Photos: Darryl &Wedge-tailed shearwater (Mike Double); White-capped albatross & great-winged petrel (Peter Milburn); Black petrel (Inger Vandyke); Pomarine jaeger (Inger Vandyke); Common Dolphin (Brooke Whylie).
Departed at 07:20 returned at 15:45 EDT.
Sea conditions: calm at first then to 0.5m NE later in the morning and 2.0m NE in the afternoon.
Swell: 1.0 to 2.0m ESE.
Weather: haze and cloud on shore but hot with bright sunshine all day at sea. Temperature range: 20.1 to 26.6°C.
Barometric pressure: 1024HPa falling.
Wind: calm at first but a NE breeze of 5 to 10 knots developed by mid morning, strengthening to 15 to 20 knots later in the day.
Sea surface temperature: 20.8 to 22.9°C.
Primary chumming locations: S 34° 28’ – E 151° 16’ and S 34° 28’ – E 151° 21’.
A high-pressure system was located in the Tasman Sea ahead of a low-pressure system that was approaching from the Great Australian Bight. This pattern generated hot conditions across eastern Australia and northeasterly sea breezes. The summery weather on land was matched by a typical early summer day on the ocean. An influx of water from a warm core had pushed inshore bringing plenty of ocean life. We were on our toes with expectation all day.
Little Penguins were present in good number as we left the harbour and several groups were observed as we headed out towards deeper water. Short-tailed Shearwaters were also foraging just beyond the breakwater but the Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were a little further out. Silver Gulls and Crested Terns were also fishing over the reefs and their activity attracted both Arctic and Pomarine Jaegers. Early excitement turned to frustration when the penguin spotters on the bow observed a LITTLE SHEARWATER as it flew across our course but it disappeared and was not seen by those at the stern.
We intercepted hundreds of Short-beaked Common Dolphins foraging in 65 fathoms of water. A small group of Common Terns and a Sooty Shearwater were also observed. Two Great-winged Petrels were observed in unusually shallow water given the calm conditions and an adult White-capped Albatross looked very impressive as it circled the boat.
This high level of bird activity continued as we cruised eastward with the only Hutton’s Shearwater of the day observed in 80 fathoms as a fly by and, in contrast, a Black-browed Albatross joined us and followed the vessel for most of the day. At the 85-fathom line we encountered another group of dolphins and a BULLER’S SHEARWATER. At the top of the Continental Slope were yet more dolphins a male Gibson’s and two more adult White-capped Albatrosses!
With so many seabirds in evidence we elected to try a drift-and-berley session close to the edge of the Continental Shelf. We attracted another male Gibson’s and several more White-capped Albatross along with a LONG-TAILED JAEGER but the number of Great-winged Petrels seemed low given the conditions so after about thirty minutes we continued eastwards. We stopped again in 350 fathoms of water and began to berley again. Immediately after the shark’s liver hit the water, Great-winged Petrels appeared behind the boat, as did a couple more Gibson’s Albatross. The sharp eyes of our skipper, Carl Loves, picked out a BLACK PETREL in the seething mass of seabirds just beyond the transom. Seconds later another BLACK PETREL appeared and one of these two birds carried a metal band, which as it transpired originated from New Zealand. Some time after the initial burst of activity a White-faced Storm Petrel appeared over the shark liver oil slick and two further BULLER’S SHEARWATERS flew past in the distance. Just prior to beginning our return cruise an adult female Gibson’s Albatross joined the flock feeding behind the boat.
A swarm of birds followed us back towards land and an adult SOOTY TERN passed our stern at the shelf break. Close inshore a couple of Kelp Gulls appeared to round off our daily bird list.
Impressive numbers of seabirds were in view all day and the species diversity was high for the season. Surprisingly, the species composition for the day had a pronounced southern influence when many of us were anticipating sub-tropical species.
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 16 (4)
073 Great-winged Petrel Pterodroma macroptera gouldi 150+ (125+)
917 BLACK PETREL Procellaria parkinsoni 2 (2)
067 LITTLE SHEARWATER Puffinus assimilis 1 917 Hutton’s Shearwater P. huttoni 1 069 Wedge-tailed Shearwater P. pacificus 750+ (150+)
070 Sooty Shearwater P. griseus 1
071 Short-tailed Shearwater P. tenuirostris 750+ (175+)
975 BULLER’S SHEARWATER P. bullerii 3 (2)
072 Flesh-footed Shearwater P. carneipes 14 (6)
847 Gibson’s Albatross Diomedea gibsoni 5 (3)
088 Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys 1 first year
861 White-capped Albatross T. steadi 5 (3)
065 White-faced Storm-Petrel Pelagodroma marina 1
104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 15 (6)
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 1
128 Arctic Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus 3 (2)
945 Pomarine Jaeger S. pomarinus 45 (9)
933 LONG-TAILED JAEGER S. longicauda 1
981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 2 (2)
125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 165+ (75+)
115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 55 (35)
953 Common Tern S. hirundo 5 (5)
120 SOOTY TERN S. fuscata 1 adult
In the harbour:
096 Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
097 Little Black Cormorant P. sulcirostris 1
100 Little Pied Cormorant P. melanoleucos 1
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 2
24 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.
131 Sooty Oystercatcher Haemotopus fuliginosus 1 flew north
Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 375+ (300+)