• 23rd June, 2002 SOSSA PELAGIC TRIP, WOLLONGONG, NSW, AUSTRALIA.

    Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.

    Departed: 07:30 returned at approx. 16:30.
    Sea conditions: 1.5 to 2.0m S.
    Swell: S to 2m offshore.
    Weather: Partly overcast with substantial sunny periods.
    Temperature range: 16.5 to 18.0įC.
    Barometric pressure: 1024 HPa.
    Wind: WSW 10 at first, veering to S 15 kts briefly before dropping to less than 5kts variable in the afternoon.
    Sea surface temperature: 16.9 to 17.9įC.
    Primary chumming location: S 34į 34í Ė E 151į 23í.

    Summary:

    Given the anticyclonic conditions and the uninspiring bird list from the previous day the hardened observers on board were prepared for a pleasant cruise but little more. What an unpredictable affair these pelagic birding trips are!

    The forecast for 15-knot southerly winds later in the day lead us to decide upon running south from the harbour past the Five Islands group. We stopped just outside the breakwater to enjoy views of a Little Penguin. There was plenty to see at Flinderís Island but the islands and their birds were once again quickly forgotten when a first year PACIFIC GULL joined the throng of birds behind the boat. The bird stayed very close to the boat, often near a first year Kelp Gull providing the perfect comparison for those unfamiliar with the species.

    Continuing out to sea, we soon encountered a variety of albatross and shearwaters in small numbers, along with several White-fronted Terns. The trip out to the continental slope was relatively uneventful with the exception of an unusual winter sighting of a Short-tailed Shearwater at about the 80-fathom line.

    We made a rendezvous with 3 trawlers about 20 NM out, which were attended by at least 5 White-capped Albatross and a couple of nominate race Great-winged Petrels in addition to the species that we had already been seeing. Several Australian Fur-Seals were also enjoying the fish discards.

    Once the trawlers had departed to the south things were very quiet so we elected to move into deeper water. We stopped at 550 fathoms to begin chumming and as we did so the wind moved to the south and strengthened. Soon Fairy Prions, several Brown Skuas and a small group of albatross joined us. One of the skuas caught and devoured a prion. The southerly proved to be very short lived and soon the wind dropped completely, which left us enjoying the sunshine on a glassy smooth ocean, most Pacific!

    Suddenly, an albatross with an all grey head appeared from the east. The underwing was typical of Bullerís Albatross as was the black-and-golden colouration of the bill but the head was too dark and lacking an obvious white crown. This was an adult PACIFIC ALBATROSS that gave us perfect views as it flew past the boat several times. Sooty black lores were apparent between the base of the bill and the eye. The fore-crown was faintly paler than the remainder of the head but this was not visible from most viewing angles, even from nearly head on in its initial approach. Most observers commented that the bird looked front heavy, especially the bill and those with an experienced eye noted that the ramicorn was mostly golden yellow. While the conversations still buzzed a Wilsonís Storm-Petrel, a Cape Petrel and a Southern Giant Petrel appeared, beautifully illuminated against the smooth ocean. Suddenly the prion flock that had consisted entirely of Fairy Prions for more than a day brought forth several ANTARCTIC PRIONS to within metres of the boat. Even those who had been convinced previously that attempting to identify prions is a waste of effort were impressed.

    Sadly it was time to head for port so with reluctance we had to leave this productive little patch of ocean. We need not have worried for the next excitement arrived soon in the form of an adult BULLERíS ALBATROSS. We stopped the boat to enjoy prolonged views of this beautiful bird in perfect light and flat calm conditions. This was a fantastic opportunity, since this bird was clearly different from the images of the PACIFIC ALBATROSS that still were fresh in our minds.

    The trip back to the harbour had further surprises in store. Little Penguins in 80 fathoms of water are unusual at Wollongong but this sighting paled into insignificance alongside two LITTLE SHEARWATERS observed about 6 NM out.

    The PACIFIC ALBATROSS was the first record for Wollonong Pelagics since the species has been recognised, although an old record is under review.

    Highlights:

    LITTLE SHEARWATERS headed up a cast of five species of shearwater in one day, quite a surprise in winter. Excellent views of ANTARCTIC PRIONS and a young PACIFIC GULL were most rewarding. Stunning views of both PACIFIC ALBATROSS and BULLERíS ALBATROSS within about 40 minutes of each other made this a memorable 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)
    005 Little Penguin Eudyptula minor 3 (2)
    929 Southern Giant-Petrel Macronectes giganteus 1
    080 Cape Petrel Daption capense australe 2 (1)
    075 Great-winged Petrel Pterodroma m. macroptera 4 (2)
    971 Solanderís Petrel P. solandri 4 (3)
    083 Fairy Prion Pachyptila turtur 300+ (100+)
    084 ANTARCTIC PRION P. desolata 3 (3)
    067 LITTLE SHEARWATER Puffinus assimilis 2 (1)
    068 Fluttering Shearwater P. gavia 7 (2)
    913 Huttonís Shearwater P. huttoni 2 (1)
    070 Sooty Shearwater P. griseus 2 (1)
    071 Short-tailed Shearwater P. tenuirostris 1
    088 Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys 14 (3)
    859 Campbell Albatross T. impavida 7 (3)
    931 BULLERíS ALBATROSST. bulleri 1adult
    860 PACIFIC ALBATROSS T. sp. nov. 1 adult
    861 White-capped Albatross T. steadi 10 (5)
    864 Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross T. carteri 24 (11)
    063 Wilsonís Storm-Petrel Oceanites oceanicus 2 (1)
    104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 15 (16)
    096 Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
    106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 13 (9)
    980 Brown Skua Catharacta lonnbergi 3 (3)
    126 PACIFIC GULL Larus pacificus 1 first year
    981 Kelp Gull L. dominicanus 17 (7)
    125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 120+ (85+)
    114 White-fronted Tern Sterna striata 4 (3)
    115 Crested Tern S. bergii 12 (5)

    In the harbour:

    005 Little Penguin Eudyptula minor 1
    106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 4
    115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 1

    28 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.

    Mammals:

    Australian Fur-Seal Arctocephalus pusillus 3
    Humpback Whale Megaptera novaeangliae 5