• 25th May, 2002 SOSSA PELAGIC TRIP, WOLLONGONG, NSW, AUSTRALIA.

    Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn

    Departed: 07:20 returned at approx. 16:30.
    Sea conditions: 1.5 to 2.0m S.
    Swell: S 2 to 3m.
    Weather: Mostly overcast with occasional showers but also substantial sunny periods.
    Temperature range: 15.8 to 19.3įC.
    Barometric pressure: 1024 HPa rising.
    Wind: SSW 10 to 15 kts at first, rising to 15 to 20 kts, veering to SSE 15 kts later.
    Sea surface temperature: 18.6 to 19.4įC.
    Primary chumming location: S 34į 37í Ė E 151į 11í.

    Summary:

    For nearly two weeks prior to this trip cold southerly winds had buffeted the coast as a result of a deep low-pressure system located south of Tasmania. Mercifully, a high-pressure system had moved far enough to the east for the storms to abate. A chilly southerly breeze under a leaden sky reminded us that winter had arrived early. The weather closed during the morning and, yet again, in a rising southerly we punched out into the sea. After buffeting through a couple of rain squalls the wind veered slightly to the east and eased somewhat. The conditions were tough and the skipper, Carl Loves, did an excellent job using the engine to hold the boat into to the sea while we were chumming.

    We were less than 100 metres from the breakwater when an adult Black-browed Albatross circled the boat. This set the tone of the day with albatross in view for the whole time that we were at sea. Due to the weather conditions we were compelled to run south and so took the opportunity to look at some of the Five Islands group. The islands and their birds were soon forgotten when several Campbell Albatross and a Southern Giant Petrel were observed close to the boat.

    Continuing out to sea, we soon encountered a number of prion species including several ANTARCTIC PRIONS and a SLENDER-BILLED PRION, less than 5 NM out. At about the 55-fathom mark, a good current line was encountered and a number of new species for the day were encountered. These included a magnificent male Gibsonís Albatross, a group of Wilsonís Storm Petrels that included a possible White-bellied Storm-Petrel, a couple of Cape Petrels and no fewer than 5 White-capped Albatross.

    At this point, the weather closed in and we enjoyed some refreshing showers of rain, which served to wash off some of the salt at least! We continued our voyage into deeper water but after the rain squalls the number of birds seemed to have diminished. The first Brown Skua of the winter was observed in about 75 fathoms of water and the appearance of the first Solanderís Petrel indicated that we had passed to the east of the continental shelf.

    The sea conditions were too uncomfortable to drift, so we elected to stay under power and hold the boat stationary into the sea. Setting up a trail of chum our hopes were held out for a rare visitor from southern waters. A newly fledged Shy Albatross and a female Gibsonís Albatross were amongst the first new birds to join us. The next excitement arrived in the form of a third year BULLERíS ALBATROSS that dropped casually into the middle of the burgeoning albatross throng. While still discussing the nuances of identifying this bird, a shout of "whatís this?" drew our attention to a long-winged petrel flying down wind straight at the boat. To everyoneís amazement it was a pale morph HERALD PETREL that gave great but typically brief views. We continued to accumulate an impressive flock of seabirds, in the form of Wilsonís Storm-Petrels, Fairy Prions, assorted Giant Petrels and Albatross, including another third year BULLERíS ALBATROSS.

    On the return trip we observed an adult BULLERíS ALBATROSS and a dark-headed bird that may well have been a Pacific Albatross.

    Winter has clearly arrived with a bang, it almost seemed that we had seen as many albatross in one day as we had seen during the whole of the last very quiet winter. I have never seen so many third year albatross in one day. Despite this the rarity of the day was an autumn visitor from the tropics, namely a HERALD PETREL.

    Highlights:

    Excellent views of a pale morph HERALD PETREL, three species of prion and seven species of albatross in view for much of the day.

    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)

    929 Southern Giant-Petrel Macronectes giganteus 3 (1)
    937 Northern Giant-Petrel M. halli 4 (3)
    080 Cape Petrel Daption capense australe 2 (2)
    971 Solanderís Petrel Pterodroma solandri 13 (7)
    921 HERALD PETREL P. heraldica 1
    083 Fairy Prion Pachyptila turtur 220+ (135)
    084 ANTARCTIC PRION P. desolata 7 (2)
    942 SLENDER-BILLED P. belcheri 1
    068 Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia 1 (1)
    071 Short-tailed Shearwater P. tenuirostris 2 (1)
    847 Gibsonís Albatross Diomedea gibsoni 9 (5)
    088 Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys 6 (2)
    859 Campbell Albatross T. impavida 23 (8)
    931 BULLERíS ALBATROSST. bulleri 3 (2) + possible PACIFIC ALBATROSS 1 adult
    091 Shy Albatross T. cauta 1 first year
    861 White-capped Albatross T. steadi 8 (5)
    864 Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross T. carteri 13 first year (3)
    063 Wilsonís Storm-Petrel, Oceanites oceanicus 160+ (150+)
    104 Australasian Gannet, Morus serrator 19 (11)
    096 Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
    106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 4 (3)
    980 Brown Skua Catharacta lonnbergi 3 (1)
    981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 15 (7)
    125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 850+ (350+)
    115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 23 (7)

    In the harbour:

    096 Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
    099 Pied Cormorant P. varius 1
    100 Little Pied Cormorant P. melanoleucos 1
    101 Australian Darter Anhinga melanogaster 1 male
    106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus1
    115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 1
    25 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.

    Mammals:

    None recorded.