Port Stephens (semi) Pelagic Trip Report – Sun 20th March 2011
Boat: M.V.Argonaut, skippered by Ray Horsefield
Well it was the conditions that turned today’s pelagic into a semi-pelagic, as a broad series of storm fronts forced us to turn around about half way to the shelf. Prior to this we had been punching through a moderate (about 2m) but closely-spaced easterly swell that made for a very bumpy ride out. With little wind chop there wasn’t a great deal of sea on top of the swells but when a
broad storm cell stretched out across the horizon confronted us, seemingly intensifying, the skipper decided that any risk of wind squalls on top of the well that we had combined with pouring rain was enough for us to retreat to port.
Although we never made it to the shelf we still recorded 10 species recorded outside of the heads, with a single Streaked Shearwater being the highlight for the (half) day. An immature Black-browed Albatross was also nice for March.
Departed Nelson Bay Public Wharf at 0710, returning at 1220.
After clearing the line of Boondelbah Island a large trawler was noticed slightly to the north of our path. The boat had a lot of birds in-tow, so we slightly changed our course to intercept the boat. Behind it were a few hundred Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters and it didn't take too long to entice the bulk of them (and a few Pomarine Jaegers) to the stern of our vessel. After
having seen not one Gannet the day before, we saw several groups of Gannets today, unusually all flying south. About half-way to our destination the decision was made to turn around and head back to port due to a large storm cell to the east.
The fishermen on board decided to troll for pelagic fish and when one of the reels began to sing Al Richardson grabbed the rod. Whilst the tussle with the Dolphinfish was happening an immature Black-browed Albatross came in and circled the boat a few times.
About 2km short of Boondelbah a Streaked Shearwater was picked up ahead of the boat and this bird did a few passes of the boat before eventually disappearing a couple of minutes after the boat had cut it’s engines. We remained here and burleyed for about 15 minutes and attracted good numbers of Pomarine Jaegers of varying plumage patterns.
We then headed back to port via a close look at Boondelbah and Cabbage Tree Islands, seeing the nest boxes of Gould’s Petrels on the former. Clearly disappointing to not have made it to the shelf break, but it was still a very pleasant half day and the Streaked Shearwater was a new bird for most on board, including several observers that had been on 20+ pelagic trips.
Species: Total (maximum number around the boat at one time)
Black-browed Albatross: 1
Fluttering Shearwater: 3 (1)
Hutton’s Shearwater: 2 (1)
Fluttering-type Shearwater: 2 (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater: 350 (250)
Flesh-footed Shearwater: 60 (25)
Short-tailed Shearwater: 30 (10)
Streaked Shearwater: 1
Crested Tern: 4 (4)
Pomarine Jaeger: 20 (15)
Arctic Jaeger: 2 (1)
Silver Gull: 6 (4)
Australasian Gannet: 55 (25)
+ Peregrine Falcon (1) and Great Cormorant (1) on Boondelbah Island and Topknot
Pigeon (2) and Pheasant Coucal (1) on Cabbage Tree Island.
Inshore Bottlenose Dolphin: numbers not noted.