Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.
Departed: 07:15 returned at approx. 15:45.
Sea conditions: to 1.0m SE at first and to 1.0m NE in the afternoon.
Swell: SE to 1.5m.
Weather: Overcast at first with some showers, cloud persisting during the morning but with sunshine increasing during the day.
Temperature range: 22 to 24°C.
Barometric pressure: 1014 rising.
Wind: SE 10kts at first, backing to NE 5 to 10 kts by mid morning.
Sea surface temperature: 21.8 to 26.3°C.
Primary chumming location: S 34° 30’ – E 151° 14’.
A wonderful early summer day moderated by cooling easterly breezes and persistent cloud cover. The weather over the previous few days had been influenced by a high-pressure system centred in the Tasman Sea and a ridge of low pressure extending along the NSW coast that generated easterly breezes. The water offshore was warm and with very warm water expected wide of the continental shelf our thoughts turned to tropical species.
Just outside the harbour several Little Penguins provided good views as did Fluttering Shearwaters. As we cruised east, the usual assortment of summer shearwaters were around us in good numbers and among the Jaegers were 2 LONG-TAILED JAEGERS, unusually close to shore. Amidst the rain squalls at the 80 fathom line, were several Great-winged Petrels raising our expectations for what might follow.
As is often the case in these waters, we encountered large flocks of seabirds as we cruised over the continental slope into 25.8°C water at the 100-fathom line. Large numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were pursuing fish with the first Arctic Jaeger of the day and a White–faced Storm-Petrel also observed. SOOTY TERNS and LONG-TAILED JAEGERS also attended the shearwater flocks. Several Wilson’s Storm-Petrels were in view when to my amazement a 2nd year LIGHT-MANTLED SOOTY ALBATROSS zoomed up behind the boat from the north. For several observers, whom we had assured that they would not see an albatross all day due to the warm water, this was their first view of an albatross! The bird settled on the water to feed with the Great-winged Petrels. We circled to optimise the light conditions and many photographs were obtained.
Interestingly, the LIGHT-MANTLED SOOTY ALBATROSS seemed fascinated by yellow objects; it practically flew into me as I stood on the bow (camera shaking in hand) in my yellow wet weather gear. It was later observed to seize a banana skin and was also fascinated by a small bright yellow rubber duck child’s bath toy!
We were unable to drift at this location for long given the 3.8 knot northerly current, which was sweeping us down the coast. As we cruised north east, Flesh-footed Shearwater numbers were good and Great-winged Petrels were more numerous than we had seen for several years. Another albatross appeared in the distance and, apart from being a white one, proved difficult to identify to species. Stopping the boat and berleying heavily, we attracted the bird to us and after careful observation deduced that it was a White-capped Albatross in its 3rd year at sea.
Once again we had drifted a long way south as a result of stopping the engine so we were forced to resume a NE course. Passing through more shoals of tuna we observed a group of at least 8 Risso’s Dolphins. A large white-bellied petrel appeared over the wake and this WHITE-NECKED PETREL caused us to stop the boat again. As everyone was watching the petrel, I observed an albatross circling the boat. I assumed that it would be the White-capped that had followed us for some time returning for some more berley but to my great surprise it was an adult BULLER’S ALBATROSS! As if this didn't cause too much excitement for those looking at the WHITE-NECKED PETREL, Carl Loves, our skipper, pointed out a distant TAHITI PETREL to me. We did not know what to look at or follow, eventually we decided to try to follow the TAHITI PETREL to bring it into decent viewing range but failed.
Our return voyage was pleasant but did not produce any further rarities. One bird of note, however, was a stunning freshly plumaged juvenile Solander’s Petrel that glistened in the bright afternoon sunlight. Interestingly, SOOTY TERNS outnumbered Crested Terns and LONG-TAILED JAEGERS outnumbered Arctic Jaegers!
A very enjoyable summer day at sea included incredible mid-summer sightings of LIGHT-MANTLED SOOTY and BULLER’S ALBATROSS and good views of WHITE-NECKED PETREL. Frequent views of SOOTY TERN and LONG-TAILED JAEGER among the high numbers of summer seabirds made this a day to remember.
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 (2)
073 Great-winged Petrel Pterodroma macroptera gouldi 150+ (65+)
971 Solander’s Petrel P. solandri 1 juvenile
774 WHITE-NECKED PETREL P. cervicalis 1
920 TAHITI PETREL Pseudo bulweria rostrata 1
068 Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia 90+ (40+)
917 Hutton’s Shearwater P. huttoni 5 (8)
069 Wedge-tailed Shearwater P. pacificus 900+ (350+)
070 Sooty Shearwater P. griseus 3 (1)
071 Short-tailed Shearwater P. tenuirostris 6 (2)
072 Flesh-footed Shearwater P. carneipes 50+ (20+)
931 BULLER’S ALBATROSS Thalassarche bulleri 1 adult
861 White-capped Albatross T. steadi 1 3rd year
093 LIGHT-MANTLED SOOTY ALBATRAOSS Phoebetria palpebrata 1 2nd year
063 Wilson’s Storm-Petrel Oceanites oceanicus 4 (3)
065 White-faced Storm-Petrel Pelagodroma marinus 2 (1)
099 Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax varius 1
104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 4 (2)
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 11 (4)
128 Arctic Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus 5 (2)
933 LONG-TAILED JAEGER S. longicauda 7 (3)
945 Pomarine Jaeger S. pomarinus 120+ (35+)
981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 7 (6)
125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 32 (18)
115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 7 (2)
120 SOOTY TERN S. fuscata 14 (5)
In the harbour:
099 Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax varius 1
106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 2
115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 1
26 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 12
Risso's Dolphin Grampus griseus 8+