.5m to 2.0m SE.
Weather: Patchy cloud at first increasing to mostly overcast later in the day.
Temperature range: 19.1 to 21.2°C.
Barometric pressure: 1017 HPa steady.
Wind: NE 5 knots at first increasing 15 knots by mid morning, increasing to 20 to 25 knots NNE in the afternoon.
Sea surface temperature: 18.2 to 19.6°C.
Primary chumming locations: S 34° 32’ – E 151° 19 ’.
A weak anticyclone was located in the northern Tasman Sea that produced a NE airflow. With summer breeding species returning from the north we expected a good day of birdwatching at sea. A Southern Giant-Petrel joined us soon after we left the harbour but the only Brown Skua of the day passed us far astern and continued northwards. Shearwater numbers were low at first with a few Hutton’s and Fluttering among the Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. Additionally a Short-tailed and a Flesh-footed Shearwater were the first recorded for spring 2004.
We cruised east in comfortable conditions and encountered a group of at least 20 Southern Humpback Whales heading south with a warm current at the 75-fathom line. These magnificent animals provided us with a wonderful display of breaching, flipper flopping and tail slapping. This water was productive for birds with Gibson’s, Campbell and White-capped Albatross present along with Solander’s Petrel and a seasonally early Wilson’s Storm-Petrel.
The number of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters fell markedly as we reached the Continental Slope but a variety of petrels, including WHITE-HEADED PETREL, replaced them. The albatross were keen to follow our vessel and we soon collected an entourage. During a drift-and-berley session we continued to attract birds but no additional species were sighted at this point. Of particular interest, a male Gibson’s Albatross carrying a red Darvic band on its right leg joined us.
Many of the birds that had joined us wide of the Continental Shelf stayed with us for the cruise back to port. A strong warm water feature at the 55-fathom line was frequented not only by Short-beaked Common Dolphins but also by hundreds of Wedge-tailed and Short-tailed Shearwaters. The surprise bird of the day appeared at this point in the form of a first year BROWN BOOBY. This individual was identical in appearance to that observed on 20 th August 2004……. a coincidence indeed!
The Humpback Whale and seabird southward migration were clearly in evidence. Stunning views of Gibson’s and White-capped Albatross, Southern Giant-Petrel and WHITE-HEADED PETREL thrilled the numerous international participants. Rarity excitement in the form of a BROWN BOOBY was the high point for many of the regulars.
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 3 (2)
073 Great-winged Petrel Pterodroma macroptera gouldi 40+ (35+)
077 WHITE-HEADED PETREL P. lessoni 3 (1)
971 Solander’s Petrel P. solandri 33 (21)
068 Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia 8 (4)
917 Hutton’s Shearwater P. huttoni 4 (2)
069 Wedge-tailed Shearwater P. pacificus 400+ (200+)
071 Short-tailed Shearwater P. tenuirostris 750+ (300+)
072 Flesh-footed Shearwater P. carneipes 1
847 Gibson’s Albatross Diomedea gibsoni 10 (6)
088 Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys 2 (1)
859 Campbell Albatross T. impavida 4 (4)
861 White-capped Albatross T. steadi 4 (2)
864Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross T.carteri 3 (3)
063 Wilson’s Storm-Petrel Oceanites oceanicus 1
104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 26 (6)
102 BROWN BOOBY Sula leucogaster 1 first year
099 Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax varius 1
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 2 (2)
980 Brown Skua Catharacta lonnbergi 1
981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 3 (3)
125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 175+ (150+)
114 White-fronted tern Sterna striata 1
115 Crested Tern S. bergii 100+ (45)
In the harbour:
100Little Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax melanoleucos 1
099 Pied Cormorant P. varius 1
097 Little Black Cormorant P. sulcirostris 3
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 4
115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 2 24 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.
Humpback Whale Megaptera novaeangliae 22 (20)
Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 28 (20)