• 28th OCTOBER 2000 WOLLONGONG PELAGIC TRIP REPORT, NSW, AUSTRALIA

    Report prepared by: P.J. Milburn.

    Conditions:

    Departed at 7.15 am and returned at approx.4.00 pm.
    Sea Conditions: Seas moderate, 2 metres swell 3 to 4 metre, S, abating slightly in the afternoon
    Weather: Glorious sunshine all day. Max. 20C
    Barometeric pressure: 1016 HPa steady
    Wind: Moderate to strong 20 to 25 kts southerly.
    Water temperature 16.8 to 19.4 degrees C.

    Summary:

    Spring at sea has been suspended temporarily by stong southerly winds. But for a lone Pomarine Jaeger, a handful of Common Terns and thousands of Slender-billed Shearwaters one would be forgiven for thinking it was winter again. A large contingent of overseas visitors experienced a great day of winter pelagic birding! Unfortunately, the conditions would only have been enjoyed by true pelagic fanatics. Much credit is due to the Skipper who's expert seamanship minimised the discomfort, although this may have gone unobserved by some.

    Albatross numbers were astonishingly high for the end of October, although most of the adult Thalassarche have now left these waters. Even more astonishing was the complete failure to identify positively a single species of Pterodroma despite being in deep water for over an hour!

    We departed the harbour in a stiff southerly breeze. Knowing that conditions would worsen as we headed offshore we headed south east to cross over the contintal shelf break east of Kiama. We were barely out of the harbour before being joined by a Black-browed Albatross. Several miles out, we were joined by the first Wedge-tailed Shearwaters which were soon diluted to the point of disappearing by Slender-billed Shearwaters. A few Fluttering Shearwaters were among these hordes. Shy Albatross appeared and then, astonishigly, a COMMON DIVING PETREL was flying right beside the boat affording brilliant views. A small group of Common Terns followed behind for a while as if in attempt to convince us that it was not mid winter. As we approached deeper water we encountered Hutton's Shearwaters amd more Wedge-tailed Shearwaters.

    Once at 150 fathoms we idled into the sea and frenetic berlying soon attracted a mob of birds. Storm-Petrels appeared along with several Prions. One of the Prions was very pale blue above with a pronounced greater-covert bar. Trying to note the bill proprtions proved to be surprisingly difficult. The bird made some closer approaches revealing a stubby, almost finch-like bill, quite unlike that of accompanying Fairy Prions, confriming its identity as a FULMAR PRION. This was the first time that this species has been recorded on a Wollongong Pelagic. A second year BULLER'S ALBATROSS was cryptic in the mob of Albatross behind the boat. Two brief sightings of BLACK-BELLIED STORM-PETREL among a horde of Wilson's and White-faced threw out a challenge to the observers on board. October now appears to be a reliable month to see BBSP on the Wollongong Pelagics, although they have been recorded on many trips in NSW waters during the winter of 2000. Despite the greatest efforts of the seasoned observers on board no Pterodroma Petrels were recorded. This was the first time that I have witnessed this on any pelagic trip in S.E. Australia.

    On the return trip, a newly fledged BULLER'S ALBATROSS followed the boat almost back into the harbour (to Flinder's Island).On the island we observed several Sooty Oystercatchers.

    Highlights:

    Despite the novelty of the FULMAR PRION, the unseasonality of the always rare COMMON DIVING PETREL and the thrill which always comes with seeing a BLACK-BELLIED STORM-PETREL appear from behind a wave, my personal highlight was the newly fledged BULLER'S ALBATROSS. This bird simply leamed in the brilliant sunshine and was always subtle in its beauty.

    Birds recorded (positively identified) according to latest Environment
    Australia Reporting Schedule:Species code: Species name: NumbersNote: numbers in parenthesis = highest count at any one time)

    085 COMMON DIVING PETREL 1
    080 Cape Petrel Daption capense australe 1
    947 FULMAR PRION Pachyptila crassirostris 1
    083 Fairy Prion P. turtur 5+ (3)
    068 Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia 50+ (15)
    913 Hutton's Shearwater P. huttoni 10 (1)
    069 Wedge-tailed Shearwater P. pacificus 50+ (35)
    070 Sooty Shearwtater P. griseus 10 (1)
    071 Slender-billed Shearwater P. tenuirostris 15 000+ (1 000+)
    847 Gibson's Albatross Diomedea gibsoni 12 (7)
    088 Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys 15 (10)
    859 Campbell Albatross T. impavida 25 (15) one adult
    931 BULLER'S ALBATROSS T. bulleri 2 (1)
    091 Shy Albatross T. cauta 15 (10)
    861 White-capped Albatross T. steadi 7 (3)
    864 Indic Yellow-nosed Albatross T. carteri 5 (3)
    063 Wilson's Storm Petrel Oceanites oceanicus 30 (10)
    065 White-faced Storm-Petrel Pelagodroma marina 40 (15)
    066 BLACK-BELLIED STORM-PETREL Fregetta tropica 2 (1)
    104 Australasian Gannet Morus serrator 30 (7)
    106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 7 (7)
    945 Pomarine Jaeger Stercorarius pomarinus 1
    981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 12 (8)
    125 Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae 50+ (32)
    115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 45+ (35+)
    114 White-fronted Tern S. striata 2 (1)
    953 Common Tern S. hirundo 12 (5)
    226 White-bellied Sea-Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster 2 (2)

    In the harbour:

    981 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus 2 adult
    115 Crested Tern Sterna bergii 3
    100 Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
    106 Australian Pelican Pelicanus conspicillatus 16

    28 species of seabird identified outside the breakwater.

    Mammals:

    Common Dolphin 12
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