Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.
Departed: 07:40 returned at approx. 15:30.
Sea conditions: SSE 1.0 to 2.0m at first then and to 1.5m ENE, dropping late in the afternoon.
Swell: 1.0 to 2.0m SE dropping through the day.
Weather: Cloudy with drizzle at first followed by brighter periods, clearing later, 18 to 26°C.
Barometric pressure: 1025 rising.
Wind: SSE 15 kts veering ENE 10 to 15 kts by mid morning.
Sea surface temperature: 17.1 to 21.5°C.
Moderate east to northeasterly winds had been forecast with local storms, which are favourable conditions for the arrival of unusual species at this time of year. We were disappointed to find a sea that had been stirred up by a southerly blow during the preceding 24 hours. A southerly breeze persisted into the morning making for uncomfortable conditions for our overseas visitors.
Fluttering and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were abundant outside the break wall. Despite extensive searching through the flocks for other species, only 1 Short-tailed Shearwater was identified and no Hutton’s Shearwaters were among the Fluttering Shearwaters. Arctic Jaegers were noticeably absent but several Pomarine and LONG-TAILED JAGERS were encountered relatively close to shore. Further offshore the abundant Fluttering Shearwaters were replaced in even greater numbers by Short-tailed Shearwaters. A solitary Flesh-footed Shearwater and a Wilson’s Storm-Petrel were observed in deeper water on our trip to the edge of the continental shelf.
As we neared the 100-fathom line a Great-winged Petrel and Sooty and Hutton’s Shearwaters were observed close to the boat. In the midst of this new activity a BLACK PETREL practically flew into our heads to call attention to itself. This bird was very cooperative and after being banded followed the boat for several hours.
As a result of the uncomfortable conditions we cruised northeast edging out to the 200 fathom-line. This phase of the voyage yielded an adult SOOTY TERN as the only additional species so, disappointed not to have found an albatross, we headed for home. Shortly after changing course a Cape Petrel was observed over the wake a long way behind the boat. Holding our position and berleying we had to wait a very long minute for the bird to arrive behind the boat!
The homeward leg of our a trip was soon interrupted by the cry of "albatross", the first of the day, and an adult female Gibson’s Albatross flew past at a distance. We realised that we had to stop the boat again but few aboard noticed the rock-n-roll conditions as the albatross approached us. As she settled down to feed behind the boat we also attracted a small group of Wilson’s Storm-Petrels.
As we returned to the edge of the continental shelf we encountered more Great-winged Petrels and Jaegers, including 2 LONG-TAILED JAEGERS one of which was a stunning intermediate morph juvenile. Additionally, a first year White-capped Albatross was observed in the distance.
Shearwater numbers had remained very high inshore and in the relatively calm conditions of the afternoon we cruised from feeding flock to feeding flock. Numbers of Little Penguins were observed feeding with the Fluttering Shearwaters and a lone Arctic Jaeger busily patrolled the area. A black-and-white shearwater provided the final excitement of the day. The bird displayed more contrast between blackish upper parts and white under parts than typical for Hutton’s Shearwater thereby drawing attention to itself. I was surprised to see the typical underwing pattern of MANX SHEARWATER, a very thin black leading edge and a thick black trailing edge. The lesser secondary coverts were finely tipped blackish in sharp contrast to the pure white humeral coverts and axillaries. The undertail coverts were white and several others on board also observed the typical facial pattern of the Manx group of shearwaters. The upperparts were uniformly blackish brown. The bird was not in fresh plumage so clearly had not fledged recently. Unfortunately, by the time I blurted out ‘look at this shearwater’ the bird had already passed the boat as is often the case with rare shearwaters.
The major highlight for our overseas visitors was the Gibson’s Albatross but truly excellent views of a BLACK PETREL and a late record of Cape Petrel came close. Good views of several LONG-TAILED JAEGER and the first SOOTY TERN of the season were very rewarding. The day finished in exciting but typically frustrating style with a brief but good view of a MANX SHEARWATER at close range for myself but, unfortunately, receding into the distance for others.
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 12 (5)
080 Cape Petrel Daption capense australe 1
073 Great-winged Petrel Pterodroma macroptera gouldi 11 (8)
917 BLACK PETREL Procellaria parkinsoni 1
068 Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia 1500+ (350+)
914 MANX SHEARWATER Puffinus puffinus 1
917 Hutton’s Shearwater P. huttoni 5 (1), all in deeper water.
069 Wedge-tailed Shearwater P. pacificus 500+ (200+)
070 Sooty Shearwater P. griseus 2 (1)
071 Short-tailed Shearwater P. tenuirostris 1500+ (500+)
072 Flesh-footed Shearwater P. carneipes 1
847 Gibson’s Albatross, Diomedea gibsoni 1
861 White-capped Albatross T. steadi 1
063 Wilson’s Storm-Petrel Oceanites oceanicus 9 (5)
104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 11 (4)
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 1
128 Arctic Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus 1
933 LONG-TAILED JAEGER S. longicauda 4 (2)
945 Pomarine Jaeger S. pomarinus 22 (5)
981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 5 (4)
125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 180+ (100+)
115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 15 (4)
120 SOOTY TERN S. fuscata 1
In the harbour:
097 Little Black Cormorant Phalacrocorax sulcirostris 4
100 Little Pied Cormorant P. melanoleucos 1
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 6
115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 1
23 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.