• Port Stephens Pelagic Trips

    Pelagic trips off Port Stephens, NSW Australia

    Month-by-month Port Stephens birding guide

    Pelagic trips off Port Stephens are organised on intermittent dates set by the organisers and the skipper. Cost is $120 AUS per head and payable at the end of the day by cash (if the boat is not full, there may be an additional charge). The trips depart from the Public Wharf at Nelson Bay at 0700 and return by about 1700.

    Contact: Mick Roderick – 0421 761237 / mick.roderick@birdlife.org.au

    Trip dates for 2018

    Port Stephens

    • Sun 14th January
    • Sun 11th February
    • Sun 25th March
    • Sun 15th April
    • Sun 20th May
    • Sun 24th June
    • Sun 12th August
    • Sun 23rd September
    • Sun 14th October
    • Sun 11th November
    • Sun 9th December
    The Port Stephens trips are currently run on the M.V. Argonaut, skippered by Ray Horsfield. The Argonaut is a 36ft Steber and is normally a charter boat for fishing trips. There is plenty of seating and a canopy that covers about 2/3 of the deck. The rear of the boat is exposed and this is where the serious photographers (and berley boys!) spend most of their time. The Argonaut travels across a reasonable sea at around 8 knots and the journey to the continental shelf takes about 3 hours. Once at the shelf break or a short distance beyond, we set up a drift (and drop our ‘secret weapon’, an oily rag, over the side) and remain on this drift for between 2.5 and 3 hours. This gives us plenty of time searching for pelagic birds in deep water. The return journey is again about 3 hours and many birds follow us as we make our way back to port.

    What to bring: As for other pelagic trips; binoculars, camera, sunscreen and sea-sickness tablets. I cannot stress enough that if you are unsure about getting seasick, to take tablets anyway. Travelcalm has been recommended by several people (noting that it may need to be taken the night before as well as on the morning of the pelagic). We have had an instance where the boat had to turn around and come back early because someone was very seasick. We do not want this to happen again. Please take responsibility for managing seasickness and don’t potentially spoil the day for others on board. You will need to bring your own drinks and snacks though Ray has fresh water on board in case you forget. I always recommend people bring a ‘dry bag’ to protect camera equipment etc from rain or sea spray. Polarising sunglasses are a very good idea (photokeratitis is a possibility from glaring at the ocean for extended periods – just ask Mick).

    Clothing: The Argonaut is a “wet boat” and the chances are you well get wet from spray at some stage, especially if you spend a lot of time at the rear of the boat. Being undercover helps but there is always a chance of spray or splashes from waves hitting the sides of the boat when we are drifting. Therefore bringing a spray jacket is a good idea.

    Where to meet, park etc: The boat leaves from the Nelson Bay Public Wharf at 0700, so try and arrive at least 10 minutes early so we can get away on time. We usually gather at the tables under the shelters near the toilet block on the main road before we all head down to the wharf, so just look for people milling about with bino’s, eskies and wellies. By far the best place to park is Magnus Street, which is above the main road and from which there is a staircase / ramp down to the wharf. This is free and all-day (you park under the blackbutt trees). The map below shows the Public Wharf (yellow circle), the shelters where we meet (red rectangle) and the Magnus Street parking place (red arrow). To get to Magnus Street keep following the main road from Nelson bay towards Shoal Bay, then turn right onto Trafalgar St, then right again onto Fingal Street (which becomes Magnus). The Blackbutts and car park should be obvious on your right soon after.

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