|Port Stephens Pelagic Trip Report - Sun 2nd May 2010
Boat: M.V.Argonaut, skippered by Ray Horsefield
Very gentle seas with slight offshore winds made for a very comfortable day on the sea, perhaps too much so. A gentle nor-wester has flattened the sea right out and sea / swell were less than a metre each. By late afternoon the wind had swung around to the north-east but still only gently. The warm water was persisting at the shelf break, being around 26 degrees.
Unlike the incredible weekend in late March, today was without any real highlights. Again, the numbers of Wilsons Storm-petrels was very entertaining and the number of birds recorded well short of the continental shelf was interesting. A few White-faced Stormies were also seen a fair way inside the shelf break.
Departed Nelson Bay Public Wharf at 0710, returning at 1700.
A feature of the trip out was the reluctance of the Shearwaters to follow the boat. In fact, this was a feature of the day. Clearly the birds were in lower numbers, but the ones that were still around did not take a great interest in the boat at any point during the day until the final part of the return leg. Today was to be another Storm-petrel day, with Wilsons topping the list for number of birds seen. The first Wilson's was seen about 7 miles short of the shelf break and a further mile on a current-line (which contained weed, algae, even some small pieces of rubbish) there were several present. Along with the Wilson's were 2 White-faced Stormies. It was a promising start to the approach to the drop-off.
We motored past the shelf drop-off for about a mile to commence our first drift (32 55 40 / 152 34 53). A few Wedge-tailed and Fleshy-footed Shearwaters were threatening to join us but most flew on after a quick look. Soon after the cod liver oil slick started we had several Wilson's present. Within a short time we also saw our first Solanders Petrel, a Brown Skua and a Yellow-nosed Albatross.
As we expected there was soon a good number (50+) of Wilsons Storm-petrels in the slick, but despite this we were unable to attract any other types of Stormie to us. The Wilsons provided the entertainment for the day, with some birds coming right up to the back of the boat and dancing on the water. We were also graced with a brief pass by a pod of 4 Risso's Dolphins.
Twice we motored back along the slick to see if there was any different birds that we hadn't noticed. Finally, we decided to call it a day and to check the current-line we'd crossed on the way back, as a few people had not gotten onto the White-faceds. When we arrived there we immediately had up to 20 Wilsons and soon enough a White-faced arrived. We pondered what we may have found if we'd drifted along this for the day.
Another Yellow-nosed Albatross joined us for some of the return leg and it was joined by our second Black-browed for the day. We had some faithful Wilsons follow us for quite a long way on the return leg. Interestingly though, some birds appeared from in front of the boat, as if they had not been following us at all. The last Wilsons peeled away about 4 miles from the heads.
Species: Total (maximum number around the boat at one time)
Wilsons Storm-Petrel: 120+ (50+)
White-faced Storm-petrel: 3 (2)
Yellow-nosed Albatross: 2 (1) Black-browed Albatross: 2 (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater: 80 (15)
Flesh-footed Shearwater: 50 (10)
Short-tailed Shearwater: 3 (1) Fluttering Shearwater: 1
Fluttering-type Shearwater: 2 (1)
Solanders (Providence) Petrel: 3 (1)
Australasian Gannet: 6 (2)
Unidentified Jaeger: 1
Crested Tern: 5 (2)
Silver Gull 3 (2)
(+ 5 x Little Penguin inside port)
Offshore Bottlenose Dolphin: One pod of about 10.
Risso's Dolphin: Single pod of 4.
Unidentified whales: 2
Marlin sp. (probably Striped): 1