• 22nd December, 2001 SOSSA PELAGIC TRIP, WOLLONGONG, NSW, AUSTRALIA.

    Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.

    Departed: 07:30 returned at approx. 16:45.
    Sea conditions: SE to 0.5m at first and to 1.5m NE late in the afternoon.
    Swell: SE to 1.5m.
    Weather: Mostly sunny but overcast at first and with some cloud persisting during the morning.
    Temperature range: 23 to 27C.
    Barometric pressure: 1008 rising.
    Wind: SSE 10kts at first, rising to SE 15 knots by mid morning but easing to 5 to 10 knots by noon.
    Sea surface temperature: 23.8 to 24.8C.
    Primary chumming location: S 34 33' - E 151 16'.

    Summary:

    A wonderful early summer day moderated by cooling SE breezes. It has been a long time since we had a Wollongong pelagic trip in late December so we left the harbour trying to guess what the day ahead might bring. It turns out we had we had several pleasant surprises in store!

    The water immediately outside the breakwater was a very warm 23.8C and with even warmer water expected wide of the continental shelf our thoughts turned to tropical species. As we cruised east, Flesh-footed and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters followed the boat, being pestered by the occasional Pomarine Jaeger. At the 65 fathom line, we entered a pool of cooler water as the surface temperature suddenly dropped 0.7C. Just as suddenly, there were birds (and fish) everywhere and the first flock included a LITTLE SHEARWATER. Those who had succumbed to the soporific effects of sun and sea (motion sickness pills too) were roused by the flurry of shouts..Hutton's Shearwater, SOOTY TERN, LONG-TAILED JAEGER, Sooty Shearwater!! It was difficult to decide what to point the binoculars at! Up to 15 Pomarine Jaegers were harrying the
    shearwaters, including a banded juvenile that evaded our best efforts to
    capture it.

    At the 100-fathom line we encountered the first Arctic Jaeger of the day and a White-faced Storm-Petrel, which have proven so elusive this spring. Large numbers of SOOTY TERN were in view continuously and we scrutinised them arduously in case there were other species among them. This was almost surprising since the maximum count was over 150 in view at any one time. An hour of berleying at the 200 fathom line attracted both Wilson's and White-faced Storm-Petrel but only 3 Great-winged Petrels. We elected to cruise into deeper water in search of additional species but as the surface temperature increased further the number of birds decreased. At 600 fathoms, the temperature was 24.8C and few birds were in evidence so we turned for port. We have had a good record for seeing rarities on the return leg of the cruise this year and today was no exception. A STREAKED SHEARWATER was observed in 550 fathoms and a number of Storm-Petrels were encountered while we were still in deep water. The high density of birds encountered on the trip out appeared to have dispersed.

    Highlights:

    Seven species of Shearwater were observed on this trip, including STREAKED and LITTLE SHEARWATER. The first LONG-TAILED JAEGERS of the summer provided extended views at close quarters. The number of SOOTY TERNS was unprecedented being far in excess of anything recorded previously on a Wollongong Pelagic Trip.
    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 1
    073 Great-winged Petrel Pterodroma macroptera gouldi 5 (1)
    853 STREAKED SHEARWATER Calonectris leucomelas 1
    067 LITTLE SHEARWATER Puffinus assimilis 1
    917 Hutton's Shearwater P. huttoni 2 (1)
    069 Wedge-tailed Shearwater P. pacificus 135 (100+)
    070 Sooty Shearwater P. griseus 3 (1)
    071 Short-tailed Shearwater P. tenuirostris 12 (4)
    072 Flesh-footed Shearwater P. carneipes 58 (25)
    063 Wilson's Storm-Petrel Oceanites oceanicus 3 (2)
    065 White-faced Storm -Petrel Pelagodroma marinus 6 (3)
    106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 1
    128 Arctic Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus 6 (4)
    933 LONG-TAILED JAEGER S. longicauda 4 (2)
    945 Pomarine Jaeger S. pomarinus 27 (15)
    981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 15 (15)
    125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 42 (30)
    115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 17 (15)
    120 SOOTY TERN S. fuscata 450+ (150+)

    In the harbour:

    106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 1
    115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 1

    19 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.

    Mammals:

    None observed
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