Port Stephens Pelagic Trip Report - Sun 31st Jan 2011
Boat: M.V.Argonaut, skippered by Ray Horsefield
A reasonably comfortable day with a moderate swell, possibly associated with Cyclone Wilma which moved through the Pacific this week, reaching New Zealand on Friday night. Winds were generally northerly for the whole day, 5 to 10 knots, strengthening and swinging more nor-east about half-way back to port in the afternoon. Water temperature reached 26 degrees at the shelf, with only slightly cooler water modelled closer in.
13 species recorded outside of the heads, with the highlight being an approach to the boat by two Cookilarias, one which came right to the back of the boat and across the slick, confirmed to be a Gould’s Petrel. The other bird was likely a Gould’s but this could not be confirmed and was one of 3 unidentified Cookilarias for the day. Seeing one Wandering Albatross in January in such warm
water was interesting, but to see 2 was definitely a highlight of the day.
Departed Nelson Bay Public Wharf at 0700, returning at 1710.
It did not take long for the Wedge-tailed Shearwaters to show interest in the boat and this was to be a theme for the day – hungry birds. About 3km from the heads a group of about 50 Wedgies started feeding in the wake of the moving vessel, with a few Fleshy-foots mixed in. These birds followed us all the way to the shelf and likely most of them followed us the way back. A Short-tailed
Shearwaters and a handful of Fluttering Shearwaters appeared during the trip out as well.
Once at the shelf we set up a drift at 32 54 57 / 152 35 04 and before long we had our first Great-winged (Grey-faced) Petrel. Two young Pomarine Jaegers also came in and stayed faithful to the boat for the entire time we were drifting. After about 20 minutes someone suggested an albatross was headed for the boat and sure enough into view came a Wandering Albatross, probably an adult Gibson’s, but kept on going. Not long after, a second separate Wanderer zoomed in on the boat. This bird was rather hungry and happily accompanied the shearwaters for a feed for a couple of hours.
Steve then gave the cry of “Cookilaria!” as bird came into view on the horizon. Then a second bird appear slightly starboard of the first. The initial bird peeled away and wasn’t identified, though the second bird honed right in on the boat and gave all on board spectacular views of a Gould’s Petrel. After circling the boat and giving some attention to the boat, it flew off out of view.
A feature of the day was the lack of Stormies and it took nearly 2 hours at the shelf before our first of 3 White-faced appeared downwind of the slick. After another fleeting glimpse of a distant Cookilaria, we set for port, seeing our first Sooty Shearwater for the day as we did. No new species were added to the day’s list for return leg, though we did see a few more Sooty Shearwaters (i.e. a few more than usual) and quite a few Short-taileds as well. Oh, and another unidentified distant Cookilaria made it 3 of those in the notebook for the day.
Species: Total (maximum number around the boat at one time)
White-faced Storm-petrel: 3 (1)
Wandering Albatross: 2 (1)
Fluttering Shearwater: 4 (1)
Fluttering-type Shearwater: 3 (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater: 400 (250)
Flesh-footed Shearwater: 20 (6)
Short-tailed Shearwater: 40 (20)
Sooty Shearwater: 6 (2)
Great-winged (Grey-faced) Petrel: 4 (2)
GOULD’S PETREL: 1
Cookilaria-type Petrel (Pterodroma spp.): 3 (1)
Australasian Gannet: 1
Crested Tern: 8 (5)
Pomarine Jaeger: 10 (4)
Silver Gull: 6 (6)
Unidentified Whale: 1
Unidentified Dolphin: 1