Port Stephens Pelagic Trip Report Ė Sat 21st April 2012
Boat: M.V.Argonaut, skippered by Ray Horsefield
A moderate swell rolled under the Argonaut the entire day but there was barely a breath of wind to push much of the water around. For the most part the ocean was quite glassy and this lack of wind may have had something to do with the relatively low species count for the day. Water temp at the shelf was around 22-24 degrees.
A very Ďquietí day really, with no real avian highlights. Itís always nice to have all three Jaeger spp. seen and the beautiful fresh Solanderís Petrels looked very dapper indeed. I went up onto to the bow to count the Wilsonís Storm-petrels in the slick at one point and made out about 80 birds, with at least another 20 around the boat.
Departed Nelson Bay Public Wharf at 0705, returning at 1740 (we drifted a long way south and it was a longer-than-normal trip back to port).
Having cleared Boondelbah Island we encountered the first Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwaters as expected. What wasnít expected was the sighting of the first Wilsonís Storm-petrel for the day 3 miles from the heads. This wasnít a one-off and several stormies were seen during the entire voyage to the shelf. A couple of Arctic and Pomarine Jaegers investigated the boat but did not stay around. One or two distant dark-backed albatross were seen but they never were able to be identified. A sighting was made of what were most likely False Killer Whales as well as a much larger animal with the dorsal fin set well-back on the body (some sort of Beaked Whale perhaps?).
Once at the shelf (32 55.1 / 152 34.7) it took barely a minute before the first Pterodroma arrived, in the form of wonderful fresh Solanderís Petrel that had a mantle that would do a silverback gorilla proud. Two minutes later the first Great-winged (Grey-faced) Petrel arrived. There was a definite air of expectation given the number of stormies seen from inshore waters and two petrel species in as many minutes. This air of expectation was never met though, and it was a good couple of hours before the next new bird (a Long-tailed Jaeger) was seen. This was despite keeping a careful eye on the slick that was swarming with Wilsonís SPís. We did have a good representation from Solanderís Petrels though, with about 10 birds seen over the course of the day.
The only other species added at the shelf was just before departure when a Wandering Albatross circled the boat three times before alighting on the water. The bird was reticent to take flight again in the very still conditions. A scattered pod of Rissoís Dolphins moved through but didnít show as well as they have for us in the past. We had no idea how quickly we had been drifting and the skipper was shocked to see our position at 33 04.4 / 152 28.781 when we departed. Weíd drifted over 10 miles due to a 3.3 knot current. This made for a very long trip back to port, made even longer by the fact that nothing new was added to the dayís list apart from an Eastern Great Egret seen flying north-west at about two thirds the way back in. The late return to port however, provided some great photographic opportunities in the low, orange sunlit sea.
Species: Total (maximum number visible from the boat at one time)
Wandering Albatross: 1
Wilsonís Storm-petrel: 150 (100)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater: 100 (20)
Flesh-footed Shearwater: 70 (20)
Short-tailed Shearwater: 8 (2)
Great-winged (Grey-faced) Petrel: 4 (1)
Solanderís Petrel: 10 (4)
Australasian Gannet: 30 (5)
Crested Tern: 6 (3)
Pomarine Jaeger: 4 (1)
Arctic Jaeger: 3 (1)
Long-tailed Jaeger: 1
Silver Gull: 15 (10)
Eastern Great Egret: 1
False Killer Whale
?? Beaked Whale??