Pelagic Trip Report Port Stephens 15th April 2011
Boat: M.V.Argonaut, skippered by Ray Horsefield
Leaving the port we had a gentle sou-wester on our backs but this changed as soon as we cleared Boondelbah Island, with a stiff southerly getting up quite early and maintaining at about 20 knots for our time at the shelf. The sea had a decent chop on it and a solid 1.5 to 2m swell made for a bumpy ride out and back.
Given the recent bout of Great Shearwater records off Australia (including Sydney just 6 days earlier) this was an ďanti-climaticĒ pelagic trip, especially given the very low diversity of birds at the shelf. But the clear highlight was a very late Black Petrel that stayed with the boat for about the last hour of the time at the shelf and for a brief part of the return leg. Having about 100
Wilsonís Stormies around the boat was nice too.
Departed Nelson Bay Public Wharf at 0655, returning at 1650.
There was an obvious air of expectancy on board the boat, given the recent spate of Great Shearwater records and also the amazing supporting cast seen off Sydney just 6 days prior. Whilst the original plan had been to run a double-header on
the weekend, a remarkable (and somewhat typical) spike in rough seas had been forecast for the weekend. A quick plan was made to take the boat out on the Friday and it did not take too long to fill the boat with eager punters.
Unlike the southerly winds, our excitement however slowly abated. After dragging the usual Wedge-tailed and Fleshy-footed Shearwaters with us out to the shelf (32 55 10 / 152 34 14), we endured nearly 2 hours of only having these two species + Wilsonís Stormies around the boat, aside from the occasional fly-by from a Fluttering-type or a Gannet. It seemed possible that we would not even see a Pterodroma until a Great-winged Petrel flew in for a couple of laps of the boat, with a second bird about 30 minutes later. Soon after the first Great-wing, a Shy Albatross flew past, giving some more excitement. But the
highlight was certainly a Black Petrel that stayed loyal to the boat for the final hour, giving all on board great views and allowing excellent photo opportunities. Wilsonís Stormies were in great numbers, with around 100 birds around the boat at one point, 75+ alone in our slick.
We left 32 53 59 / 152 36 04 at about 1340, which was an extra 30 minutes than our normal departure time. The journey home produced a couple of Yellow-nosed and a single Black-browed Albatross plus an additional Shy.
Species: Total (maximum number around the boat at one time)
Wilsonís Storm-petrel: 125 (100)
Shy Albatross: 2 (1)
Yellow-nosed Albatross: 2 (2)
Black-browed Albatross: 1
Fluttering Shearwater: 3 (1)
Huttonís Shearwater: 1
Fluttering-type Shearwater: 5 (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater: 300 (200)
Flesh-footed Shearwater: 35 (20)
Short-tailed Shearwater: 3 (1)
Great-winged (Grey-faced) Petrel: 2 (1)
BLACK PETREL: 1
Australasian Gannet: 50 (10)
Crested Tern: 7 (4)
Pomarine Jaeger: 2 (1)
Silver Gull: 8 (5)
White-bellied Sea-Eagle: 1 (about 2km south of Boondelbah)
Pan-tropical Spotted Dolphin: ?? (distant pod seen on way back to port)
Shark sp. (Whaler sp.): single, free-jumping at shelf.