• 26th JANUARY 2002, WOLLONGONG PELAGIC TRIP REPORT, NSW, AUSTRALIA

    Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.

    Departed: 07:15 returned at approx. 16:30.
    Sea conditions: NE to 0.5m at first and to 1.0m NE during the day.
    Swell: E 2 to 3m.
    Weather: Mostly sunny but overcast at first.
    Temperature range: 23.5 to 27.5C.
    Barometric pressure: 1010 HPa falling.
    Wind: E 5kts at first, rising to NE 10 at times during the day.
    Sea surface temperature: 23.5 to 24.3C.
    Primary chumming location: S 34 28' - E 151 18'.

    Summary:

    A pleasant summer day although a little hot at times as the breeze dropped. For those who keep an annual bird list January is always a great trip, while for others it is always something of a mystery package. As the day unfolded it turned at to be a great day on the ocean. The predicted 25 knot NE did not eventuate and, in fact, the low wind conditions forced us to make regular moves to keep the birds on the wing.

    The calm seas provided early views of Little Penguin just outside the breakwater. Small numbers of shearwaters were pursuing fish in shallow water, aided and abetted by creatures such as the Black Marlin observed in only 20 fathoms of water. After several months of virtual absence Fluttering Shearwaters were once more in evidence inshore. Arctic Jaegers were present in only very small numbers and only in pelagic waters and Pomarine Jaeger numbers had declined compared to recent trips. As we cruised east, Flesh-footed and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters followed the boat, being shadowed by several Pomarine Jaegers. Fluttering, Short-tailed, and Sooty Shearwaters were apparent occasionally to provide identification practice. The presence of a Great-winged Petrel at 75 fathoms proved to be a false omen with overall numbers for the day being low.

    At the 100-fathom line we encountered a large group of Common Dolphins but no real change in the birds present around the boat. Stopping to chum at the 200 fathom line brought immediate results in the form of a TAHITI PETREL and, shortly after, what appeared to be an adult male BROWN BOOBY. The threat of a strong northeasterly wind later in the day made us reluctant to venture too far east into deeper water so we headed northeast instead. The weather change did not eventuate and, instead, the low wind conditions appeared to be detrimental to our chances of observing large numbers of birds!

    On the return leg of the voyage we encountered a large group of cetaceans at the 100-fathom line, all of those identified in this aggregation were Pygmy Killer Whales. A little closer inshore a group of Risso's Dolphins were observed at a distance. To round of the day a pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins was observed just behind the surf near the entrance to the harbour.

    Interestingly, the SOSSA banding team recaptured a Wedge-tailed Shearwater that had been banded as a chick on Big Island (Port Kembla) on 14 April 1981, nearly 21 years ago. This is one of the oldest known Wedge-tailed Shearwaters in Australia.

    Highlights:

    TAHITI PETREL and BROWN BOOBY with plenty of interest being provided by
    numbers of Cetaceans.

    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 4 (3)
    073 Great-winged Petrel Pterodroma macroptera gouldi 15 (8)
    920 TAHITI PETREL Pseudobulweria rostrata 1
    068 Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia 9 (2)
    069 Wedge-tailed Shearwater P. pacificus 180+ (100+)
    070 Sooty Shearwater P. griseus 4 (1)
    071 Short-tailed Shearwater P. tenuirostris 7 (2)
    072 Flesh-footed Shearwater P. carneipes 34 (20)
    063 Wilson's Storm-Petrel Oceanites oceanicus 3 (1)
    102 BROWN BOOBY Sula leucogaster 1
    106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 2 (1)
    128 Arctic Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus 2 (1)
    945 Pomarine Jaeger S. pomarinus 22 (6)
    981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 3 (2)
    125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 1
    115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 3 (2)In the harbour:
    100 Little Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax melanoleucos 2 (2)
    096 Great Cormorant P. carbo 2
    115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 1

    16 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.

    Mammals:

    Pygmy Killer Whale Feresa attenuataca 45+
    Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 100+
    Bottle-nosed Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 10+
    Risso's Dolphin Grampus griseus 15+