Port Stephens Pelagic Trip Report – Sun 25th March 2012
Boat: M.V.Argonaut, skippered by Ray Horsefield
A comfortable day with a steady southerly swell peaking around 2m but generally much less out wide. Seas under a metre for the most part, with the winds generally rarely getting over 10 knots. A couple of “first-timers” were sea-sick but they did vow to return! Water temp was somewhere around the 22-24 degree mark out on the shelf break.
An ‘interesting’ day at sea with a couple of surprises given the warm water temps. 17 species recorded outside of the heads. A few birds definitely qualify as highlights including a “Buller’s daily-double” with more than one of both BULLER’S SHEARWATER and BULLER’S ALBATROSS seen. The other highlight was a nice dark KERMADEC PETREL that buzzed around the boat for a few minutes. Two Yellow-nosed Albatross were also unusual given the season and water temps.
Departed Nelson Bay Public Wharf at 0700, returning at 1625.
The first birds recorded outside of the heads was a group of 3 Little Penguins, about twenty minutes before the arrival of the first of the shearwater brigade. For much of the journey out we had the usual suspects behind us but with good numbers of Fleshy-foots, outnumbering Wedge-tailed for the most part. Quite a lot of Gannets were seen; the first groups we’ve noticed this season. The ‘brown birds’ were joined by a Buller’s Shearwater about 10km from the heads, much to the delight of many on board. A Black-browed Albatross caused some excitement amongst the ‘pelagic newbies’ but the boat was a-buzz when an unexpected arrival came up the wake soon after in the form of an adult Buller’s Albatross which remained with the boat until just short of the shelf.
Once at the shelf (32 55.64 / 152 34.69) a drift was set-up and things were markedly quieter than the journey outwards. One feature though was the sheer numbers of Wilson’s Storm-petrels around the boat and down the slick. Within fifteen minutes the place was crawling with them and a quick count revealed well over 60 birds in the slick alone. No other Stormy species were to be seen however.
An Arctic Jaeger joined the small throng of Pomarines before a second Buller’s Albatross arrived, distinguished from the first by the lack of a white spot on the left wing. Not long after a very hungry Yellow-nosed Albatross arrived and we all wondered if we’d checked our calendars correctly as some real winter birds were arriving. It took almost 90 minutes of drifting southwards away from the shelf break before the one and only Pterodroma of the day flew in; a beautiful dark-phase Kermadec Petrel. This got the shutterbugs busy, as did the arrival of a second Buller’s Shearwater.
A second Yellow-nosed Albatross joined his hungry friend but the promise of more ‘tropical birds’ never really happened. We started the return leg at about 1330 from 32 54.957 152.32.879 (a 3.2 km south-east drift in southerly winds), adding nothing of note as we went apart from another Buller’s Albatross that made a probable 3 individuals of this species for the day.
Species: Total (maximum number visible from the boat at one time)
Little Penguin: 3 (3)
Black-browed Albatross: 1
Yellow-nosed Albatross: 2 (2)
BULLER’S ALBATROSS: 3 (1)
Wilson’s Storm-petrel: 150 (80)
Fluttering Shearwater: 5 (2)
Hutton’s Shearwater: 1
Fluttering-type Shearwater: 10 (3)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater: 250 (150)
Flesh-footed Shearwater: 100 (60)
Short-tailed Shearwater: 20 (10)
BULLER’S SHEARWATER: 2 (1)
KERMADEC PETREL: 1
Australasian Gannet: 30 (4)
Crested Tern: 20 (3)
Pomarine Jaeger: 10 (3)
Arctic Jaeger: 2 (1)
Silver Gull: 5 (5)
Marlin sp. (Striped?)